Sunday, 22 April 2012

Even Men Hurt 2-Never Good Enough

I looked down examining my toes. I had being looking at my toe nails since Toye started telling me about his experience with my friend. I was too embarrassed to look him straight in the face. I knew things were not okay between Toye and Oyinda but I never knew that it was this bad.

I have known Toye and Oyinda for over twenty years now. Toye, I can describe as easy going and hard working, upwardly mobile. He is someone I will portray as loving life and good things despite his easy demeanour. I met Oyinda through a friend of mine and we hit it off. Oyinda is very creative and talented. I admire her for her various talents especially her entrepreneurial skills. She is smart, good looking and always seems to know what she wants out of life. Oyinda and Toye met about the same time I became friendly with Oyinda and despite all doubts and misgivings, they got married. 

Fifteen years of  matrimony with two boys, the marriage is threatened. My friend, Oyinda has moved back to her parents’ house despite all pleading for patience, she is adamant. For some reasons I couldn’t believe that her husband was as culpable as she would want me to believe. She did not give any concrete reason for this quarrel which led to moving  out of her matrimonial home except that Toye was not good enough. I am aware that they have being having on going issues but I strongly believe that it did not warrant the steps she had taking.

Yoruba speaking people have a proverb that only a wicked person would judge from hearing one side of a story.. That’s just the case here. I sat still counting my toes as Toye narrated his experience.
“I hurt and I don’t believe I deserve what Oyin has done. I have done everything to satisfy her. I rented an office for her and paid three years rent in advance but she didn’t step into that office until six months ago when the rent was about to expire. Her anger is based on the fact that I refused to renew her tenancy. Haba! I work hard for my money and I can’t be wasteful. I tried reasoning with her all these while to go back to work. Our plan was that she would start work all over again after putting to bed but she simply told me she could not nurse her child in her office. This office was not in the public market of Tejuosho but at Adekunle where she had everything. I paid premium for it but no, it was not good enough. I have started many businesses for her but nothing seems to work. At the end of the year, I wouldn’t see either the seed capital or the profit. Even if she did not make the profit, she should at least let me see the capital. So I made up my mind. No more after this. I am better investing my money on stocks than wasting it on a bottomless pit business.” He said angrily “What attracted Oyin to me were her creativity and her entrepreneurial skills. When I met her she was so hardworking and serious about her business but that is not the case now. I really don’t know what she does with her time except she runs around like a headless chicken.” He continued bitterly “I don’t have a say when it comes to the children’s welfare. She often takes decisions without consulting me. It doesn’t even matter if I have objections or if I can’t afford her latest brainwave. I feel as if my relationship with the children starts and ends with supplying money. I am like a father Christmas to my own children and I want more than that. I want a relationship with them. If I correct them when they are wrong she flies off the handle, if I play with them she sneers that my language will corrupt the children. With her, I can’t get it right. You won’t believe I feel inferior in my own house. I never seem to know the right thing to do. Sometimes, I am at a total loss at what to do.”

He kept quiet for a while. I looked up to glance at him. All I saw was pain and I felt tightness in my chest. I felt sorry for my friends and I just wished things could be different. I wish they could reach out to each other.
“You know she slapped me.” He said looking lost and sad. “She slapped me in the presence of my friends over an imaginary girlfriend. I don’t even know who tells her all these nonsense. She said she saw a girl in my car. Imagine that!” He laughed bitterly shaking his head. “I am not boasting. I can have any woman I want in this Nigeria and beyond but that’s not the type of life I want. I know what it is to come from a broken home and I don’t want my children to go through it.” He shut his eyes rocking back and forth. I was afraid that he would cry. I wouldn’t know what to do if he did. He kept on rocking back and forth. Suddenly he stopped and stayed motionless for a while. “Toye” I started to say something soothing to him though I was lost for words but I felt it was appropriate to say something palliative like “it is well” or “God knows” but he raised his hands indicating that I should not say anything.
“Ose, I love my wife and I will take her back if she is willing especially because of my children. I don’t want them to suffer."

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Even Men Hurt 1-My 'Ariya' Wife

There is something about me that attracts a total stranger to me like the bee to the honey. It could be downright embarrassing, sometimes overwhelming but most times humbling. I am truly honoured by a total stranger pouring out his heart out to me.

I remember some years back, just a young girl on her first job. I had just collected my first salary and I thought it called for celebration. I got home early enough to go out again. So I changed from my office attire and wore something comfortable. I stepped out of the house and stood for a while trying to decide where to go-not that I had too many options in those days. I pondered on if I should walk down to the stores down the road or visit the snacks bar. I was still undecided when a black Golf car stopped in front of my house. There was nothing unusual about it since my house was on a major road; people usually stopped to ask for direction.

The man in the car let down his window and I peeped in to see if he was someone I knew. “Good evening” the stranger greeted
“Good evening” I replied waiting for him to ask for direction.
“Can I offer you a ride to where you are going?” he asked   
“Oh thank you. I am just going down the road” I replied and started walking away. The man got out of his car and followed me.
“I can actually drop you wherever you are going” he said persistently. I ignored him and wondered if there was more to this offer. I hated the idea of the man trying to pick me up and I was increasingly getting angry with his pushiness.
“Actually, I am sorry for harassing you. Let me rephrase, I need to talk to someone” he said sounding very desperate. I turned round sharply to give him a snide remark but what I saw in his eyes stopped me. It was raw with naked pain. This stopped me in my track. I starred at him wondering if it was a plot to “toast” me but the pain in his eyes convinced me that the pain was sincere enough.
“I am really sorry but I need to talk to someone desperately. I left my house in frustration because I don’t want to commit murder.” He said anxiously. I kept quiet wondering why he picked me to talk to. I was still a bit sceptical about his intensions though.  
“I can park my car and we could walk while I talk to you. I am not going to harm you” he said eagerly. I looked at him pondering. Now, I am not a sucker for situations like this but there was something so sincere and hurting about him. Eventually, I reluctantly agreed that we should walk down to the snack bar wondering if I did the right thing. We got to the bar, ordered what we wanted and sat down. The bar was somehow empty that day which was unusual since the place was always active. That was the reason I picked the place.
“I am sure you must wonder why I want to talk to a total stranger but I am going through a tough time at home. I love my wife but she is driving me round the bend and I don’t know what to do about it.” He said “I met my wife in the University but we didn’t start dating until well after graduation. My wife is from a wealthy family and I am from a poor one. I had loved her since University days but I could not bring myself to express my feelings. She belonged to the hip girls on campus and I was just a struggling undergraduate. I did every odd job to see myself through school. I played football. I was on the University team so I was popular. She and her friends used to come around to watch us play but I was scared to approach her. We graduated and went our different ways and I didn’t see her again until the day she walked into the bank where I work. I was excited to see her and believed that God has given me a second chance. I was in a relationship then but I didn’t love the girl. I quickly broke up with her and made an aggressive move towards my wife and luckily enough she agreed. A year later we got married and that had being my undoing” he explained as I kept silent wondering where this was leading to
“It has being one wahala after the other since we got married. She is spoilt and does not know how to take care of the home and the children. All she is ever interested in is partying. Her weekend starts on a Thursday and she and her friends would go from one party to another and then she gets home so late. I have tried talking to her to no avail, I am fed up” he said looking distraught.
I kept quiet since I didn’t know what to say to him. Somehow, I realised that he just wanted to pour out his frustration.
“I got home today and she’s left for one of her parties despite the fact that I banned her from going. I mean she left the children with the housemaid and left me a note that she has gone to a party with her friends at Ilesa. Can you imagine that? I work hard to take care of the family while she is busy gallivanting with her friends. Who knows what they get up to?” He lamented.

I sat there listening to him. I thought of what to say to him but was lost for words. I knew back then that letting off the steam was good for his soul but I thought I could say something intelligent to soothe his pain but I was lost for words.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

No Finance, No Romance

I sat there listening to them talk about everything and anything. They were a rowdy sort but they equally reminded me of my friends and I during university days. We were a rowdy group too. They sat close together at the fast food place. I had gone there to wait for my sister who had gone to shop at the nearest Shopping Center. I hated shopping and I was tired of walking from one shop to the other so I opted to wait for her while she went on to buy for whatever she wanted to get. There were four of them obviously fresh from the university and looking forward to a bright future. They were an excited lot and very refreshing compared to the hostile sun outside, one of the reasons why I decided to sit in the fast food place. At least I would be able to enjoy the air-conditioning before my sister turned up.

I tried not to listen to them. It was not in my character to eavesdrop on other people’s conversation but they were a boisterous group and I just couldn’t help but listen. “See, I am not going to marry someone who cannot provide for me. In fact, I put guys to test and if I suspect that you’re anywhere near being stingy, that’s the end.” One of them said. She was light skinned and very beautiful. She looked very confident and self assured.
“At least, you have a choice in who you will marry. My parents chose the man for me and he is my mother’s best friend’s son. I have no choice in the matter but the truth is Hausa men take care of their wives. Most often, you are not even allowed to work.” Said one of the girls who probably was from the Northern part of the country.
“I can’t imagine my parents choosing my husband for me in this day and age. Not working is out of the question. Why did I spend four years in the University just for me to become a house wife? Ha! I have to work o!” answered the third girl. This particular one looked like a modern day girl with all the modern day determination of girls who wants more to life than being a wife and a mother.
“What if your husband insist?” asked the light skinned girl
Lai-lai, that can’t happen. I am not going to wait for any man to provide for me. I can fend for myself at least that’s why my parents sent me to school.” The determined girl answered emphatically.
“Even if I work, earn all the money in this world, the man must provide. It is the duty of the man to provide. How can I respect him if he doesn’t meet his obligations? I beg o!” answered the light skinned girl.
“What if he looses all the money? What will you do? I will marry for love. I believe that marriage is a joint effort, a partnership. It does not matter who provides as long as there is an understanding” argued the fourth girl who had being quiet. She looked rather innocent.
“Ha! What has love got to do with the business of marriage?” asked the light skinned girl “You are sure of the old skool” she said and they all burst out laughing. The fourth girl was embarrassed as her friends laughed out loud. Everyone in the fast food place turned to look at them.

I felt compassion for her especially the way her friends laughed at her innocent response. I wish life was that simple but I have since come to understand that nothing was as simple as the four of them thought. In my younger days, my friends and I used to talk of marrying someone who had prospect and is responsible. Being rich wasn’t in the picture but just for him to have prospect.  We had since realised that even that may not be enough in safeguarding ourselves from going through financial abuse. I sneaked a look at the young ladies as they continued with their gist. “How nice to be young and free!” I thought.

I remembered my friends and I having almost the same discussion at one point and all of us feeling very self assured but it has not turned out as we envisaged. My friends, Devotion and Endurance shared their experience with me sometime ago. Devotion met her husband when we were at the university. They were much in love and we were not surprised that they quickly got married after graduation and settled down to marital life. Things were tough financially for them because they were both in a profession that is not as lucrative as being in the telecom or financial industry. Devotion was determined for them to live a comfortable life, so she combined jobs. While her husband just got by with whatever he could lay his hands on.  According to her, not once in all their twenty years of marriage did her husband give her house keeping allowance.

“Ose, I was always out there looking for what else to do just to make ends meet. I am the man of the house. I wear the trouser and he doesn’t mind. I pay the school fees, house rent, everything. It is scary now that Ifemide my son is in the University and I still have to pick the bills. The children don’t bother to go to him for anything. I suspect that they know I fund everything even though I try hard to cover up for him but they are not fools. I have noticed that Ifemide barely respects him.  The sad thing is while, I bring my money home to fend for us he spent his on himself.  The little he makes he spends on perfumes, toiletries, clothes, shoes etc. Once in a while, he will buy grocery and that’s all. I have tired to discuss this with him but each time he shrugged it off as if it doesn’t matter. I am tired I just can’t continue” she lamented. “I bear the financial burden of the house. The only thing is he assists with the house chores and allows me to concentrate on my business. Again, he was very supportive when my mother was very sick. I can’t fault him for that but bearing the whole financial burden is excruciating. I just wish he would support once in a while.”

I felt very sad listening to Devotion. I just can’t imagine how a man will feel comfortable allowing the woman to be the bread winner. I felt it was very irresponsible of her husband and I wanted to hug Devotion just to reassure her but I was shocked at   Endurance’s reaction.

“Devotion, you are spoilt” she said. I looked at Endurance in shock.
 “Why are you being insensitive?” I asked disgusted with her.
“Look, Devotion is lucky. If I was married to her husband, I would rejoice and willingly do everything for him.” Endurance replied. I starred at her astonished. I have always felt Ed was a feminist who will not take such nonsense from any man.
“How?” I asked. Sometimes, it is difficult to know when Ed is serious
“You surprise me Ed. Are you saying that my complaint is unfounded?” Devotion asked obviously hurt. I can imagine how she felt after all, girls should stick together.
“No I am not saying that. All I am saying is that you are luckier than I am. I am worst off. Just like you, I pay all the bills which include the house rent. I provide meals, clothe him. I mean I do everything, absolutely everything in the house and I end up being abused and unappreciated. See, Bennie will not lift a finger to do anything in the house. You see what upsets me most is that he would invite his friends over once I left for work and they would have a feast without any regard for the fact that I am the sole provider.” Endurance narrated.
“Common Ed, how did you get into this? You were a no nonsense person back in the University days.” I asked shocked at her story.
Ore, na so dem they ask person. We didn’t start out like that. In fact, we both contributed our quota the first year of our marriage at least financially. Then he got retrenched from his place of work during the financial sector wahala and I took over the responsibilities. After all, it wasn’t planned and I felt he would soon get another job. One year has turned to ten years now and I am the one still bearing the financial responsibility. I asked him to get a job but he said he would rather go into business. The business is more of a curse than a blessing o! Bennie is always claiming that his clients owe him. Even when I assisted him to get a project in my office, he still turned round to abuse me. In fact, he almost got me into trouble because the job was so badly executed.” She said
“I am sorry to hear this” I said
“I never finish ore. He borrowed money from me to execute some projects. He never paid back. I better not ask him for the money if I want peace o. Anyway, one day, I got tired and asked for a heart to heart discussion. I just couldn’t continue. I mean Bennie was going to run me bankrupt. I was doing well career wise but my account was in red. The man was borrowing money from me as if I own Central Bank. So we sat down for this discussion and I told him to get a job and that I had no intension of continuing the way we were. My sisters, that day he told me the story of how my mama met my papa and gave birth to me. He abused me so much that I was left speechless and confused. So, I decided not to fund any of his projects again. Since then, life has being hell. At least, Dev, your husband helps with the house chores, Bennie, is too macho to even lift a finger to do anything. You know because I refused to fund his entire bogus projects, he chased my younger sister back to my parents in a house I pay the rent. If I talk, he will say it is because I am richer than him. You know what I found out recently, Bennie has a landed property in Lagos."
“Ha!” echoed Devotion and I
“Yes, I almost fainted when I saw the receipts and other documents relating to the property in his name. I have being a fool o!” Endurance said. Her voice shook slightly and her eyes misted with tears. I felt extremely sorry for my friends. I could feel their pains.
“This is so unfair. Your story reminds me of my friend Lovelyn. Dev you remember her now. We came to your office together.
“Oh yes that’s true. What about her?”
“Her situation is so pathetic that my heart bleeds for her. Her husband starves her of funds. He drives luxury cars while my friend jumps on buses. She used to work in a bank and she was the sole provider for a long time while the husband was jobless. She did everything to make him feel comfortable but the sad thing is the husband turned mean immediately he got a job in one of the telecommunication companies. He started doing well, unfortunately, she lost her job. They both decided she should stay back home and take care of the kids but that has being her undoing. Her husband uses money to manipulate her. Anytime, they had a slight disagreement, he would starve her of funds. She told me she was so disturbed one day that she asked him why he felt she deserved to be treated the way he treated her since it was a joint decision for her to stay at home. You know he told her that she maltreated him while he was out of job and so it was his turn. Lovelyn told me, she used to give him her salary and he would only give her some stipends to spend during the month. She stopped giving him her salary the day he slapped her for spending out of her income to buy a pair of shoes without his knowledge.” I narrated

“Women dey suffer o!” Devotion said. “No wonder she looked so sad and forlorn. I was going to ask you about her after that time you came to my office because of how dejected she looked”
“She is very unhappy. She looked for a job but you know how our environment is. It has being very difficult. She tried going into business but her husband frustrated her.  He would promise to assist her and at the last minute he would change his mind for no apparent reasons. He has the money to give her as seed capital but just simply refused.”
“What do we do as women? How do we free ourselves from this mess? We started out so hopeful but….” Devotion said despondently
“But you know this is a form of abuse. In fact it is called financial abuse.” I said
“Abuse? How? Who has ever heard of financial abuse?” Devotion asked
“Ose you don start o! What is it with pycho analysis?” Endurance asked
 “This is a form of abuse that comes in different ways. The most common is when the husband because of his financial muscle, denies his wife access to funds like Lovelyn. The idea is she will not be financially empowered as he is so that she can be permanently subjected to him. He denies her of funds or just gives enough not to starve her and the children but never enough for her to have extra. In most situations, she is not allowed to work or be employed in any way. This kind of abuse is most prevalent in the society.  This is why most women will never agree to become home makers because it is a job that does not attract financial empowerment. Sometimes, the woman is subjected to sub human behaviour just because she is at her husband’s mercy.” I explained “The other type is what you guys are going through. The truth is that it is often subtle at the initial stage and as women, we often start out wanting to assist but we surely get our fingers burnt.”
“You know you are right. I started out wanting to cover up for Bennie because he lost his job and I didn’t want it to affect his self esteem” Endurance replied
“It didn’t really matter to me who was doing what.  I just wanted us to be comfortable and live well. Moreover, I didn’t want Ifemide to suffer so I worked hard to provide for the family. “Devotion said quietly.
“I know what you mean. Don’t blame yourself because you meant well for your family. The point is that men who behave like that are often opportunist. They can also be emotional and physical abusive.” I explained
 “I don’t know what to do now. Ose what can I do?” she asked eagerly 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Is Marriage to be Endured

It was another long weekend because of the public holiday declared by the Federal Government. Though I had mixed feelings concerning the holiday but I planned to make the best use of it by lazing around and watching as many movies as I could. I had borrowed some Perry Tyler’s movies from a girlfriend. As I settled on my sofa to watch one of the movies, my door bell rang. I reluctantly got up from the sofa to check who it was. I opened the door for my neighbour, Edith. “How are you?” I greeted her as I opened the door for her. “I am fine. What are you up to? She asked as she sat down. ”I am about watching a movie.” I replied her as I pressed play on the remote control. “What’s the title of the movie” She asked making herself comfortable. “It is ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ It is a .Perry Tyler’s movie” I replied as I settled back on the sofa. We were both engrossed in the movie. Though we laughed as we watched it but it was a story line that we could both relate to. We were quiet as the movie came to an end.
 “What an interesting story? I wonder why any man would treat his wife like that. To think he now expected the same woman to come back to him just because she took care of him and didn’t leave him to the dead” Edith said analyzing the movie we just watched.
“Men can sometimes be assuming. Can you imagining? She tried o! That, wife tried!” I replied.
“Well, that’s what a good woman should do.” Edith said
“Why?” I asked angrily. “Why should it always be the woman who has to be understanding or good?” I questioned sharply. I didn’t mean to be sharp with her but I am just tired of the over expectation from women.
“Well, I just …..” I cut in as she started to reply me. “I am sure you would have wanted her to go back to her ex husband
“Well, God hates divorce” She replied
“That’s the usual line. God hates wickedness, adultery and any form of meanness” I answered her. I was already getting irritable with her. I wonder why women love to play ostrich.
“I know but sometimes, we may have to turn a blind eye to some of these things that is if one wants to keep her home” she answered imploringly.
“Please” I said rolling my eyes.  

I laid back on the sofa thinking. I believe marriage should be enjoyed and not endured. A lot of women are stuck in a loveless marriage simply because the society expects them to endure it no matter what they may be going through. The woman is often told not to abandon her home because she is the one that is responsible to make the marriage a success. A friend was once advised to be like a shock absorber for her home. The gentleman offering this counsel forgot that even shock absorber wears out and sometimes needs a replacement. In Nigeria, a woman is often blamed for whatever goes wrong in her marriage or even a relationship. She is often admonished to be patient and not allow another woman to replace her. She may be ostracised if she decides to walk out of a loveless marriage.

Meanwhile, the man is made to believe that he can do and undo; the lord and master of the woman. Unfortunately, it is equally the woman who has created the monster who has become the bane of our lives. The woman has being informed right from childhood that she has being created to serve the men folk and often reminded at every given opportunity that the man is her covering, her crown and without this covering; she will not amount to much. However, what kind of covering is a man who cannot meet the needs of his family? What kind of covering is an adulterous and lecherous husband giving his wife except that of a venereal disease?

I was once told of a woman who caught her husband in bed with her housemaid. She ran to her mother for succour and she was promptly bundled back to her husband with the clear instruction to go and sleep with her husband because according to her mother, “she must have failed in her marital duties” When the case got to her mother-in-law, the poor wife was advised to carry her cross since the lecherous behaviour was hereditary. Her father-in-law behaved like that and so she had to live with it since her mother-in-law was able to manage the situation and at the age of 70years the mother-in-law could not hire a housemaid because of the fear that her husband may harass the poor maid.

What should a woman do in this kind of situation? Follow her mother’s advice and simply go and have sex with her husband? Would that make her a happy and fulfilled wife? Would that change the husband and make him more responsible, respectful and less adulterous? Does it mean that the fact that the man defiled the matrimonial bed should be overlooked and he should be trusted?  As much as I don’t believe that the solution to every marital problem is divorce I equally do not subscribe to the fact that a man is simply excused of his bad behaviour and shrugged off as part of being a man. Imagine if a woman was caught in the act? Will the mother advise the son to manage her because it is hereditary and should go home and have sizzling sex with his wife because he failed in his husbandly duties? Oh no! The woman becomes the scorn of the society just because it is expected that she is better behaved than her husband. What about what is good for the goose is equally go for the……

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

My Mystery Lover: The Lover I Crave For

We laid on the beach. The sand was very white and shinning. The sea was clear blue. I had never seen anything like that before. It was a cool night. The wind blew quietly and I could hear the gentle and soothing thud of the waves against the beach sand as the waves rolled gently against the beach bank, lazily depicting the mood of the night. Everywhere was quiet and calm. The rays of light from the surrounding building reflected on the sea which provided the necessary illumination for the area. There were other lovers on the beach since it was Valentine’s Day but I was oblivious to what was going on. I was alone in my world. The world only my lover and I share.   I nestled into the hands of my lover. He stroked my hair and I rested my head on his chest. He whispered into my ears, “It is going to be okay.” Somehow, I felt assured and I relaxed in his hands. I snuggled closer.  I had never felt anything like this before. I was very comfortable in his assurance that everything was going to be alright.

I have known my lover for a while but I have never seen his face. I love everything about him. He makes me feel special and calls me the apple of his eyes. I am his princess, his bride but he has never allowed me to see his face. I wonder why and I am very curious though I feel vey safe in his hands.

I nuzzled into his hands. “What is the problem? Are you okay?” He asked concerned. He is always alert and highly perspective. He is quick to know if there is anything disturbing me.

“Not really” I answered. I paused and he waited patiently for me to continue. “You know I love you” I said. I felt his nod and I was encouraged to continue. “I really want to see your face. That’s the only gift I want from you this Valentine’s Day”

He was quiet and for a second, I thought I had lost him. I reached out to touch him, I held his hand. I felt reassured that he was still near me and I waited. There is one thing I have learnt from my lover-patience. I waited patiently for him because I was so comfortable in his love for me, I did not mind the silence.

After a while, he spoke but it was like a whisper. He sounded so far away that I had to strain my ears to hear him. I moved closer to him. We were now flesh to flesh. I could feel his warmth.

“My love,” he said, “Why do you want to see my face?” he asked gently. “I offer you protection, I provide for you. I love you with my whole heart and unconditionally, never judging you. I can do anything for you. Isn’t that enough? Don’t you trust me enough to know that you don’t have to see my face? Don’t you believe that I will always be here for you? Be with you, go everywhere with you without intruding in your space? Others might have let you down but I promise to be with you always” he said reassuringly and I smiled. My heart bursting with the love I have for him.

“I will comfort you when you are down, console you when you are sad, protect you from any danger, teach you the right way to go so that you will not miss it in life. This is my promise to you and it will never fail. I will always be with you. My love, you will see my face but not now” he said lovingly. I rested in the comfort of his love and I know that once, I have someone who truly loves me.

I didn’t want the night to end so I held him closer burying my head in his chest. I wanted to touch him to let him know how deeply I feel for him. I felt the gust of air and I wondered why I felt cold all of a sudden. I opened my eyes and alas I was on my bed dreaming again of the love I yearn for.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Ada’s Quandary

I had just finished a session on Assertive Skills. We broke for tea/coffee and it was a perfect time for me to catch my breath. I went to the coffee table and poured myself a cup of tea. I wanted to rest my feet since I had the whole day to facilitate. I should mingle with the participants but having to facilitate a whole day takes it toil on me and every available second to rest is a welcome one. I had 30minutes of break to stretch my legs. I put my cup of tea on the table while I flipped through my presentation. “So far so good” I thought to myself. “I have managed my time very well so far and I will be glad if I can finish before the allotted time. I wonder if I would be able to achieve this” I thought again. “The class is vibrant and full of energy. Whenever it is like this, it could be a bit tricky trying to stick to time.” I thought as I flipped through the pages trying to familiarise myself with the presentation.

“Good morning” one of the participants greeted me. I looked up from my presentation to see who it was. “Good morning “I answered her. I remembered her as I smiled at her. I had noticed her in class. Though, she did not make any contributions to the topic we just had but I noticed she was very attentive and interested in what I said. She took time jotting a lot and I had observed that she was very fascinated with the topic.

“My name is Ada” she said introducing herself. “I enjoyed the class we just had and I have some questions that I want to ask if you don’t mind” she said shyly. “Oh! It is ok. Please feel free to ask me any question.” I said smiling but moaning to myself that my 30minutes of peace had just gone. I may be lucky though and she may not take up all the time. I thought hopefully. “I have this problem. I am not assertive at all and I have found out that people tend to take me for granted” She said. I waited for her to continue wondering where this was leading to. ”I have a problem with my husband” she whispered as she looked around. “I am at my wits end and I really don’t know what to do.”  She said glumly. I really didn’t want to dabble into anybody’s private matter but she looked so disturbed that I had to ask her what the problem was.

“My husband humiliates me. In fact, he enjoys humiliating me. I really don’t understand how to put it.” She paused and I waited patiently for her to gather her thoughts because I knew it must be difficult for her as she must be suffering enough to want to share this with a total stranger “Let me say that sometimes he would decide not to talk to me for no apparent reason. When I try to find out what could have gone wrong, he would not answer me but acted as if he was a wounded lion. The more I try to find out the more he withdrew into his shell and this could go on for weeks. Whenever he decided that he was ready to talk, he would simply tell me to check myself. I really don’t know how to handle this type of malice. Also, he puts me down in front of our friends and family, worst still, in front of the children. I have tried to raise the issues with him but he ignores me. He believes everything is my fault and I should examine myself.” She said looking embarrassed but deeply hurt and perplexed.

I looked up to the heavens for help. “How do I begin to counsel this woman?” I thought to myself. “Has he always being like this? I mean even during courtship?” I asked.

“Not exactly. He used to be moody a lot when we courted but this public disgrace is new. The point is, it is getting worst. He bad mouths me amongst our friends, claiming I am no good. He would call my parents and come up with all sorts of accusations even if for all I know at that particular time, we had no disagreement. You will not believe the number of times we had to go for family meetings to sort out one problem or the other. I believe that we should not wash our dirty linen in public so I kept quiet most of the time. Moreover, I don’t have energy for all the allegations. I often get embarrassed by all the things he got to say, so I keep quiet. Now, I am being viewed like the wicked person. Do you know that he wept the other day at my uncle’s house when we went for yet another meeting? I am asking myself some questions here. Am I a wicked person?” She asked anxiously. I knew that was rhetoric because I didn’t know her at all to determine that but I realised that she was really troubled and needed to talk to somebody

“First, I think you should stop taking the fall for everything that happens in your marriage. Remember, it takes two to tango.” I said. “There are deeper issues here which I believe you and your husband should sit down to discuss.”

“I have tried to discuss this with him” She cuts in. “This has not worked out in anyway. He ends up blaming me for everything and anything. I try to satisfy him in everyway but the more I try, the more dissatisfied he becomes. He criticizes everything I do. I am never good. I try really. I do try. I don’t know what to do. I am desperate here. I want my marriage to work but I don’t know how to make it work” she cried out. I looked around a bit uncomfortable with the discussion. I realised I may not be able to advice her as she wanted. By this time, other participants were back in the class.

“You know what; can we meet during lunch break? Unfortunately, I have to continue with the presentation. I asked reaching out to her. I patted her hand and hope that the next topic, Building Positive Self-Esteem may address some of her issues.

I looked at her as she went back to her seat. I had no clue on how to help her. I am no marriage counsellor but I am used to the position of ‘one size fits all’ most participants tend to put facilitators especially if you are handling a topic that addresses both personal and official life. I concentrated on starting the class somehow wishing that she would not come back to me during lunch break.

I finished my second presentation just before lunch break. I was a bit preoccupied with how I was going to handle the problem Ada presented to me. We had enough time before lunch. I knew I should seize the opportunity of the break to rest since I had two more sessions to go but I couldn’t get Ada off my mind. I sat down wondering why many marriages were failing at the speed of light. From what Ada told me, it was easy to blame Ada’s husband but I know that issues in marriage are not always clear cut. I waited patiently for her to approach me again. I looked at her as she approached my table. ”Madam, I hope you don’t mind my disturbing you like this?” She asked shyly. I shook my head. I gestured to her to take the seat close to me. I guess I was doing my one good deed for that day at least if she leaves the class feeling better then, I would have achieved a lot. Ada took her seat and kept quiet. I realised she wasn’t going to talk unless I prompted her.

Ada?” I said tentatively “I quite appreciate the trust you have in me for you to share something as private as this. “

“I really do appreciate you. I am usually not like this but I am overwhelmed as it is. I am lost at what to do. I didn’t bargain for all these. I had hoped for a beautiful marriage. My father was wonderful and very attentive. I had prayed for that kind of marriage but alas!” she said heaving a deep sigh.

“There is nothing wrong about hoping for a beautiful marriage especially if your parents made a huge success out of theirs. The truth is that marriage is hard work and both parties must be willing to make it work. Unfortunately, in our society, it is often believed it is the duty of the woman to make the home. We women are often blamed for whatever goes wrong in our marriage. We carry the burden of making our marriage work when there is a lot out of control. We try hard to make it work forgetting that it is the responsibility of both parties. We are often told the woman makes the home and because we have being brought up to believe such, we do everything including spoiling the man to the point of creating a monster.”

“A monster? How?” she asked perplexed

“It is what we do unconsciously. It starts form the courtship stage when probably out of love or because we just don’t want to topple the apple cart, or just too desperate not to fail, we accept whatever is dished out to us believing that things would change once we are married. Things don’t ever change. My advice to you is, you need to set boundaries and make it clear that there are things you would not take. For example, whenever he goes into his ‘not talking mode’, leave him. Give him space. Do whatever you have to do as a wife but don’t go fidgeting around him. He does it so often because he knows it gets at you. You have to be the matured person here. Be calm and control your emotions. Do not disrespect him in anyway and don’t show any sign of anger. Just take it that he needs to work out his emotions.” I said “You should be more emphatic when you are expressing your beliefs and opinion but at the same time have respect for his opinion. “ I advised. “Keeping quiet in the face of his accusations is agreeing to them. I am not saying you should join issues with him but you need to state your side as clearly as possible. Whatever you do, do not accept responsibilities for what you didn’t do.” I continued. ”You are not responsible for anybody’s happiness. His choice to be either happy or sad is way beyond your control. You can only try.  You need to communicate more. Communication is an essential ingredient in any relationship.” I said to her holding her hands. “Basically, what I am saying is that you need to be more assertive.”

“Do you think things would change if I do all these?” she asked apprehensively.

“It is not a magic wand and it takes more than you to make your marriage work but I know that if you lovingly change your attitude towards him, things may change. I really don’t have all the answers but I pray that things work out for you. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Love: A Game of Emotional Manipulation

We sat in my sitting room watching one of those Ghanaian movies. It was a pleasant but lazy afternoon. My friends, Uduak and Yetty had visited since we were forced to stay at home because of the nationwide strike and protest. We had nothing to do and there was really nothing interesting to watch apart from the movie.

There was nothing spectacular about the plot of the movie. The same old love story of a woman who married a much older man and fell in love with her step son. I watched the movie half heartedly while I read a novel which I was reading a second time. I was bored with the movie. I looked at my friends and saw how they concentrated on the movie as if their lives depended on it or there was going to be an exam on the plot after viewing it. I smiled to myself as I tried to get back to the movie. “Love is a game, sex is the real thing” one of the actors in the movie said. The statement got my attention. I pondered on it wondering how true the statement is.

Ore, “I called “is that statement true?”
“What statement is that?” Nduak asked as if she just came back to planet earth
“Love is a game, sex is the real thing” I replied
“Why are you fascinated with that statement? Yetty asked
“Because I am a romantic by nature but I am beginning to wonder if love is actually real” I said
“Ah! I don’t believe in love or let me rephrase, I used to believe in love but I now, know better. Love is just a word that’s touted about. It is a cliché that has being abused. People use it because they want something from you or just get in between your legs.” Nduak said.
“You have become jaded.” I replied rolling my eye balls. “If you don’t believe in love how come you have stayed married for the last twenty something years?” I asked
“Haven’t you heard? What’s love got to do with it” Nduak sang in her croaky voice and we laughed.” Honestly, love has nothing to do with it. I married my husband because I got pregnant. Our relationship, even when we courted was filled with emotional manipulation and verbal abuse. I ran away to America when I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t want his wahala so I took off. But he came after me pleading and apologetic. Since I didn’t want to be a single parent, I agreed. Really, being a single parent twenty-five years ago was a taboo and my parents didn’t help either; insisting that I had disgraced the family. I had to weight all my options and I married him”
“If you didn’t love him, why did you stay with him all these while?” Yetty asked
“Where will I go with my broods? How am I to manage with six children? I beg, I stayed because of my children. I know staying with my husband will give them a good life. Look, nothing has changed since I met my husband. As a matter of fact, things seem to get worst. But I have developed my coping strategies. I just pray that my children would not make the same mistakes.” Nduak said
“I believe you must feel something for him. No matter how small.” I said not wanting to believe that she was not romantically inclined towards her husband
“Yes, I feel something, which is more of dislike. My friend, love is a game o! We all pretend to love but half the time…..!” She left the sentence hanging, paused and continued. “Do you know that sometime, I have sex with him so that I can get some money from him? With him, money is the instrument of manipulation for me, my body is. Now tell me, how am I better than the common hooker on the street except that I have only one customer, my husband. We have both perfected the act of emotional manipulation”
I was taken aback by Nduak’s outburst. I never knew she felt like that towards her husband. 
 “You try my friend” Yetty commented.” This is why I have refused to marry. I was in love once. I dated this guy for ten years. I gave him everything and did everything in my ability to make him happy and comfortable. I had money so that was not an issue. I didn’t have any problems taking care of his needs. I loved him so much that I just wanted to see him happy and he capitalised on that. I ended up being responsible for all our financial needs. I was manipulated in everyway one could imagine. Everything was my fault and I was made to believe that I could not do anything right. The more I tried to satisfy him, the more dissatisfied he became. Ah! How I tried. I sacrificed everything for him. After a while, I thought if I got pregnant things would change or at least, improve. I stopped using the contraceptives hoping to get pregnant. I tried but nothing happened. I visited my gynaecologist and I had to undergo the most painful and horrific medical tests that I didn’t wish on my enemies. I had some problems really but according to my doctor, nothing to prevent me from getting pregnant. At the same time, I started talking to him about us getting married. We had spent 10 years together and my parents were no longer comfortable that we were living together without him making an honest woman out of me. He refused initially when I broached the subject, insisting that I have to get pregnant before we can tie the knot. I became almost desperate and I signed on for an assisted conception programme which was very expensive but I didn’t mind. It was the condition I had to meet before I got married and so getting pregnant was the only thing on my mind.
At the clinic, I was asked to invite him for examination and other necessary procedure but he refused saying that I didn’t seek his permission before signing in on the programme. I pleaded with him to see reasons and how was I to get pregnant if he was not going to be cooperative? I was devastated at this point. After a while, he reluctantly agreed to go with me to the clinic but only until after our wedding ceremony but well, we could proceed with our plans. I didn’t understand why we had to wait until after the marriage ceremonies but who cares? Anything to make him happy abi? I was excited and   earnestly started putting things together for a ceremony that I was not going to be the bride.” Yetty narrated
“How do you mean?” I asked
“Oh a month to the date of our wedding, he married another girl. I beg! Love?” she said sarcastically.
“That was a really bad experience.  Ah! Ten years of a relationship? Only for him to marry somebody else? I just can’t fathom it” Uduak said
“Why did you court for such a long time?” I asked
“Long or short courtship doesn’t really matter. We met at the University then in my prelim and we dated all through University. Moreover, there was always a reason why we couldn’t marry. Again, I wasn’t really crazy about marriage not after watching my mother go through her gruesome experience with my father. I just didn’t want to go through all that wahala but what happened? Please I don’t believe in love again o!
“So what are you doing with mystery lover?” I asked. We have taking to calling her recent boyfriend that because she has refused to introduce us or disclose his name to us.
“My mystery lover? Hm!” she giggled mischievously. “That one is another story. You know, I have known him all my life technically. Actually, he was my first boyfriend. We didn’t quarrel but we lost contact until two years ago when we saw each other again. He started showing interest in me and I thought well, let me give him a chance. I mean he has had his bad experience too and I expect him to have learnt from his experience but alas! Initially, he was very devoted and I actually started feeling something akin to love. I believed in him and I started opening up to him. However, he is comfortable now and he has started the game of power and emotional manipulations that men tend to use in relationship. You won’t believe that he gets angry at every little thing and sometimes, will not pick my calls or call me for weeks and he expects me to know through some astral means what could be biting him. Am I a witch?  I don’t have energy for this emotional manipulation. I am a grown woman and I can’t deal with a man who has refused to grow. I care but I am not treading the road I took before.” She concluded.

I kept quiet for a long time pondering at the experiences of my friends. I have had it rough too but I still believe in love. “But who is there to love?” I asked aloud

“Your brother who is probably the sweetest human being on earth but most likely, manipulating his wife.” Uduak answered