Diaspora Chronicles: Being Married is Sweeter… Outside Nigeria

I got married to my best friend in Nigeria about 10 years ago and we started building our home in Nigeria. We had good jobs but had busy lives. We were out in the morning and were so tired by the time we got back from work. The strange thing was that my husband, who was also as busy as me, would expect me to then enter the kitchen and make his food… like I didn’t have a long day too.

I did not mind making the food, but the least I would expect was for him to sit with me in the kitchen, while I work; possibly share the meal with me while we discuss our day.  However, the opposite was the case. He would take his food to the living room eat and pass out in front of the TV. I would then clear the table, wash-up and still perform my “nightly duties” in the bedroom.

These are different times after all; I am contributing half of all house-hold bills. It is therefore no longer the age where the man would expect you to do all at home, as if he is the only one carrying more or all of the financial load.

I, therefore, do not think that I am expecting too much if I ask that he pulls his weight with house work. When I suggested we get a maid, he refused and said we were a new couple and that this is the time to enjoy the bonding and togetherness before the children come. I wasn’t enjoying any togetherness and resentment was building but before I could slap him and walk out of the marriage, we won the visa lottery and relocated.

When we relocated to the US, it was like the switch was turned on in my husband’s head.  He went back to the same man who courted me.  When I subsequently visited Nigeria, it became clear to me that there was a difference in marriages between Nigerians in the US and those living back home and even those who relocated back to Nigeria after a sojourn abroad displayed a marked difference.

The difference, I noticed were what made me realize that I was enjoying married life in the US better,  and these are my reasons.

Full disclosure of finances
In the US, my husband discusses most things with me, especially when it comes to finances.
While we were living in Nigeria, I did not know how much he earned, if he was saving or what our financial plans were.

It was not like I didn’t ask and even tell him what I was earning but as far as he was concerned, my knowing what he earned was a way of controlling him, so he kept me in the dark.

However, in the US, we need to file our taxes together, take a mortgage together – both parties know what the other person is earning, especially if you are in paid employment.
I am not saying that they are no men in Nigeria discussing and sharing most information with their spouses, but from discussions with my friends back home I can still see that it is more of an anomaly than a norm.

Joint responsibility for domestic chores
My husband helps around the house.
I know that in Nigeria with all its multiple helps, it means that men do not have to lift a finger. However, does that mean that even if he removes his shoes and shirts that he can’t hang them or keep them away?

There is that joy that comes from doing things together, and I do not mean just in hanging out or going places but it could be sitting together and making a meal or even tidying or re-painting a room. For me, the endorphins that come after the accomplishment of a project with my spouse is better than the one that comes from hanging out and drinking – especially as our children are learning something meaningful from watching us work as a team.
This weekend we both cleaned out the shed and garage while the kids rode their bicycles in circles around us!

Close involvement in parenting
My husband is closely involved with raising the children. In Nigeria where lesson teachers are the norm, mum liaises with the lesson teacher, while the dad just pays the school fees.

I have had the opportunities to go for parent conference with friends to their children’s  schools when I am around and I am amazed that attendance by dads are less than 30% and forums are typically dominated by the moms.

Of course, the dads are not seen attending or chauffeuring the children to after school activities. I also see in homes that the dad sits in his own world especially during La Liga or UEFA season and the mom is running around teaching the children house work and more. I know that helps – teachers, drivers and all that are affordable in Nigeria, but do you have to out-source your parenting responsibilities too?

Some of the issues we are seeing in our Nigerian society now is stemming from this as children will mimic who they spend the most time with. Here in the US, my husband takes the kids to after-school activities, at least twice a week. There is so much emphasis here on dads playing their role and they take joy in it.

Healthy Distance from The INLAWS!
You can see that I put them in capital letters and it is not by mistake. If you have read my other articles you must have figured out by now that in-laws are a pet peeve of mine.  If I was living in Nigeria, they can visit at any time and stay from Easter till Christmas after all it their brother or son’s house. Now in the US, before they come, my husband and I will discuss who is coming why they are coming, how long they will stay with us and the rules of engagement during their visit.

It is not that things still don’t happen, (in-laws will always be in-laws) but because my husband knows I have the veto power and can say when or if Mama must go today, he makes sure that he gets Mama to behave, too.

I know of a lady who once had to call the cops on her in-laws and the cops told them they had to leave as their name was not on the lease of the property. I know many people’s cases are not that bad, but as least if they drive you mad, that visit could very well be the last.

Consequences for Domestic Violence
Please don’t get me wrong that domestic violence is not happening in the US but the Nigerians there knowing that the law will go after them are forced to behave. First, if you beat your wife or children and it is reported to the authorities, you will be asked to leave your home…before any other discussion.  The state will appoint a counsel for the abused and they are so many organizations that will rise to support you. This keeps all those “Emeka Mayweather” or “Akin Mayweather” in check!

It is not that they don’t have the same issues that cause the ones in Nigeria to turn their spouses to punching bags but the fear of PDs (Police Departments) and the orange suits is enough warning to keep their arms down.

I am amazed when the reverse is the case in Nigeria, where the woman is told that her sharp tongue is what is making her husband beat her. Sometimes she is told by the church to keep praying for God to touch his heart as marriage is for better for worse. If she eventually cries out about domestic violence, her church and family members may turn against her. She could be kicked out of her home and her children taken from her without any intervention from the law.

Minimal Interference from Outsiders
With the busy lives we live in the US, we barely have enough time to listen to people who adjudicate issues we may have in our marriage. When my husband and I have issues, we are forced to sit-down and resolve it ourselves, as there is no one around that has time to come and hear “she said and he did” talk.

Of course some people in America have time to burn the phone and calling cards reporting their cases to whomever can listen but the person is still oceans away and cannot show up at your door step to tell you “I heard so and so”.

This, therefore, forces us to discuss issues and resolve them especially as beating and getting the other thrown out is not an option. From my experience, the interference of 3rd and 4th parties actually make things worse no matter where you live.

Marriages in the US just like marriages everywhere have their challenges but the societal, cultural and traditional norms of Nigeria helps exacerbate an already trying venture so in the meantime as the ocean divide is helping ameliorate those issues for me; I can only say for me, my marriage is sweeter in the US. Feel free to share if your case is different.

Written by Kiki Daniel for Diaspora Chronicles.

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