This week, in our series “Life in the Diaspora”, we continue our look into the state of affairs of marriage within our community. Why do we have high rate of divorces and the defilement of the foundational mores and values of matrimony in our community? Why are couples bailing out on their spouses and infidelities and serial cheating have come to be accepted as the new norm?
Last week, we provided some insights into why marriage is no longer seen as a nourishing ingredient that every man and woman should at a certain point in their lives be willing and ready to partake of, but rather an enterprise laden with bombs- a walk down the valley of attrition and emotional despair.
Today, I bring you a story of a young woman who had happily walked the matrimonial boulevard only to realize a short three years later that the boulevard was not a straight course, but one that had several zigzags, where the journey that should otherwise have been very exciting turned out to be a laborious and tasking enterprise. At 30, and blessed with a handsome boy, Jane (last name withheld), a New Jersey based dentist- pretty, statuesque and financially secure, should ordinarily be happily married and be luxuriating in the laps of emotional fulfillment and matrimonial peace and concord. But she is not.
At her young age, she seems to have given up on marriage. When she met her husband almost four years ago, she had looked forward to spending the rest of her life with him. She believed in the union and was ready to do anything to sustain and deepen it.
But it turned out that her man-her Prince Charming was a marketer of lies and manipulation- man who willingly presented a false sense of identity in order to mask a gaping layer of deficiency. “If he had told me the truth about his circumstance, I would still have married him and encouraged him, which was what I eventually did when the truth finally was revealed.” Jane had old me in her well apportioned office in New Jersey.
“There was no reason for him to have lied to me. It was very painful when I finally got him to open up on his life in America and I felt betrayed and the very foundation of marriage, whose key ingredient is trust, was eroded from that moment. I didn’t know what else he was hiding and I didn’t know who I was married to from that moment. The centre of our matrimonial lives from that day could no longer hold.”
Last week, I had stated that one of the key reasons why marriages here fail is that some of our men who, due to certain challenges, couldn’t avail themselves of the educational opportunities in America and thus were dong odd and menial jobs usually end up going to Nigeria to marry women who were above their intellectual and social pedigree. These men marry the women based on a two-layered impulse: to prove that though they are not conventionally educated they can marry the most educated among us- the impulse of social validation becomes the motivation here, and the second layer is financial.
These highly educated professional women would contribute hugely in these men’s drive to achieve the American dream. I t works sometimes and fails most times. Jane’s case illustrates the failure in this approach. Her story which she narrated, sometimes betraying pain and hurt at being lied to, and manipulated was evident. “I loved my husband, and didn’t for the life of me intend to leave him. In spite of the rough patches we had experienced, in spite of the bumps we daily had to deal with, I was still willing to work at the marriage and continue to provide the pulse to keep it alive.
But there is so much you can do to make a union work if your partner is not equally invested in the marriage. If your partner is not willing to address your issues and concerns and is totally off-focus on the elements that would deepen and sustain the union, then you don’t have a prayer. I was willing and ready to support him and to encourage him to upgrade his intellectual foundations-to have certain communications skills that were based on reflection and rationality and not the one he was used to, which was vacuous, asinine to be charitable and lacking any intellectual finesse.
My husband thought my suggestion was an affront to his masculinity- an academic exercise he was not willing to entertain and a confrontational attitude that was due to “too much book I had read.” “You can engage in all that academic nonsense when you are with your colleagues, but when you come back to this house, you have to check all that at the door and be my wife, and that requires that you obey and listen to me” my husband would always thunder when I attempted to have a reasonable discussion with him on issues that bothered me.”
Last week, I had also mentioned that one key reason why marriages are failing in our community was the conflict of tradition over modernity. I had stated that some men stills see and regard marriage strictly through the traditional prism where their words are regarded as the last line-the woman to be seen and not heard. These men as I stated are also married to some of the most educated and intellectually secure and astute women who demand their voices and perspectives to be heard and respected. Jane was caught in the vortex of this conflict. “At first, I subsumed everything I hold dear to my husband-at least to make the marriage work.
But instead of seeing though the sacrifice I made, my husband saw that as a weaknesses and he started acting even more irrationally. I was baffled and confused. The fundamental issue was that I wanted him to go back to school, earn a degree-even if it was an associate and be able to think in a logical manner. I was willing to fund his education to any level. I mean we were no longer struggling, we had a big house, nice cars and financially, we were living the American dream.
The bulk of that came from me, and I was happy doing it. Asking my husband to return to school and to have a piece of American education which he, having spent nearly 20 years did not see the need to, I thought it was a value-added suggestion. Instead, my husband saw my gentle prodding as an attempt to diminish him and to cast him as not deserving of me. He would rave and rant and call me all kinds of names and would tell me point blank.
“If the only reason why you would remain married to me is that I must go back to school in order to satisfy your uppity cravings, then you got it all wrong: I will not go back to school. I am too old for such an enterprise and if I am no longer good enough for you, then you know what to do. You have millions of your types out there, go and marry any one of them and leave me alone.”
When I asked Jane if she didn’t see the deficiency when she first started dating him, she said “the concern was there from the outset and that clearly is the kernel of our conflict. My husband had lied to me that he was a mechanical engineer and that he attended a prominent college in New Jersey.
Even though I thought his syntax was a little jumbled and off-point, I had thought innocently that engineering was not a profession laden with literary finesses and that as long as he knew what to do professionally, that was all that mattered. It was when I moved to live with my husband in New Jersey about four years ago, that I realized that my husband had carefully constructed a life and professional accomplishments that had no bearing to who he was.
He was, to my utter astonishment neither an engineer neither did he attend any college for that matter. When I confronted him, all he could feebly tell me was to rationalize his lies by the ludicrous notion that “I didn’t want to lose you if I had told you the truth.” “You should have” I remember telling him-voice raised in anger. “You certainly would lose me now because of the lies you told me” I recall saying as I ran upstairs, too shocked to internalize the shock.”
What was the last straw that ‘killed’ the marriage? Jane’s very moving story continues next week. Keep a date
with Ekeret Udoh