Tag Archive | Nigerianweddings

Stop taking relationship advice from men

 

blog 2 T

I wish women would stop taking relationship advice from ‘men’. And by this I mean men who are unqualified. These men are not Counsellors, Psychotherapists’ or Psychologists. They don’t know JACK about you or your partner.  But they are perambulating as relationship experts on social media and even on TV. Some of them are labeling themselves as lifestyle coaches with little qualification to show.  And worst still, a lot of these men have terrible track records of being awful partners to very many women. And you know what? Some women are doing it now too, they are on Facebook live, Instagram live! Talking about how you ought to ‘do’ your man!

Don’t get me wrong we can learn so much from other people, but in my opinion the tell-tale signs of a fraud is when you hear their advice predominantly directed at the woman; cook more, serve him, kneel when you serve him, have sex whenever he wants, pray for him, fast for him, he is your father. Have you ever wondered why these advisers direct their opinions 9and that’s all they are opinions) at women.  Why aren’t many more relationship advisers targeting men with these half baked advise. I’ll tell you why, because it is easier and lazier. Telling women what to do, and how to do it still fits into the traditional norms of many patriarchal society.

I am not a relationship expert either. I am just a married woman concerned about the wrong messaging and the abuse of women under the guise of marriage, and our own complicity as women and as a society in this abuse. All I am saying is that marriage should for the most part be enjoyed, being realistic and mature about its ups and downs too. And as a woman it is  not your sole responsibility to keep the marriage going, it’s a joint effort. You did not stand at the altar alone, you did not marry yourself, and before anyone makes reference to that  Yoruba proverb ‘Obinrin lo un di ile mu’  which translates to ‘it’s the woman’s responsibility to ‘hold’ her home.  We are not listening to that bullshit anymore. It has always and will always take two to make a relationship work and any advise that predominantly shifts the responsibility on the woman is wrong and dangerous.

I have observed that in the best relationships ‘power and responsibility’ doesn’t lie in one place, it shifts. Sometimes the husband is in the driving seat, and sometimes the wife is in the driving seat. I know that this idea of shifting ‘power and responsibility’ goes against the grain of how we as women have been raised especially in Nigeria.  But it’s what I have observed in my own personal interpretation of healthy relationships. In those relationships, the man is the head sometimes, and sometimes the woman is the head. No one sits on the throne forever! And no, healthy couples rarely sit down to carve out when the man will be the head, or when the woman would be the head, it’s probably more organic, falling naturally to where the couple’s strengths lie.  I am always adamant that in the healthiest of relationships a woman cannot always be in that submissive lane, nor can the man always lead. I warn you, if you stay in that submission lane for too long you will become redundant, a doormat.  And if you think you can constantly be the leader, you will morph into a tyrant, and in time lose your captor.

People often challenge me by saying their parents have been married for 50 years and did it the ‘traditional way’ – and some would list barmy things like (no lie I’ve heard all of these):

  • My father didn’t eat yesterday’s stew so whatever my mom was up to she had to cook fresh everyday
  • My father can’t eat pounded yam with lumps so my mum would have to remake it
  • My father didn’t let my mum work
  • My father had affairs but told my mother she was number 1

Often, children from these backgrounds appear to accept that their home traditions is the natural and right order. Never have I heard them question  the physical or emotional damage these imbalances might have had on their mother and even them. In fact they will argue that their mothers were happy, because she always looked happy or rarely voiced her discontent. But  how many mothers burden their children with their deepest unhappiness? And  one cannot judge happiness by the length of a marriage in a society where there is little support for those who leave their marriages, even under cruel and dire conditions; little support from the state, little support from the church, little support from the family). To point to length of marriage alone would be TOO simplistic. Being married for 50 years is not a goal. Being happy, feeling fulfilled and feeling accomplished whilst in the marriage ought to be the goal?.

 

Wives get bored too

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Some few weeks ago I went to see the movie hidden figures under the misunderstanding that My friend had booked us to watch the movie Fences. She was just as surprised as I was when Hidden Figures started. By the end of the movie, we couldn’t grumble because Hidden Figures turned out to be a fantastic movie.

I finally got a chance to watch Fences enroute to Miami. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It is a touching story which feels real and true. And the dialogue is sublime.

Mid-way through the movie I started to shift in my seat, wishing I was on land so I could urge every female friend I have to watch this movie and heed three explicit warnings:

1. Do not become complicit in your own mistreatment.
2. Do not lose your identity, destiny or purpose in a marriage.
3. And if you choose to do both, be acutely aware of the repercussions and own the consequences.

In the movie we see Rose ( Viola Davies) immerse herself in family life, loving her husband completely, taking on his family, his shortcomings, and dealing with it as some loving wives might. And although this was heart warming to watch in the beginning of the movie, these traits soon start to grate as the viewer realises that Rose through her complicity, was enabling some destructive behaviour; behaviour which would eventually tear her family life apart.

Rose’s husband wasn’t a stereotypical abusive husband or father. This would have been too lazy. What he was is probably closer to the reality of most destructive characters, they are rarely one dimensional. Troy was loving yet unkind, warm but bitter, responsible and irresponsible. He was traditional to a point of disregard. In his opinion his duty was to provide for his family. And as long as he did this successfully, everything else was inconsequential, including meeting the emotional needs of his children, and ultimately his wife.

Every relationship can learn something from this story. But I am specifically drawing attention to this beautiful piece of story telling because of the parallels I observe in a lot of Nigerian marriages. Often the Nigerian woman is advised to accept and tolerate the intolerable in marriage. We are encouraged accommodate bad behaviour under the falsehood that compromise is the foundation of a good marriage. The problem however, is that too often it is the woman who over- compromises, especially when the husband is a good provider like Troy. But this one sided compromising is at the expense of our future happiness, and more importantly our mental health.

Rose allowed her husband to get away with atrocious behaviour, this she admitted to towards the end of the movie. As the movie progressed,  it became clear that men like Troy can become so self absorbed, they fail to see that they are mistreating their wives. And women like Rose, lose themselves so completely and absurdly in the superficial appearance of a healthy home; cooking for everybody, constantly fixing a plate; toiling. The way Rose was quick to enter the kitchen for Troy and his family; son from another relationship, her hisband’s friend,  his brother, was both symbolic and a clever way of highlighting how women give.

Rose expected her husband to be loyal, loving, and attentive because she was. Unfortunately her passivity or compromises or submissiveness emboldened her husband’s bad behaviour, to their eventual detriment.

Women too get bored too: There was a scene where Troy was honestly trying to explain why he cheated, and I understood it completely. I even felt annoyed for understanding, but at 40 and after being married for over 12 years I know that marriage isn’t all roses and make up sex. Marriage is partly about those daily worries and palavers like mortgage, bills, in laws, child care difficulties. Marriage is about the grind. It is about misunderstandings, miscommunications, neglect, being taken for granted, hurt, and sometimes lies. And yes the feeling of wanting to escape is normal – having an affair can seem like escapism for some – for Troy – who wanted to feel alive, devoid of responsibilities, duty or obligation.

In the middle of his emotionally charged explanation Rose cut him dead. In fury and in hurt she reminded him that for 18 years she had stood by his side, casting her own dreams aside – supporting him, accepting his flaws, covering for his flaws, even at the detriment of her own children. And through snort and tears, the viewers realises that she knows, that she had given too much, and literary played herself out of the marriage. Because you can give too much in a marriage? Yes. You have no business or obligation to give away your destiny or purpose or dreams like she did . No one, not the man nor the children you bear will thank you in the end. And even if they do it probably wouldn’t be enough.

As married women we must be wary of the false notion that giving up on our own development, destiny, or life goals is tantamount to love. It is not. And a truly loving husband wouldn’t want or expect it.

More powerfully Rose highlights a point I wish every man would take away from this movie. That it is not the preserve of men to crave escapism; to want out from time to time. Most women feel this urge too, that desire to run, to cast aside the burden of responsibility, to hide even. And as Rose put it, to seek comfort, desire and escapism in the bed of someone different. But. And there is a powerful But. What stops a lot of women, and some men from cheating, at that real point of frailty, is a combination of discipline, maturity, self respect and will power – holding on to the commitment they made while keeping an eye on the bigger picture – a healthy relationship. This discipline may not be applicable where abuse is present, emotional or physical abuse or indeed neglect may drive women to seek solace with another.

Sadly, most patriarchal societies pretend that women simply don’t feel the desires Rose highlighted.  I guess the very idea that women too feel this urge is itself an affront to the premise of patriarchy.

love

Titilolami