It’s 2024 and relationships are more complicated than ever before. If you have ever heard the colloquial phrase, ‘Eish, mjolo, hey,’ or ‘Mjolo is not for the weak’, then you know the sting of having survived a terrible connection.

“Mjolo” is a South African slang term referring to dating. While relationships are a minefield, immoral acts such as cheating, lying, and ghosting one’s partner or potential partner have also become so normalised, with people on the receiving end of mistreatment even referred to as ‘clowns’ and laughed at by their peers.

Mocking people who have been harmed by their lovers and even blaming them for not leaving and allowing themselves to be disrespected has always baffled me. There are various reasons people struggle to leave toxic relationships. It takes a great deal of courage to exit a terrible connection and move on with one’s life when an abundance of energy has been invested in the relationship. Mjolo should not be tough or harmful, and a relationship should never make you feel anxious or useless.

I firmly believe that communication before entering into any connection, whether committal or non-committal, is essential. That way, you know what you’re getting yourself into. Dating when you’re younger is particularly tricky; you may still be trying to figure out who you are and what you want out of life. However, if you’re unsure about the nature of the relationship you foresee having, speak openly to your romantic interest and help them understand where your head is at. Relationships should be fruitful for both parties, without the drama of one person feeling stressed all the time, with the other party avoidant and uncaring about their partner’s feelings.

Here are some tips for dating when you’re younger:

Stay true to yourself
While relationships require making space and time in your life for your partner, you should not have to change everything about yourself to suit your bae. If you’re a hard-working student who ardently dedicates two hours each day to your studies, don’t start neglecting that to suit your partner’s schedule. If you take part in any athletics at school, continue doing so. If you have a movie night with your siblings every Saturday, don’t cancel on them. The new person should add value to your life, not cause upheaval or make you feel bad for having other commitments and interests.

Hold on to your goals
If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to work out for one hour daily, do it. If you want to obtain excellent grades, keep putting in the work to reach your goal. If you want to start a business while working full-time, continue your hustle until you succeed. Don’t allow your partner to distract you from your ambitions, and don’t allow their behaviours to dictate your mood.

Be open about boundaries
If you don’t believe in sex before marriage or certain forms of physical affection, communicate that. If you don’t want your partner posting personal details about your relationship online, tell them. Open and honest engagements are fundamental to every relationship.

Talk things out
The glue that holds any connection together is good communication, honesty, and faithfulness. Are you and your partner exclusive or just vibing? Will the relationship lead anywhere? It’s also important to communicate when something they have done doesn’t sit well with you. Just be open with them always.

Young people share their views on dating
I reached out to three young people who opened up about what they think is important to a successful relationship.

Sanelisiwe Nkosi, a young mom who runs a feeding scheme said it’s vital to be independent, even when coupled up:
“Within a relationship, you still need to retain your own identity. There is no need to merge your entire lives. Have a life together and have separate lives you enjoy as individuals.”

Joyce Rakelwa, who owns a spa and helps needy kids, believes that respect is vital:
“You need trust, communication, and mutual respect, otherwise everything will fall apart.”

Yolanda Klaas, an admin assistant, believes that people give up on love too easily:
“Our parents in the 90s and earlier had long-lasting relationships and people these days are too quick to give up on love when any small issue arises. There should be more perseverance.”

Whether you’re dating for commitment or just finding your footing in the complex world of mjolo, you might be in for quite a ride. Remember who you are and hold tight to your dreams and self-worth. You are whole on your own, whether you’re dating someone or not.

What were some of your best and worst experiences with dating? What did these experiences teach you?