A general overview on the crisis in some of our Nigerian marriages in diaspora.
My beloved husband (may his soul rest in peace) once said to me, “My father told me not to set my hands on a woman and besides what will I tell your mother if I beat you up?” He understood that marriage is the union of two very different people and requires true love, patience and tolerance to grow. Marriage is love and love is reciprocal. Neither the man nor the woman is perfect, therefore no marriage is perfect; but one must be able to pick up where the other always drops off. What would it profit a man or a woman to destroy the very thing that is supposed to bring joy to his or her life? When the woman’s respect (submission) is lacking, the man should throw in his love, life moves on amicably and vice versa.
I write as a Christian and from a biblical approach. I understand the vital role culture, traditions and the bible have played in shaping our marriages at home in Nigeria or here abroad. The best is the bible (the word of God). The sacredness and beauty of marriage are repeated several times in the bible, as found in Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; and Ephesians 5:31… For this reason a man shall leave his mother and his father and cleave (join) to his wife and they shall be one. Man and woman (husband and wife) shall become one (one body). A man should leave his mother and father simply means he has become a man and should be capable of reasoning on his own to build his own family. There should be no parental or anyone else’s intrusion except for needed advice for this union. Mark 10:9. Therefore what God has put together let no man put asunder (separate).
Marriage was first ordained by God and unless you believe in His marriage laws, you will not make it through marriage. It is an honor that everyone deserves, bestowed on Adam and Eve by God Himself in the Garden of Eden. Ephesians 5:25, Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. How many men can proudly say they love their wives truly in spirit? How many can admit the honor given them through a faithful wife? How many can say, “I will sacrifice my life for this woman who I love so much?” The bible tells us that: He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22. A marriage that is built on God’s law survives the test of time. Therefore except a man and a woman unite in spirit and in truth their marriage will not survive. That is what we are experiencing presently among our men and women who marry for commercial reasons. There is no love in some of our marriages. People just marry with hope of surviving for better or for worse. With their little faith, when hope fails them they pick up their guns. Ephesians 5:22-23 & 25, Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is Savior of the body. Sadly enough most women have deviated from the law of submission. They think it’s a thing of the past and sometimes they don’t even think it should exist, (law of equality). Because of this, many of our women have suffered terribly in the hands of unscrupulous husbands. Many have died untimely and more are living in misery – depression and mental horror.
Reasons for failure: Note that the failure of any marriage is contributed by both husband and wife. Chances are that they are not equally yoked. It takes two to tango (tangle) as well as to break up.
2 Corinthians 6:14, Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? This biblical text does not necessarily mean people of different religious beliefs. It also refers to two people who are not compatible. Love and hate do not harbor in the same house. These days, most Nigerian marriages in diaspora are based on material gain, what the man or woman is bringing to the marriage, your wealth, achievement or parental wealth. For most young women in Nigeria, it is the promise of America, the land of milk and honey. For the men, it is the promise of the money machine, the nurse-wife who will work endlessly to help quench his financial thirst. Therefore it is all for commercial benefit and if the wealth does not flow, marriage becomes a burden. Most of these marriages are arranged and there is no true love in it. This is acceptable by our culture and tradition in which boys grow up to be men and looked forward to becoming husbands and fathers. Girls grew up and of course have no choice than to be given into marriage to become slave-wives, mothers of many children and frequently one of many wives even in this time and age. The man dominates the family. He lords himself over his wife or his wives as in Nigeria. Yes, women are supposed to be married but I think we can do better.
Marriage breakdown sometimes begins from the upbringing of the individuals involved. It is said that a child learns what he grows. That is to say that parents actions speak louder than their voices to their children. A child that grew up from a violent family has more chances of being violent than the one from a peaceful family. The fundamental tenets of violence in marriage include: anger, lack of patience, greed (envy & jealousy), laziness, pride (peer pressure & ego), fear of failure, lack of respect (no humility), dishonesty, adultery, lack of communication, financial insecurity and of course shame and more.
If these are not controlled, marriage will surely suffer. The end stage is shame and that’s what leads to the killings. Husbands have killed their wives for these reasons and vice versa. Because we are a pride-mongering group of people, we constantly compare ourselves with each other believing that my wife, my husband or my child has shamed me by not achieving or by not worshiping me. When violence comes into a marriage, love flies and communication, the major vessel for good relationships with God or fellow men equally becomes far-fetched. Rather than talk things over, most Nigerian men act over things because they, the head (literary head) of the family feel belittled. They try to force a change but end up with violence in once great relationship.
It is not uncommon that a Nigerian man (a husband) is depressed and angry when he cannot find a decent job or stand up to his peers while his wife is busy making all the money. He feels his lordship threatened. He no longer thinks of the welfare of the family but dwells on vengeance because he may no longer dish out control over their common wealth. The wife in turn takes it out on this “my foolish” husband who drinks and cares less about the family.
Nigerians like most other people are full of greed in diaspora or at home. Igbo man especially those who kill their wives first would jealous this wife, envy her thoughts and get greedy over her high achievements. He becomes insecure and his once beloved wife becomes his biggest threat. As this husband becomes more non-challant and less caring, the hard working wife who struggles to keep the family together becomes belligerent, angry and insubordinate, feeling threatened by her husband’s attitude. Her reaction in turn ruffles the greedy and arrogant husband.
Then the power struggle sets in, “let’s see who can win this battle.” I am the boss (our Nigerian cultural and traditional marriage myth) is already fussed in the man’s head, she has to do what I say because I brought her into this country.” But our now western world says, “No, to the man, this is America, you cannot treat your wife that way or you go to jail.” A once happy marriage of I do, for better or for worse begins to fail. They no longer remember their vows. When money or law is in their favor, most women can go to any length to make a man feel miserable especially a man who lacks respect for them. “I will put you in jail” snaps the woman. Of course, the law here is very good at that. In the same token, when this once humble man feels like he has control over money he equally disrespects his wife, other women become his priority. Jealousy that leads to unhealthy competition sets in. It spreads to unnecessary spending, more disrespect and insults from both husband and wife. That of course drives a man crazy to a fight. The fear of failure coupled with pride and peer pressure would drive a man to do the unthinkable. Most of these men are so arrogant that even when they beg, there is no humility but arrogance and disrespect attached to it. Most of the women who fall prey to this category of men are those who are intolerant of a husband who is no longer able to provide but still is very demanding of their hard work. Pride and arrogance go before a fall. Both husband and wife should refrain from peer pressure competition especially in difficult times.
Our people are too much into parties and show-off of accumulation of unnecessary wealth – Vanity and vexation of heart. This is an evidence of greed that starts by ruining relationships.
Having two or three jobs to make more money will not bring us Peace or Joy. Too much gossips and times spent on irrelevant habits can only cause more stress and helps to divide husband and wife, denying the children love and care. Everyone yearns for the American dream but we forget that America is a land of law and order. You cannot eat your cake and have it. The law of God and of the nation (the government) must be obeyed. Give to Caesar what is his and to God what is His, Mark 12:17
When a man finds his home in disarray (lawlessness), he sees himself as a failure. He is bound by the agony of defeat from marriage and high expectations. Thoughts of a far-fetched American dream throbs his heart. If wife tries to leave or challenge his actions, his only defense is that if he could not lord over her, no one would. No thought about the precious children in the marriage. The unthinkable will happen.
Answer and Solutions: The blame in our marital problems is beyond that of a husband and wife. The society especially our Nigerian community plays a major role in dividing our families. Our men and women have fallen so low as to have lost humility and respect for God Almighty and each other. The end result is competition that takes away from the love of God making us church goers (fighting for material things) not Christians. We must turn to our God and pray to Him for deliverance. 2 Chronicles 7:14, If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Your land includes your home, your marriage and all that you have.
The IGBO communities in diaspora must deviate from double life style, living in denial, dishonesty and fraud. Most men will lie about their status to trick a young girl in Nigeria into marriage. They bring them overseas and subject them to the stress and hardship of a crash program nurse-education (the money machine) as some would call it. When the money starts rolling, they quickly forget who brings it in. These young women need the love of their husbands. We as a community must put a stop to excessive partying, fraudulent wake keepings, negative competitions, too much title-greed, both men and women. When we pay attention to the things that matter, our spouses and children, we will have more joy than stress in our homes.
As mentioned earlier, neither the husband nor the wife alone is to blame in marital problems. Men may be wrong in many ways, but to be submissive is to support, lend a hand and be an anchor. Our women should be helping the men (but not without the men’s love) who by nature need the support of women to survive the stress of life. Genesis 2:18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” This helper is Eve for the man Adam. She is neither equal nor less than him. She is c-o-m-p-a-r-a-b-l-e to him. A man’s strength lies in the intelligence of his God fearing wife, the pillar that holds him strong. The bible calls for women to be submissive to their loving husbands. Our men should stop the serpent from coming into their marriage to steal their love for their wives. Adultery is a home breaker our men and women are guilty of that, chasing their brothers’ and friends’ spouses around. If you believe in God, all you church goers, I will truly urge you to listen to the word of God so that it may be well with you and your family. An Igbo idiom says, “Aka nri kwoo aka ikpa, aka ikpa akwoo aka nri.” Both left and right hands help to cleanse each other. Live and let live. Help me and I’ll help you. Money or no money, we can still live in peace as husband and wife.
To be continued …
Contributed by Dr. Lilian I. Asomugha (Nwanyichinalu),
A retired pharmacist/Naturopath, mother and grandmother,
prayer warrior, inspirational author and philanthropist @