- written by Emmy Ejekam -
It has been a puzzle to me as I watch the rate families are disintegrating among Nigerians living here in Houston lately. And I can wager that what is happening in Houston, Texas (where I live) is typical of the rest of America. As I attribute this unfortunate trend to the environment and stress associated with living in America, my thoughts and research have shown that there are many other variables that have been affecting our lives here, which most of us have not accepted as reality, therefore, triggering the ripple effect of high divorce rate.
There is resistance among Nigerians to accept the fact that we live in a system that is more sympathetic to women and what is a norm in an African oriented/Nigerian family maybe viewed as unconventional. The role of husbands in America is totally and mutually exclusive when it is compared to that in Nigerian context.
While America has been so receptive to the influx of immigrants from every part of the world, the assimilation and transition challenges have been traumatic to these cultures. The dramatic culture clash, values, norms and open society pose the biggest challenge to most foreigners who have been assimilated and grounded in their ethnic culture in contrast to the host culture. It will sound illogical if the blame is solely attributed to the American culture; we, as the visitors have our role to play in order to bridge this disparity gap. Based on our slow pace of assimilation, the culture shock blossoms, leading to family cracks and sometimes ending in divorce or worse, death.
How do most Nigerians marry?
A typical marriage between two Nigerians usually starts from home. There is a myth that most marriages between Africans and Americans are usually faked. An assumption which has and continues to hunt true and candid marriage relationships between the two cultures. Therefore, the gamble to marry from Nigeria, especially those who have the potential to make money, instigates the rush to nursing and medical schools in Nigeria to engage and marry, not a soul mate, but a potential money making nurse, doctor or pharmacist. This expensive and tedious adventure has become a game of chance. Majority of these men go home to seek a wife they have never known, while others decide to fetch a sweet heart that will come over to America and become a wonderful soul mate or a nightmare.
The brewing of the problem starts from the approach of the suitors from the great US of A, where dollars speaks load and clear. Diaspora Nigerians will use their hard earned money to travel and impress these wives to be without minding the perception and ramifications of their actions. It is acceptable to lie to a girl friend to win her over for dating pleasures, however, it is suicidal to lie to a life partner of your lavish wealth in America; the one you have decided to spend the rest of your life with; while in reality, you are finding it hard to pay your rent in an efficiency apartment.
After the lavish expenses involved, the spouse finally gets to America to find out the reality. She is very excited and at the same time disappointed to be here, feeling stuck, she opts for plan B because A has faltered. The opportunities, rights and liberties accorded to women will impress her new plan. She will start to realize that her husband does not live up to whom he projected while at home. He does not have a good job, big car, a mansion and other expectations he projected during the courting period; he is not settled!
On her arrival, his rich friends pulled in all kinds of expensive vehicles while checking her out, flaunting their money, titles and class. Remember, some of these wives already planned on leaving as soon as they have gotten situated. While they have their plans going, the men are toiling to train these wives since the system is more favorable to women. The first line of action is to put her through school and at the same time making her pregnant. The wife goes to school and carries the pregnancy. Everything is going great because the man plays the African male figure and head of house hold while the poor wife dances to the tune on a borrowed time. Despite the burden of going to school, being pregnant and working, the woman continues to perform her chores as a wife. The man also continues to play the role, praying for her graduation and eventual self actualization. In some situations, there maybe family issues that may prop up and the woman is frequently reminded of her role and how she was brought to America, the greatest country in the world. Some may involve abuse, humiliation and sometimes physical abuse. While all these are going on, information and communication are flying from friends, relatives and associates who directly or indirectly influence the outcome of this marriage. While some will caution dialog, others will instigate different measures to resolve the issue, including but not limited to contacting the authorities.
The degeneration of the marriage continues and leads to more suspicious issues: infidelity, rumors of leaving, unsatisfactory sexual performance and other innuendos. Both parties are suspicious of each other and the crack in the marriage continues to widen. The complications that arise will destabilize the marriage to the core; these may include: sexual starvation, threatening to call the law in order to label the man with felony, assault and battery, child abuse, or any accusation that will incriminate him. As the problem reaches the boiling point, the wife, knowing full well that she is covered, files for divorce and child support.
Having graduated with a professional degree and a good job, the wife collects child support and ends up living lavishly while the man struggles to make ends meet with his meager earning. The woman who has been raised to her current professional level sees her sponsor, the husband, as unworthy to have her as a wife because she is now making a six figure income. In an effort to control this money, our men make the most horrendous blunder which usually leads to violence or even murder. While most break ups are associated with the wives, men also play the devils’ advocate, thinking they can still have multple patners while they are married. Nigerian men should weigh in their options before getting into marriage here in Houston/America. The time has changed and yesterday is gone. There must be a dramatic change to sustain out marriages here because, there are many distractions and the victims are the poor Nigerian children that are caught in the middle.
Nigerians, especially Igbos have a very inflexible culture engraved in marriage and family. This stoic culture is inert in most men of African descent. As a black man in America, you are guilty till proven innocent, therefore, if you insist on living like a husband in Africa, please save your marriage till you relocate back home. Otherwise, you may find yourself in jail, probation or even dead. If you are one of the lucky ones with an understanding wife, count your blessing; but please, do not seek her pay check because they do not come handy anymore.
Emmy Ejekam writes from Houston Texas
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