Are you his foster girlfriend?

By Joan Thatiah

As their three-year relationship was ending, he told her that he was the problem and not her. He said he was letting her go because he just was not ready for the kind of serious commitment she deserved. It did not make her feel better but she believed him. Now, imagine her horror when just a few months later, as she was stalking him on social media, she came across a picture of him smiling, another woman in his arms, and the unmistakable shiny engagement ring on her finger.

“It is frustrating and hurtful. I felt so insignificant,” shares Joy Ndei, 34.

She followed her first instinct, called him and gave him an earful about lying about not being ready to commit. Then followed months of bitterness. You see, when they met, this man was penniless and living with his parents. She saw his ‘potential’ and encouraged him to pursue a business idea he had been nursing for years. He succeeded at it, moved out of home and even bought land. All this while, he dangled the promise of marriage and a future together to her. Then it all came to an abrupt end.

“I think I had a right to be bitter. I refined him, turned him into a great man and now another woman gets to enjoy my hard work,” she says.

What it means

Joy, a tours and travel agent, has been a foster girlfriend. Urban dictionary describes the foster girlfriend as a woman a man dates until he finds his forever partner. Now that she has the benefit of hindsight, she can see a pattern. All the three men she has had serious relationships with committed to other women pretty quickly after their break up. Also, all of them were broken, one was a recovering addict, the other was just coming out of an abusive relationship and the last was childish and unmotivated.


Timing is everything

“It is like I am a magnet for strays who leave me when they get better,” she says.

As usually happens when a relationship ends, the people she confided in told her that she must be doing something wrong in her relationships. In his book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, American author and relationship counsellor John Gray is of the view that for women like Joy, the only mistake they make in relationships is the choice of men they choose.

There is no such thing as a right woman but the right timing, he writes. This means that when a woman, from her own inadequacies, seeks out and helps heal broken men, it becomes a cycle. He will be with her because she is available; she will help rebuild his confidence, sense of self-worth until he feels confident enough to go after the woman he actually wants to be with. The only way to win at this would be making a conscious effort to get with a man who is able and willing to commit at the same time as you.

When mind-games do not work

“The last five years have been a total waste for me relationship wise. The only thing I have gained is trust issues,” says Vera Muindi, 31.

Fast-paced romance

Like most heartbreaks, Vera Muindi’s story with her ex began with a fast-paced romance. She was not really looking when they met but he fit right in, said all the right things and gave her those butterflies in the stomach.

“He told me he loved me, that I was the woman of his dreams,” the Nairobi based banker says.

Somewhere along the way, this relationship stagnated and he even began seeing someone else but she did not even know about it until after they broke up. Their break up was one of those nasty ones where she cried, begged him, blackmailed him and finally prayed that he would see the light and come back to her. He did not. Instead, he took the woman he was dating behind her back to meet his parents and moved in with her.

Vera blames relationship literature for her woes. She began seriously dating during a time when relationship literature was popular with adult women. She particularly loved Steve Harvey’s Think like a Man, Act like a Lady.

“I was reading a different book every week. They said to wait for x number of days before I had sex with a man, to wait for him to call x number of times before I picked up his call. It was always this mind game or the other. It was stupid, now that I think about it,” she says.

Could these games have ruined everything? According to author John Molloy whose book Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others, a man will marry one woman and not the other because each woman treats him different.

Vera wanted to play mind games so her ex stayed with her until he was ready to commit to someone else who was not playing.

Are you giving off wrong vibe?

Break ups are hard, especially in this age of social media when you are trying to forget your ex but you cannot because he is in your face. Now imagine dating, for more than a year a man who seems disinterested, who communicates only sporadically and whose idea of a date is Netflix and chill. Imagine him breaking up with you, only to turn around and see him become the dream boyfriend to the first woman he meets after your break up?

Liz Mungai, a 20-year-old videographer, believes some women inspire this reaction in men while others do not. Her elder sister, she says, brings out this attentive and thoughtful side in every man she dates.

Michelle Mawia, 32, on the other hand thinks it is part of the foster girlfriend syndrome.

“I would have to nag him to do things for me but with her, he is the epitome of a romantic, thoughtful, boyfriend,” Michelle says of the man she last dated.


If a man is saying at the beginning of the relationship that he is emotionally unavailable, listen to him carefully, and stay away from that person. It is not your responsibility to clear everybody’s mess. Understand your worth and only go with the one who knows your importance in his life as a partner and therefore respects and loves you.