Maybe if couples realized that marriage is a different ball game from dating, the mortality rate of marriages would reduce drastically. Sometimes it borders on the absurd to see couples who’ve been dating for 8 years getting a divorce within the first year of marriage. It’s worrisome. And when something worries me, I embark on a journey to seek answers – this journey had me speaking to divorce lawyers, psychologists, and law enforcement officials – and I got zip. Nadda. I was going to just call it a day on the issue, and chalk it up to another mystery we just can’t find answers to – like, why hasn’t anyone been arrested for killing 2pac? But then, a story came forth to shed light on the issue.
A young couple, Tunde and Wemimo lived and worked in England – they were happy together for eight long years as boyfriend and girlfriend. Tunde had a good job that paid well in the city of London. Wemimo had a great job – a high powered job that paid her more than she needed.
The couple co-existed harmoniously, with love and respect for one another, despite the fact that Wemimo probably made 10 times more money than Tunde made. Like my friend said, London is a “leveler” society – because two persons from very distant pay-grades can co-exist almost perfectly without the disparity in income being obvious, and or even posing a problem in their relationship. Well, as you well know the same cannot be said of the Nigerian society.
After about 8 years of dating, Wemimo and Tunde get married, and shortly afterwards they decide to return to Nigeria, majorly because Wemimo got offered an awesome job (promotion) to head her UK-based company’s operations in Nigeria – with that job came certain perks, like a mansion in Lekki, a fleet of awesome cars, and domestic staff. Tunde had already secured an apartment for the couple somewhere in a remote and not so posh neighborhood in Lagos, where the couple stayed before the perks that came with Wemimo’s new job kicked in. And with the activation of those perks came the first conflict the couple would encounter in their relationship. The conflict was simple, and would set the pace for more to come.
At first, Wemimo spent weekdays, going to and from work from her Lekki mansion, because to her, the proximity from the mansion to her office made more economic (and maybe, lifestyle) sense, but within a month, Wemimo had gradually furnished the mansion with expensive Italian furniture and interior decors, that it became impractical to live anywhere else – and soon, her relationship with her husband began to look like a long distance one despite the fact that they lived in the same city – to mitigate against this gap, she suggested that her husband moved in with her. Maybe an innocent suggestion at first – but when Tunde’s friends and family got wind of the plans, it turned into a big deal – suddenly, it was a mortal sin to move into his wife’s apartment – they even hired a conflict resolution specialist aka a-mutual-friend-who-happens-to-be-a-lawyer to talk Wemimo out of her decision, but she stuck to her guns, and for the sake of the marriage, Tunde caved in, and moved in with his wife – like we say in Nigeria, after all who no like better thing?
Having just moved from England, Tunde was yet to get a job in Lagos, so in the new scheme of things, one may be forgiven for referring to him as a house-husband. Wemimo became the obvious breadwinner – not that Tunde was a penniless, lazy, lay-about – he had investments that fetched him some good cash, but then if incomes were humans, his would be a 3feet tall dwarf in a circus, while Wemimo’s income would tower over his like a 6-foot-seven, 300-pound, point guard for the Lakers Basketball team– do the math.
Now a high-powered, successful business leader, Wemimo’s circle of friends/acquintances included ministers, governors, CEOs of Fortune-500 companies, big-shot celebrities looking for favors, etc – and the more her power and influence grew, the more alienated, uncomfortable, and paranoid, Tunde became. Tunde just couldn’t keep up with the incessant business vacations, cocktail events, and black-tie parties aboard a 100-foot yacht somewhere in Monaco – he was running out of tuxedos, like a crack addict runs out of money. So, his wife started going at it alone – well, there’d be jealousy, of course, but the suspicions didn’t hurt as much as the snide comments from the men in Wemimo’s circle – “where’s your poor husband?”
The neighbors and domestic staff at the mansion joined the chorus of snide comments; they made Tunde feel like he was his own wife’s gigolo. He could feel their stares. He could sense their disapproval. He became a fodder for bad-taste bar room jokes. But the last straw would come during one of his wife’s trips out of town, when our dear PHCN decided to pocket the electric power supply, and cast the neighborhood into darkness… well, if you know Lekki residents, you’d also know that it was only a matter of maybe 30 to 60 seconds before the diesel-powered generators would kick in, but this time the domestic staff at Tunde’s – sorry, Wemimo’s mansion did not turn on the generator, and when Tunde called the security guard who doubled as the generator-operator, and asked:
“Why haven’t you turned on the generator?”
The guard hissed, and replied glibly “madam say make we no dey on the generator unless say na she tell us to on am – and she no tell us to on am”
He couldn’t bring himself to argue with the security guard, after all, the madam who pays the piper dictates the tune. And his wife has made it clear even to the domestic staff that she was the “Oga”. It suddenly began to make sense – “madam’s house”, “madam’s cars”, “and madam’s money”. Now, Tunde could only imagine how their mutual friends really felt about him seemingly living off his wife’s wealth. It suddenly became clear to him, that perhaps his wife shared the opinion of her friends that he was indeed a leech, living off the sweat and blood of his hardworking wife.
He moved out. Wemimo did not bother to find out why, or even go looking for him – she was busy, of course. After a couple months, he filed for a divorce. Wemimo was glad to sign the papers. And that’s how a relationship that thrived lovingly for 8 years in England, crumbled in less than a year in Nigeria.
And my questions are:
a) How different is “being in a relationship” in England from being married in Nigeria?
b) How much does it matter who the breadwinner of the family really is?
c) Why do things seem weird for everyone around when the woman is the one making more money in the relationship?
d) How could they have saved their marriage?
–James Amuta [James Amuta is the author of Enigma: Beyond the Poet; a maverick publicist with expertise in television/film content and corporate publicity. He’s also a filmmaker with a few documentaries and TV commercials to his credit. Find more of his notes on www.facebook.com/jamesamuta or follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamesamuta]