By Chioma Gabriel
I ran into an old school mate recently. The last time I saw Maria was seven years ago after her marriage. She later called to say she was relocating to Abuja from Lagos on transfer. She still has the spark and the fire but there’s something confusing about her looks.
We fixed a date to hang out and and catch up on old times and that fell on a Saturday.
We met at an eatery in Ikeja. We were barely seated when she shocked me with the revelation that her former house-help, a sixteen year old girl had become a co-wife.
How come? I asked her and she began to cry.
She was transferred to Abuja seven months after her first child and because of the difficulties involved in her transfer, she had to leave her son with the house-help and her husband in Lagos. She had no fears about that because the house-help lacked education and finesse and above all, she is a Christian of pentecostal inclination. Besides, her husband was faithful to the core and would never look at a thing like their house-help. Besides, he was making efforts to join her in Abuja.
The first time she suspected something was wrong was the way her husband was withdrawing money from their joint account and each time she asked, he would tell her he was renovating the house in the village and she kept pumping more money into their joint account to help with the renovation. Infact, she had no other account except her salary account and she always made immediate transfer to the joint account each time she received salary alert.
Her fears dissolved when her husband joined her in Abuja with their son and she took in again shortly after.
But she had a new challenge when her husband came to Abuja without their househelp and when she enquired, he said the house-help had started misbehaving and had to leave.
She managed her pregnancy and taking care of their son at the same time while she worked.
When her pregnancy grew so large and she couldn’t cope, she started making efforts to bring back the house-help who agreed to come to Abuja.
And that was the beginning of her her second mistake because by the time the house-help came to Abuja, she came with a baby girl who turned out to be her husband’s daughter. He fathered the child with the house-help and went behind her to marry the girl because the family of the girl insisted.
What Maria considered more insulting was that her husband took her money in their joint account to marry their house-help in an elaborate ceremony in his village. And nobody told her.
Maria in her narrative said she actually swallowed the insult because she was not sure what to do immediately. Besides, she was pregnant and was in her last trimester.
After the birth of her second son, she observed her ‘house-help’ had changed and would often remind her she is now a co-wife and no longer her house-help of those days.
That was when Maria began to plan another transfer back to Lagos and stopped putting her salary in their joint account.
Maria wasn’t even sure her husband was putting all his earnings into their joint account because she noticed she always put in more money than he into the account, hoping it should also help to prevent arguments about money.
She also hoped that if they have any money ‘left over’ in the joint account after they have taken care of all essential costs, they can both decide on the best way of making use of what remained.
She was mistaken.
Her husband used their money to marry a new wife and lied to her all the while , keeping mum as she planned to bring over the girl to Abuja to continue living with them, not knowing her status had changed from house-help to co-wife.
What worried Maria more was that everybody blamed her including her own family. How could she leave her house-help alone with her husband while she went on transfer?
She shouldn’t have left her husband and the house-help alone again. She should have remained in Abuja to see what would come out of it. The man should have told her about the development so she wouldn’t have made another mistake of inviting the girl to Abuja.
I think before doing what she did either with their joint account or leaving the house-help in Lagos after her transfer to Abuja and then inviting her again without having an update on her were major disasters. How can she trust a man so much with another female even if she is a pig?
And what happens now with their joint account?
I have a feeling somewhere after listening to her that she doesn’t know everything yet. If the relationship eventually packs up , I have this gut feeling that other secrets would come out.
Personally, I don’t believe in a joint account and I have my reasons.
One of the negatives of a joint account is that you might not always know what is in the account. Since both spouses have unrestricted access to the account, you could end up overdrawn if your spouse makes purchases and fails to tell you. And if things turn bad in the relationship, each spouse has the ability to clean out the account and take all the money, even if it was deposited by the other spouse. A joint account also prevents each individual from building up his or her own credit.
I believe that separate bank accounts can provide a sense of autonomy that can sometimes be difficult to achieve in marriage. With individual bank accounts, you don’t have to feel guilty about spending “your own” money on things you want. You also don’t have to worry about resenting your partner for “taking your money” to buy things or marrying a new wife.
I think Maria made a grave mistake from the very beginning and I told her so.
I believe in marriage in its traditional sense. It’s the duty of a husband to take care of his wife and children and if he has a challenge, his wife can help. I believe a woman’s money is hers and the man’s money is theirs.
Maria is in a mess and I didn’t know how to tell her so but I think she needs space to decide what to do.
I also advised her not to go for divorce because it would be a scandal to leave the man for the maid. She needs to calm down and then go back ‘home’ to fight her battle to a conclusive end.
Qu’est-ce que tu penses ? (What do you think?)