By Bunmi Sofola
When Anuolu decided she’d had enough of a marriage that lasted all of 26 years, her decision wasn’t triggered by rows or infidelity—though the couple had a share of that. Instead, it was the corrosive resentment that ate away at her feelings for her husband as she re-invented herself. When she got married, she was a secondary school teacher and her husband, a senior lecturer at the university. But as her self-confidence grew, she took on fresh challenges. As she grew out of her old subservient role, her husband’s resentment festered.
“When I went back to the university for a masters’ degree in human resources, my husband felt it was a waste of time and money,” said Anuolu now in her early 50s.
“He also seemed threatened when I got a good job in human resources and met new people. He tried to undermine my confidence, my opinion seemed irrelevant to him. He didn’t listen to whatever I had to say. We began leading parallel lives as he spent more and more time with one of his old students who had two kids by him.
“In the meantime, my three children were doing well in school and the company I worked with promoted me to head of human resources. I had the option of taking the furnished apartment that went with the job, or settle for a generous rent allowance. When out of curiosity, I went to look at the apartment, I fell in love with it. It was a very compact three bedroom flat in a block of flats owned by the company. It was now or never. Though I liked my husband, I was no longer in love with him,. I remembered all the meals I had to pack away because he’d eaten at his second home. Whenever I told him I was unhappy, he said I was being ridiculous, what else did I want? The kids went to good schools and in spite of his other ‘wife’ he seldom slept away from home and I had a good home most women would give their right arm to have.
“I knew my husband would never have initiated a separation as our lives together suited him to the ground. But, like do many professional women today, I wanted more out of a relationship than boring routine. It was as if all the fun had seeped out of my marriage.
As I took up the offer of free accommodation, I thought of a way of breaking the news to him. But I told the kids first. My last daughter was in the university and her two brothers had already left the house to do their own thing. When I eventually told my husband, he thought I was out of my mind. What sane seemingly happily married woman leaves a stable home to live the life of a single woman?
“He put his foot down. This nonsense should stop or I forget I was ever married. But I was determined to spread my wings. It took me a while to get the flat to the standard I wanted before I moved in. When my husband sort the support of the children, they told him they knew what was going on. I told him he didn’t have to shuttle between two homes, now he could move his ‘wife’ in to take over where I left off…. “
According to relationship expert, Francine Kaye, a lot of men these days reach retirement age and find themselves propelled unwillingly into separation because they have failed to heed the warning signals as their once deferential, stay-at-home wives seek new autonomy and fulfilment. “These men have bought one kind of wife off the shelf—the school teacher and home-maker—and the deal was that she wasn’t supposed to change,” she says. “But people do change and couples are not recognising the signs and implications until it’s too late.
“The husband has often been working really hard to provide for his family and he feels unappreciated when he reaches the end of his career to discover his wife has found a fresh sense of fulfilment and an identity separate from her old one as a wife and mum. There is a phrase for it: ‘Women who walk and men who don’t see it coming.” Even wives who don’t have challenging jobs to boast of, stick with their married children and happily look after their grandchildren.
Anuolu said it took all her will-power to tell her husband she was moving out. “He is basically a good man,” she said. “There was nothing inherently wrong with him. We had just reached the point where we were merely co-existing. I probably wouldn’t have left if I didn’t have a better alternative. Now, I have a fulfilling job, a busy social life and the freedom to meet friends and go out at will—in short I’m not lonely and I’m not looking for a relationship. For now, I’m happy being me … “