How African men ‘kill’ marriages.
By RENEE MURRAY
Published August 30, 2009
African men do not have marriages, but arrangements for their own convenience. In this day and age, building a marriage is the hard part; destroying it is becoming much easier and men have perfected the art – and the fact that it requires very little effort works in their favour.
Our men are experts at destroying marriages; it is their second nature. I am convinced that there must be some lessons given to them on how to ‘kill’ a marriage. When that happens, we are left jaded, with no strength nor chance to fight back. Maybe this is what the men want.
As soon as marriage vows are exchanged and the honeymoon is over, I think men are taught (in that school they all seem to attend) to start by slowly changing their behaviour with the intention of detaching themselves from us. While he would previously wake up and lovingly bide you good morning, he starts training his mind to forget that you are lying there, in bed, next to him. So he wakes up, jumps out of bed and barely glances at you. You will obviously wonder, and maybe remind him, that you are there and need a bit of attention. He will apologise, say he is in a rush, not his fault, maybe indulge you absent-mindedly in a meaningless kiss then get on with doing what he was about to do. When you are continuously ignored as if you are non-existent, you start getting used to it, make an excuse for him even – like he is late for work or something, and close the chapter on ever getting a decent ‘good morning’, ‘good evening’ or even ‘how was your day’ from him.
Next, while you previously enjoyed your dinner together, or an evening together after work, watching your favourite soap on TV, or a movie, he will start coming home late. Too much work in the office, this and that had to be done by this and that date – deadlines. You complain a few times, and then accept that it’s his job anyway and he has to do it well in order to keep it. The few times he comes in early, you might have to sit through a painful 90 minutes watching a football game you have no clue about. You resign to watching grown men chasing one ball around the field, while you would have preferred to watch Alejandro pouring his heart out to Esperanza or Camilla trying to break up the oh-so-perfect match of Diego and Esmeralda in your favourite Mexican soap. He used to watch all this with you and even held your hand when you were so touched that you had to shed a tear or two. Now he is asking you to watch the game or else, he will go to the nearby pub to watch it with his buddies. You don’t want that, so once more you accept it, and life goes on.
Slowly but surely, he starts neglecting the little things he used to do for you. Forget the flowers, the dinner dates and the surprise gifts that used to come your way once in a while. He has an excuse for everything, a very plausible excuse and you accept each one of them. Marriage is not a bed of roses, you remind yourself.
A year or two later, the baby comes. Now that marks the beginning of the end for your relationship as a married couple. You have to juggle between being an employee, a housewife and a mother. Your responsibilities increase threefold and you are expected to do everything without as much as a sweat to indicate that you could be tired or need a break. Your man is by now a spoilt brat. (He was taught in their school that once you have a wife, you cannot do anything for yourself). His hands can no longer handle anything domestic and so you have to do every single thing for him. You are his wife damn it. So you run up and down every single day; taking care of the baby, your man, the house… We even have some men who have a thing against being attended to by house helps. They will insist that they will not eat food in that house unless it is cooked by you. Forget how exhausted you are; you are his wife. If he comes in late, wake up and warm that food for him. Even if it means just shoving it into the microwave, just do it. In short, he should be able to depend on you for everything on the domestic front. Now he is your other baby. You are superwoman, to say the least.
You have to wake up a couple of times during the night to change and feed the little one. Then morning comes before you can even catch a wink of sleep. If you are a working mother then obviously you have to get ready for work. Your responsibilities never seem to end. Everyone seems to want a piece of you even if you feel like there is not enough of you to go around. What a life! The cycle continues, leaving you very exhausted and your man, your dear man has his life uninterrupted. He is still living his life like nothing much has changed in it.
Intimacy between you is now a thing of the past. You could be intimate once in a while, perhaps – but it’s not a guarantee anymore. You might be superwoman, but sometimes your body just won’t co-operate. He will of course complain on end how you have no time for him. He feels neglected. He has needs too. Do you start explaining how you had a very busy day at work or at home with the kids? Do you tell him you need just an hour of decent sleep to feel human again? Do you inform him that sometimes it would not make him any less of a man to do something as simple as fetching himself a bottle of water from the fridge? Then you think, “forget it!” that too is exhausting!
So, in years to come, he may go and sleep out because his wife is not giving him the attention he deserves. He will do this with a very clear conscience because to him, it is entirely the wife’s fault. Again, the African in him rears its ugly head, and so he reasons that he married you didn’t he? If he married you, it means he loves you – period.
At the back of your mind, you know an affair is going on, but by that time, he has sapped out all the energy from you. You cannot fight anymore – you cannot confront him. You just need some peace. You appreciate the attention he directs your way once in a while when his conscience eats him up. Even if you are fed up, you cannot think of leaving him. Divorce will need your energy and you don’t have that. You weigh your options and see that staying with him is not so bad after all. He is playing a part in paying the bills and he is coming home to you at night, though late sometimes, or never at other times, but he belongs at your bedside.
What you have now is not a marriage anymore but an arrangement, thanks to him, where the two of you live together and tolerate each other till death do you part. You resign to living like this not because you like it; not because you cannot leave him, but because they are all men. And they just don’t get it!