America: Why divorce is rampant in Diaspora community
By Ekeret Udoh
The heartbeat of marriage within the Nigerian Diaspora community in the United States is on life support. The pulse can hardly be felt. The essential nourishing ingredients are dead. Where couples should otherwise be celebrating love and affection, hatred and emotional cruelties of untold proportions now reign supreme.
Where couples are supposed to be bound by the vows of marital fidelity, infidelities and other indiscretions that rubbish the very foundation of marriage are now common-place. There is war between tradition and modernity which has created a seemingly unbridgeable level of tension and conflicts.
Those who view marriage through the prism of the old ways, where the wives are supposed to kow—tow to the whims and designs of the husband, however ludicrous and mentally revolting such demands may be, are at war with those who see marriage as a partnership of mind, body and soul and the equality of processes that come with it.
The resultant conflict has consumed many a marriage, sometimes leading to the physical termination of their spouses. To the traditionalists, the very notion of equality of sexes is anachronistic. Women are supposed to be seen not heard; women are supposed to know their place within the hierarchy and maintain their positions.
They may have opinions, but those, are not needed. The man knows all, and therefore should think for the family. The problem however, with this group of traditionalists is that they are usually married to some of the most highly educated and professionally astute women who crave and demand their views and opinion on issues germane to their marriage to be heard. The kernel of conflict thus created by these emotionally contentious and disparate viewpoints can only harm such a union as verbal altercations replace what should ordinarily have been a mutually nourishing enterprise.
The issue of financial independent is a major cause of conflict in marriage between couples in the Diaspora. Some men see their wives as economic tools- their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs.) The wives are supposed to work and bring home the beacon while the husband manages with the little he could scrape together.
The African traditional belief where the man is supposed to be the real head of the family, by providing the needs and wants of the family has been ceded to the wives. The wives work-sometimes two or more jobs, pay all the bills, the mortgage, car notes and are also expected to satisfy the husband’s physical needs.
“I will come back from a 12- hour grueling schedule only to meet my husband watching television and still demanding that I make food for him. What was he doing all day? I mean, the food had been prepared and stored for him-all he needed to do, was to warm and eat it. But he wouldn’t do such, because it is his wife’s place to do such. Can you imagine that”? an exasperated wife had told me in the course of interviewing subjects for this story.
A major kernel of conflict here is that some men would go to Nigeria, and specifically marry women within a particular range of profession-especially those in medical professions-the medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists and turn them into their financial insurance. They will constantly remind the women that had they not filed paperwork to bring them to America, they would not have enjoyed the financial independence they now enjoy, therefore, they should be eternally grateful for that, and turn over their income to them.
Most women initially obeyed and did as demanded by their husbands, but would eventually rebel and that usually lead to divorces –sometimes contentious-even leading to physical harm to the wives.
Infidelity is a major cause of marital fissures here. Men openly cheat on their wives and the wives, having been emotionally abused and sexually starved, or in some cases, their husbands unable to perform the role in a manner deemed to be satisfactory, have taken their desires elsewhere. You have open marriages where the couples project a façade in the public-displaying all the PDAs-(public display of affection) but once in the car back home, act like familiar strangers, who are leading totally separate lives-each free to pursue things that bring happiness and pleasure.
Some men bring marital problems to themselves by marrying women who are above their pedigree in every manner possible. Here, you will find a guy who for instance may earn a living doing odd and menial jobs, going home to bring a wife who is a medical doctor, a pharmacist or a nurse, a lawyer etc. He may not have any formal education, he may have no intellectual curiosities, and all he has is the ability to bring someone to the United States by virtue of his citizenship.
How do you reconcile such a scenario- where the woman- a through bred professional is happy being married to a man whom she can’t have a meeting point of the mind? Some have dismissed those women as being ‘users’ in the sense that they should have known that such a man lacked the intellectual finesses but they still went ahead and married them because they were motivated by the need to emigrate to the U.S. and pursue their professional fulfillments.
As one of such women whom I interviewed for this story told me, she didn’t intend to divorce her husband, but was forced to do so, when the man “simply refused to upgrade his intellectual foundation. I mean, I provided all the tools for him to expand his knowledge base. He was no longer struggling financially; we had a big house, nice cars and I was making good income.
I told him to go and earn at least an associate degree. He told me he was too old to go back to school. I got tired of living with a man whom I couldn’t have communications outside of the basic and rudimentary lines. Who wants to live like that? If he had done as I requested I am sure I would still have been married to him today.”