By Bunmi Sofola
In a healthy relationship, it is natural to feel cross with your partner. Women in particular have been known to let rip their anger when provoked. But up to the point of violence? Gbenga, a television technician has been going out with Leila, a florist for three years. According to Gbenga, “I row more with Leila than I ever did with my previous girlfriends.
That’s because she’s more provocative and loves to pick a fight. We have very, very serious fights and although everything’s fine once they’re over, when we’re in the middle of them, I can’t ever see the end. At the moment, we’re having about two major rows a week. They probably last two hours on average, but that depends on how long it takes for the rows to come to a head. They usually get to a boiling point when one—or both of us become physical.
“Leila has tantrums like a child and starts lashing out. She’ll bite and scratch and nothing can control her. The irony is that, all her friends think she’s loud and argumentative but they have no idea that she can behave like this. Only her mum has seen these tantrums and she’s expressed her anxiety about her only daughter’s well-being. Leila blames her moods on pre—or post-menstrual tension, but I don’t believe it because they seem to happen all the time.
I used to find it scary but now it just makes me angry because of the noise and disruption and because it makes me feel violent. My parents used to have loud arguments and I fear the same thing would happen to us. As it is, our close neighbours are aware of our outbursts and see us as nothing but a nuisance.
“The thing is, I am much more controlled than her, although I suddenly reach my limit and start yelling back–real hard. Occasionally, I’ve grabbed her and in extreme cases, I’ve given her a couple of slaps to calm her down. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do any good and only makes her scream louder. I’m afraid of my own anger and what I might do to her. I always feel utterly ashamed after resorting to physical violence, although it does seem to have the effect of bringing the argument to an abrupt end because of the shock we both feel. I know she means it when afterwards she promises me she’ll never be like that again but I’m also aware that she can’t control her temper.
“I thought getting married will cure her of her insecurity but unfortunately, since coming back from our honeymoon, she seems to flare up even more easily. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she’s not happy at work and so she takes all her tension out on me. We tend to row about very insignificant things usually about each other’s behaviour. If I say or do something when we’re out and she doesn’t like, she’ll always bring it up later. She’s a terrible one for bearing grudges and sometimes drags things up to what happened three years ago.
“They say opposites attract, and she gets frustrated by my lack of zest. I am hoping we’ll reach a fine balance and that if we ever have children (she’s now expecting) that will calm her down. She’d like to change me in many ways, and I’ll like to change her, but it’s precisely that power struggle which makes the relationship so vibrant. I believe it has a bit to do with her sexual preference too. After most quarrels, she believes if they don’t end on a marathon shag, her anger is not spent. Afterwards, she’s all smiles and loving—until the next time when her demons take over….”
Thankfully, not all lover’s tiffs end up in a boxing match. “I don’t row or have heated arguments with my boyfriend,” says Jumobi, an up-and-coming actress in her 30s, “and neither have I done so with past boyfriends. My style is to ‘needle’ him and see how much I can get away with. When I go too far, he either withdraws or snaps at me, at which point I’ll shut up because arguments frighten me. Only there are times he goes too far. If I’m having the upper hand in an argument, he calls me a ‘Waka Pass’ actress, and he knows this always gets my goal. I hit him without meaning to… and he pins my hands behind me, forcing me to the bedroom where we often have violent sex. He thinks by behaving this way, he’s showing me he is the aggressor. Even when I reason with him he shouldn’t be violent, he ignores my advice. I love him though. And that is the reason most women who suffer abuse from their men use for staying in the relationship.
“Looks to me as if a lot of couples row about totally unnecessary things. For instance, the car might break down, or they get late to a social engagement and blame the other person. Sometimes, my boyfriend says that I’ve had a go at him in public, but that’s not true. He misinterprets what it’s all about and thinks I’m trying to get at him because I know he would never retaliate in front of other people. But the truth is, it’s about nothing—just a bit of showing off in front of his friends, that’s all.
“I can’t remember the last argument we had. More often, we have what I would call an upset. They usually boil down to my lack of earning power and end up with my feeling utterly worthless. He’s forgotten the rules could change at any time and I could be the one earning mega bucks when I land leading roles! All I know is that if that happens, we would easily find other things to argue about, it’s irrelevant really, whether or not it enhances the relationship!”