By Bunmi Sofola
A couple of months back, I hunted down a friend’s wife at his request. She’d relocated to Britain some six years ago with all the three children of the ‘marriage.’ Tade, my friend, still lives with his legal wife and her only child.
I found Kike, the supposed second wife easily because Tade gave me her address and her phone number, and because we’d met socially a couple of times before she left the country, she readily agreed to see me.
“I have nothing against Tade,” she assured me when I asked why she abandoned him. “In fact, I wished him and his wife the best of luck. But I have a life too, so do my children. I can’t live down a situation where my growing kids continued to ask why their daddy did not live with them and, why they couldn’t go to him.
Kids are smart. You start them on a lie and you’re going to need plenty to keep that lie. I am a trained nurse and luckily, I trained here in Britain. So, when a friend called that a family was looking for a live-in nurse for their disabled father, I went to find out what it was all about.
The location was a quiet town outside London and the house was cosy; the man’s wife had died and the children were so busy they couldn’t look after him as they’d all left home. Currently, someone came in everyday to look after him but, they wanted round-the-clock caring.
“When they mentioned the salary and the fact that it was full board, I accepted the job immediately. I was a nurse in a private hospital in Lagos but, the salary was nothing compared with what I would be earning as a private nurse. When I came back to Nigeria to take the things I would need, I had already decided to take my kids with me.
Tade wasn’t that much of a provider on top of which my so-called traditional marriage was a sham. This was the time for some personal home-truths. I’d been traditionally ‘married’ to him for all of ten years but if the wife knew anything about it, she was not letting on. Whenever I insisted that all the children should know each other at least, Tade would balk at the idea.
She’s apparently seen him through college when they were abroad and I guess he would be forever grateful to her. But that doesn’t mean I should wag my tail and lick her fingers like a dog. I owed her nothing.
“I didn’t even let him know we were leaving. As soon as my children’s tourist visas were okay, we all left. At first, they stayed in London with my sister but when I had the courage to tell my patient’s children about them, they agreed that my children could live with me. In the meantime, I stepped up efforts to get a council flat. When I was eventually allocated one about two years ago, I moved my family in.
My eldest child is now over 16 and quite domesticated. She looks after the flat when the kids come back from school and I thank my God that my children are doing fine in an atmosphere they don’t find emotionally sapping.
“I don’t know what your friend wants by asking you to talk to me. He has a wife he is still legally married to. Even if I’d seven children against the legal wife’s one child, I am still his other woman. A bit on the side. I no longer fool myself that I’m any sort of legal wife and I’ve put that experience behind me. Tell me, if he died tomorrow, what would be my role in his interment? I would probably be lurking round the church with my children, huddled in a corner.
“Look around you and see if I should swop all this for a hole-in-the-corner existence with him? I am happy, my children are healthy and in good schools; and I’m not exactly celibate. He is being selfish, I’ve never denied him the right to see his children. The last time he was here, he spent snatched moments with them because he came with his wife….”
As one legal expert succinctly puts it: “There is no such thing as a common-law marriage, no matter how long or openly you live with someone, if you do not get legally married, the law will almost never treat you as if you are, no matter the number of children you have between you. So, if it is a choice between marrying someone or living with him, marriage wins when it comes to financial security, especially, for women.
The Nigerian marital law, as anti-wife as it is, is very clear on this. A man is to carry on as he means to live the rest of his married life. Statutory marriage means you’re stuck with only one wife. But if you want to lead the life of a serial monogamist, you kick out the wife, again legally, then take another…and another…if on the other hand you’re the adventurous type wanting as many women under your roof as say four, then you resort to the customary law which makes such marriages legal!
Worse still, if you’ve lived with a man all your life, but you’re never married to him, even when he’s not married to anyone else and he dies, you’re his common-law-wife. If he dies intestate, the ‘wife’ inherits nothing no matter how much she’s contributed over the years; only her children do. Luckily, not all common-law wives are as starry-eyed as they once were when it comes to property sharing. After seeing what had happened to widowed parents and relatives, a lot of them are acquiring properties in their own names.
When early last year, Mike’s so-called in-laws invited her to a family meeting, they tongue-lashed her for not being accommodating enough of her husband’s other wife. If she wasn’t prepared to be more tolerant, they gave her a deadline within which to leave the matrimonial home. “As soon as they left,” said Nike, I went on my knees and sang songs of praise to God!
This was a man I’d practically been propping up financially ever since we got ‘married’ because after being childless in my first marriage, I was able to have two children by him. He wanted more children after we’d been together for about 11 years so he brought in this shrew who was so uncouth I could barely tolerate her! Inside five years, she’d had four children and we all lived in a two-bedroom flat!
Hygiene and good house-keeping were obviously not her good points. Since both of us were not legally married to him, I didn’t feel obligated to stay. I had already gotten a flat ready to move out when he fell ill. I was very bitter. If I left now, I would be accused of leaving him when he could no longer provide for his family. Who would I tell that even all the petty contracts he did was the ones I helped him get from a few of my friends in positions of power?
So when the jokers came to supposedly give me a piece of their minds about shaping up or shipping out of the so-called marriage, I looked really downcast as I thanked them and promised to change. Our so-called husband couldn’t meet my eyes because he knew he was the one who gave his relatives the wrong impression about his financial responsibilities.
After his relatives left, he told me to ignore them, that they were being mischievous. I said nothing. A couple of months later, as soon as he left the house, I hired a huge lorry and took everything I’d bought for the house—including the double-bed on which we both slept and the fridge/freezer. The flat really looked desolate after I’d removed my things and I felt almost sorry for him.”
If you’re currently enjoying a relationship, don’t be blinded to the legal implications of a union without that ‘simple piece of paper.’ Without it, you have no legal leg to stand on when your partner throws you out, or suddenly dies. And the same goes for the man too! If your common-law-wife owns the house you currently live in, she can throw you out anytime she wants and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it!
Are you in sync with your man?
Low libidos aside, if your man has what’s technically considered healthy sex drive but your drive is just greater, it can still be a problem in your relationship. Not only are your sexual needs not being met, but you may also start to feel rejected or unattractive if he isn’t responding to your erotic advances.
Although it may be tough to raise his libido to your level, you can at least try to milk his existing appetite for all it’s worth. First,initiate erotic activity between 6 and 11 in the morning, when men’s testosterone levels are generally at their highest, allowing a man to become more easily aroused.
On nights when you’ve just got to have it but he seems lukewarm, offer to take the reins and do all the work. By alleviating any pressure to perform, says an expert, you may make sex seem more appealing to him. And good experiences are motivation for him to keep at it. Lastly, realize that a dip in sexual frequency is a common side effect to dating long-term (familiarity breeds complacency). If you connect on other important levels, the slack sessions themselves are fulfilling, and you keep communicating about your amorous desires chances are, you can find a mutual satisfying middle ground.