A drunk groom once said to his new bride after a long and hard day of exchanging vows and entertaining guests “We may be married, but I assure you that we will not have affection in this marriage. We will be companions only, just like all the marriages that have come before us”.
This may sound like the opening line of a romance movie like Bridgerton, where they proceed to take you on a journey of romantic discovery and marital bliss, but it is a line from this century, between a modern couple, who sadly did not make their marriage work.
Being a bachelor for many African men usually mean a clean house, usually an empty stomach, no nurturing, no one to listen, to give sensible advice, to guide and to keep company, and freedom of will should they choose so.
Being a spinster for many African women mean a scattered home with shoes and bags strewn everywhere, homemade meals every now and then, or even always, many many girlfriends, usually for the sake of hen’s nights and partying, many suitors heavily not eligible but chasing all the same, self improvement, for some; house rent and feeding hustle, family involvement and advice, career advancement and freedom of will should they choose.
Being a married man for many African men means a clean home, home-cooked meals, usually a minimum of two per day, someone to nurture them, to listen to all their work and career rants and aspirations, to give solid advice, children at a cost but low maintenance should they choose, freedom of will and someone to be a wall against extended family demands.
Being married for many African women means change of last name, a free abode and free food, a home they always have to keep clean, permanent location becomes the kitchen, children at low cost but all hands on deck maintenance, a 9-month intermittent stall in career, no more family involvement to make space for the husband, no one to nurture them or woo them anymore, occasional gift receiving to make up for lack of affection, almost zero girlfriends and only mummy-friends, and lack of freedom or the will to choose freedom.
These statements do not cover the reality for both genders, it simply depicts an imbalance in sacrifices and perspectives towards marriage between men and women.
Before you get married, before you envy your friends’ honeymoon phase marital glow, really really be sure of what you’ll be giving up because as a woman you’ll be giving up more. Yes, this is a contentious statement but nonetheless true. You may think you do not have anything as a single woman, but you have much more than you pay attention to. Who are you giving it all up for? Expectations of marital bliss put a strain on relationships. And women are the ones who usually have to live with those expectations. Men tend to stay exactly as they are all through life; because healing is only for dramatic women who have daddy issues.
When you become jaded and realise love within marriage is easily unattainable, you’ll be filled with resentment. By then the lovey-dovey phase is done and you can’t direct your regret to anyone but yourself. You are stuck in a mangeable marriage, providing companionship and a warm bed, raising children that bring you just about enough joy, and thanking God that it could have been worse than it is.
You’re not different sadly. Your man is not different; shocking. Without intentional work, you’re both adults who have been raised with gender differences in an African society still reeling from the damage of colonisation and gender divides.
What can be different is how accepting you are of new phases, how adaptable you are to changes, how much you love yourself, and how well you can stand on your own two feet when without making your precarious marriage your entire identity.
For many women, marriage immediately comes with childbirth, and both are huge changes you need mental fortitude for. Keep doing the healing work regardless of who you ended up being married to. And don’t be afraid of the awareness that comes when it finally dawns on you. You got this.