Wande is a young man in his mid-thirties. About eight months ago, he moved into a two bedroom apartment and as he got to know his neighbours better, he discovered that one of them, Mariam, was a widow. Mariam, in her early thirties, had been married just four years when her husband died in a motor accident; they had a son. Wande was moved by her plight and decided to help her whenever he could. He began by helping her put on the generator whenever there was power outage, then he helped to arrange for an electrician to help fix some faults in her apartment and even helped her once or twice to get fuel during the shortage crisis; as gratitude for his thoughtfulness, Mariam often cooked for him. Wande also grew close to Mariam’s son, Richard; he took him out a lot, spent hours playing with him and Richard often spent the better part of the weekends in Wande’s apartment. Though he had no ulterior motives for his actions, it became clear to Wande one evening that he had to put a stop to his actions when one of his other neighbours referred to Mariam as his wife; he soon learnt that people thought he was having an affair with Mariam and he decided to pull back from her but it was easier said than done. After two days of not seeing Mariam or picking her calls, Wande realised that he missed her a lot and soon reverted to spending time with her and Richard. In all this, he never really ~
thought of the fact that they were getting attached to each other.
Whilst all this was still going on, Wande met and began dating Kike. He had told Kike about Mariam earlier in their relationship but somehow the ladies had never met each other. At first, Kike had also felt compassion for Mariam and supported his lending a hand when necessary but when she noticed that Mariam and Richard’s names always cropped up whenever Wande was telling her about his day, she grew wary. One day, Kike asked to meet Mariam and Wande obliged. After the visit, Kike told Wande that Mariam was in love with him and asked him to redefine their friendship. Wande did not believe Kike and teased her about her jealousy, but when she insisted and he sensed her seriousness, he promised to put a distance between himself and Mariam and he did.
Some days later, Mariam visited Wande and accused him of avoiding her; at a point, she burst into tears as she told him that she loved and missed him and that he was a father figure to Richard, Wande had to fight himself not to take her in his arms to comfort her. He had to promise to see her the next day before she left his apartment. Immediately, he called Kike and told her all that had happened; after scolding him for his carelessness with Mariam’s emotions, she encouraged him to continue avoiding Mariam. Wande and Mariam no longer speak to each other; in fact, she treats him as if he does not exist. It is now clear to Wande that Mariam was emotionally attached and he wishes he had been more careful and considerate of her. He wanted to help but ended up hurting her and Richard.
Friendships are built and they occur on four different levels .i.e. acquaintance, casual, close and intimate friendship. An acquaintance is someone you see once in a while and with whom you only exchange greetings; an acquaintance is an “hello-friend”. A casual friend is someone with whom you actually hold conversations; however, the conversations are light-hearted and do not involve any sharing of deep issues. Between men and women, it is advised that the friendship be restricted to either acquaintance or casual level if both parties are not romantically involved with each other; this is simply to protect them from hurting each other. A close friend is someone with whom you share your thoughts, fears, hopes for the future, etc; a close friend bonds with you over time and has access to your heart. It is therefore unwise and dangerous to have close friendship with a member of the opposite sex if he/she is not your spouse or someone you intend to marry. This was the mistake Wande and Mariam made
Women are emotional beings. When a woman meets a man who listens, takes care of her needs, spends quality time with her and just generally shows that he cares, she opens up and bonds emotionally with him; this is what Mariam experienced with Wande. He was more than a neighbour to her; he was a man who cared for her as a woman, someone she had grown to trust and even love. He had become her close, almost intimate, friend and to whom much is given, much is expected.
Boundaries are important in relationships; they help to guard against heartbreak, betrayal and pain. The level of friendship desired determines the kind of boundaries that will be built. If all you want is casual friendship, don’t spend much time or exchange confidence with the other person and don’t encourage him/her to do so with you either. Helping Mariam was a good idea but Wande should never have allowed her to share her fears, hopes and pain with him; it was not right for him to grow close to her. She was vulnerable and he took advantage of that, though unintentionally. If they had established boundaries for their friendship, the story would have been different.
As we go through life, we will meet different people. Some will remain in our lives forever while some will leave after a short while but irrespective of long we are a part of each others lives, we must be careful to be good and kind to each other. Purpose never to leave another person wishing they had never met you and one of the first steps towards achieving this is having boundaries for all your relationships. Do not share with an acquaintance, casual friend, colleague, secretary, driver, that which is meant for your spouse or fiancé.
If like Wande, you have hurt someone unintentionally, please ask God for forgiveness and seek how you can make amends (without getting yourself in the same predicament again). Never underestimate the power of repentance and offering an apology; ask God to show you how you can make amends.
If like Mariam, you are the injured party, you need to forgive and let God heal your broken heart. You also need to learn to handle your emotions better; make decisions based on information and not what you feel or think. Is someone spending a lot of time with you? Ask him/her to define what they want, do not assume anything!!!