By Yetunde Arebi
After a certain age, there is a concerted and deliberate pressure by society, especially in our part of the world, that an individual must get married. To be properly accepted or integrated in the society after a certain age, regardless of the mental, physical or psychological preparedness or condition, one must be coupled as a man or woman. For the woman especially, the biological clock is an important factor which must not be ignored as procreation is considered sacred.
There is a backlash on failing to achieve this status within the acceptable stipulated period. You are stereotyped; one hooked on casual sex and therefore irresponsible, one who cannot manage a home is unfit to even hold public office. A woman who fails to settle down in a marriage is often labelled a prostitute, the she-boss who cannot submit herself to the authority of a man or one who has dated her husband as a boyfriend and therefore lost her chances to get a good man.
Thus once a man or woman reaches the critical age when suspicion that you might miss the marriage train for your age group begins to set in, the pressure becomes intensified. You no longer have the privilege to view potential partners and the marriage institution through rose coloured glasses of love and happily ever after, any man or woman is as good as the other and therefore suitable. All you need to do is condition your mind and body to your partner.
“Love does not grow in a day, it is gradual and happens over time. I never knew your father till my wedding day”, a mother once told her daughter in a bid to convince her that love is not a prerequisite for a successful marriage.
If money is the excuse, you’ll surely find relatives who will try to convince you that money is not a necessity for marriage. “It is better when both of you have nothing but your names, so you can build your future together. Besides, it is when you are poor that you will find true love”. Unfortunately, the pressure does not end once you commit yourself to this bond. In fact, for a lot of couples, the problems really kicks off from this point.
Once married, the pressure to remain so, no matter the odds becomes a bigger challenge, once again, especially for the woman. Right from the wedding ceremony, she is made to understand that returning home is not an option for consideration.
Marriage is about endurance, the window to return to single status is closed. You either make a success of it, or die trying to. And indeed, this has sent a lot of women to their untimely graves, even when not physically, but mentally and psychologically. Derin, a very close friend who had a successful career as a partner in a high profile law firm was forced to quit her job and lay low for almost five years in her bid to avoid a scandal when she eventually summoned up the courage to end her 12 years marriage to an abusive and jealous husband.
“By the time I realised that I needed to get out or I would not be useful even to my children, I had become an emotional wreck, unable to even perform my duties at my office or church. I was always afraid I would do something that would set off his tongue against me. I finally figured that he hated the fact that I was successful at my work and had men like him working for me in the office. His, was not physical abuse, but he had a poisonous, double edged tongue that I was no match for.
When he would start, I would cry because I could not find the strength to stop him. He would make fun of me, asking if that was how I dealt with the guys in my office. He would express the desire to invite them to the house to see me cry like a baby.
I am also a woman leader of my group in church, he would make fun of me endlessly, taunting me that he would go and tell them that I am a weakling and know nothing about marriage, so they should relieve me of the post and not allow me to counsel anyone. My decision to remain in the marriage was not because I lacked the financial capability to take care of myself and my two children, but I felt trapped by moral and societal standards. I was afraid to be tagged a divorcee and a woman who could not persevere”.
Like Derin, a lot of women are trapped by moral and societal values in marriages they are not happy in and cannot do anything to remedy. Those who try often have to face the hostility, insincerity and lack of support of family and friends, who ought to rally round them with love.
Domestic violence has become an increasing menace and challenge in many marriages across the country, even though the Nigerian situation is not an isolation. Before now, many women endure systemic physical and psychological abuse in silence and are blamed for lacking the will to speak out. Speaking out, will help create awareness as well as assist them seek help to stop the abuse. The truth is that, many who manage to summon up the courage to speak up, often lack the support they need to get out of their abusive situation. Sometimes, help also comes too late.
Fresh on my mind is the Kolade Arowolo murder saga in the city of Lagos, a classic case of persistent domestic abuse and crime of passion. The couple’s whirlwind troubled marriage was not unknown to their parents and friends. The fight that led to the death of Titilayo, the young banker wife and mother of one was indeed, not their first.
They had fought several times and had settled. Titilayo had even allegedly told her parents and friends that she was tired of the relationship and wanted out, but she lacked the support from the right people who ought to offer or provide a safe haven for her. On that fateful night, something snapped inside Kolade that resulted in him stabbing his young wife 76 times according to pathological reports, thus resulting in her untimely death. A waste of life, a needless death which could have been avoided if marriage was not a “do or die” affair, as we often have it. Way back in the late 70s, (I’m no longer very sure of this date) my late dear friend, Honourable Bola James of the famous James family of Badagry, lost his sweet sister, Sena, to the murderous rage of an ex lover in London.
According to Bola, his sister had finally summoned up the courage to call off their volatile and abusive relationship after many years of fighting and making up, and to prove to him that it was over, began dating another guy. Angry and unable to accept the development, he’d allegedly killed her and hacked her body to pieces in her London flat before calling the Police to report himself. Their long-term relationship which dated back to their high school days in Nigeria had been a tempestuous one, known to their family and friends, but to which they had no idea could result in death. Even if death seems a bit remote and far between, several stories abound of love-hate relationships that have ended on very sour notes.
In March 2011, Chika Egbo was doused with acid by her boyfriend, David Sulaiman for undisclosed reasons. On May 5, 2011, another undergraduate student of Federal University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State, Franca Ogbu, was given the acid bath and permanently disfigured by yet to be identified persons. One report claimed an embittered wife of a lecturer Franca was allegedly dating was responsible while another report said it was a guy she rebuffed his love advances. Still the deed has been done. Deanne Igbo from Rivers State had her eye plucked out for ritual purposes by her husband/boyfriend, Sylvester Emezi. Another woman was doused in Kerosine and set ablaze by her husband who suspected her of infidelity, and many more. Strangely too, the women are also taking arms against their husbands, some in self defence, others in moments of rage like their male counterparts. Once again, should marriage end in “till death do us part” by our own hands, at all cost?
It took a well orchestrated campaign and counselling for the parents of a young lady to accept her back home after just a year of marriage recently. In what still remains shrouded in mystery, the lady and her husband began fighting seriously after just a few weeks into their marriage. On the last count, the husband beat her up so severely he left several bruises on her body and announced to the whole neighbourhood his intention to kill her if she refused to leave their matrimonial home. Afraid for her safety and her little child’s, she returned home and informed her parents of her decision to quit the marriage.
Naturally, they called a meeting with the guy and his family and he told them to their face that he was no longer interested in the marriage. But to everyone’s shock, this young lady’s parents still refused to see the danger ahead, insisting that their Christian religious beliefs forbids divorce and they would not allow their daughter put them to shame. (Is their daughter’s life not worth more than religious beliefs?) I may not understand because I am not very religious. This brings me to the story of Yejide Badmus which broke on the social media mid last week. Until her exit from her marriage, Ms. Badmus was the wife of Alhaji Kayode Fashola, said to be an uncle of the Lagos State governor, Mr. Raji Fashola.
This courageous woman buried her pride and shame to throw the gates open on a marriage that had become a death trap and shared her horrific experience with the world and ultimately to help other women who might be walking similar dangerous paths. She rendered an account supported with dates and photographs of the fate she suffered in the hands of a man who claimed to loved her and promised to protect her. Whatever his reasons might have been, they became insignificant when compared with the brutality unleashed on this poor lady. My sister, I urge you to forget the haters and back-bitters you mentioned in your account and move on as you have said. Where there is a will, there is a way. I am all for the marriage institution. It is ordained by the Almighty.
It is the union of two imperfect individuals who have resolved to find perfection in the eyes of God and man. I love weddings, the sheer beauty of the ceremonies make me cry. But I also hate pain, my body and mind have almost zero tolerance for pain and painful situations and therefore I am against violence in any form, especially in a place dedicated for love. So, I am guided by the favourite quote of my very good friend whom I call the Giant; “by all means, marry. If you are lucky to marry a good partner, you will be happy. If not, you will become a philosopher”. Do have a wonderful weekend!