By Francis Ewherido
After their 10 wedding anniversary, John and Rose’s seemingly rosy marriage was falling apart. John was tired of living a lie. He was determined to make the marriage truly happy or pack it up. He decided to start from where all sensible couples should: communication. They did not travel abroad or go to some exotic hotel or resort to do it; that is for people who have the means and time. They did it right there in bed where they have earlier had a grueling intimate moment (some call it grudge sex).
Communication had been an issue in their marriage. They knew the importance of marital communication; but never could have one as a couple. John blamed it on Rose; who was never forthcoming; while Rose felt John always wanted to have his way, so why discuss? John kick-started the session by pouring out his heart; he told Rose of his pains, his frustrations and his dreams for the marriage.
By the time he was through, Rose was holding on so tight to him, it looked like she was going to strangle him. By the time Rose took her turn, one thing stuck out: years and layers of poor communication, or lack of it; have ignited a wild fire of stereotyping, fuelled by assumption.
Stereotyping is a big problem in many marriages. Long ago, at a meeting, a member was assigned a task in absentia. Then the wife, who was present, got. “You people do not know my husband; he will not do it. He is a very stubborn man.” Even when the leader insisted that she should just pass the message across and allow her husband take the decision, she insisted that her husband is “stubborn,” “strong headed,” “does not listen to advice…” She just went on and on; I kept exchanging glances with the man sitting beside. We were like, why is this woman de-marketing her husband? But she was stereotyping because the husband eventually carried out the assignment voluntarily.
What is stereotyping? An
“oversimplified, usually pejorative, attitude people hold towards those outside (their) own experience who are different. They are a result of incomplete or distorted information accepted as a fact without question.” This definition contains some seemingly innocuous but very disturbing and harmful words: “Oversimplified,” “pejorative,” “incomplete,” and “distorted.” Your spouse is an essential part of your life. For some people, their spouses are actually their life.
It is therefore very dangerous and unhealthy for you to reach conclusions on your spouse based on group criteria like “oversimplified,” “pejorative,” “distorted” “incomplete” and inaccurate represent. Stereotyping is a lazy spouse’s approach to understanding a situation or making sense of his/her spouse’s actions and behavior. Stereotype might make sense when a group or large number of people is involved, but we are talking of your spouse; just one person.
There should be no place for stereotyping in marriages. We all need to rid ourselves of this intellectual laziness. Sometimes, we profile our spouses based on actions and mistakes of the past; sometimes based on perception of people from their ethnicity or sex. By doing that, we are indirectly saying that our spouses are static, unbending, unchanging; have no specific character traits and individual personality. They also do not make efforts to become better human beings.
Our spouses are specific persons; make specific efforts to understand yours and his/her actions and behavior most times if not all the time, not using his/her past deeds or group prejudices and misconceptions to stereotype him/her: “All men cheat.” “Owerri women are unfaithful.” “Urhobo men are polygamous by nature;” “Edo people are mean;” “Yoruba women are flirts.”
Stereotyping over time easily leads to resentment in marriages. Usually delicious meals begin to taste like paper, you begin to resent a spouse having his/her normal sleep; when he/she is eating, you get angry by the way he/she chews. All of a sudden you realize your spouse walks awkwardly; just about everything about him/her annoys you. When resentment boils over, marital breakups, violence and homicide are never far away. That is why we really need to watch it. Just go the extra mile of bridging the gap between your perceptions and reality/truth.
One woman lapsed into the stupidity of cheating on her husband and got caught. He forgave her, but she has had a foretaste of hell since then. Now, if she comes back late from work because of the notorious Lagos traffic, she is suspiciously scrutinized. When her phone rings at home, she gets a curious stare. Every move she makes now is viewed with suspicion. The husband has stereotyped her as unfaithful and unreliable. If you asked me, I think the husband is punishing himself. If he has high blood pressure, he will give himself stroke one day. There is something called second chance; if you have voluntarily decided to forgive your spouse, let go so that both of you can be free. You do not give somebody a goat and hang on to the rope.
Stereotyping also creates many “problems” that are only in the heart, they are nonexistent in real life. We just go on and on manufacturing problems, while ignoring important life issues. Let us even assume the “problems” are real. Problems are meant to be solved. Darkness was once a problem; somebody invented electricity to solve it. Travelling over long distances was once a problem; people invented cars, trains and aero planes to speed up movement. The world is a better place today because people solved problems. Go and solve your “problems” and keep stereotype far away from your marriage.
Yesterday was Children’s Day. Bringing up children is getting more difficult. Upkeep, medical care and children’s education costs have all gone up. Parents, in the rat race to meet up, now have less time for their children. Family planning has become even more imperative, and is the beginning of quality upbringing for children. Give birth to the number of children you have time and resources to cater for. Breeding like rats is outmoded. Belated happy Children’s Day to our children.