You may have heard it said that birthdays are just nature’s way of telling us to eat more cake. I don’t know how true this saying is, and frankly I don’t care about cakes or birthdays. But on my birthday this year, as strange as this might sound to you, someone surprised me with a personal cake for my birthday. This year is the second year in a row that I’ve had my birthday celebrated in the company of friends and family. I am not usually one for big mushy moments, so l sometimes find myself wondering why my friends and family are always secretly organizing these overly sentimental get-togethers and putting me smack dab at the receiving end of suspiciously warm and elaborate well-wishes. At any rate, the event was a rousing success and it helped remind me once more the invaluableness of genuine friends and a loving family.
As for that cake, it did not have an amazing evening I am sorry to say. Hungry souls devoured the cake no sooner than I had dropped the knife with which I cut the cake. All’s fair in a gathering of hungry but emotional birthday well-wishers, and they did justice to the cake and the food that were prepared on that day. If I am alive to see another birthday, I hope I can have some much needed peace and quiet. You know what? I think I’ll just skip town when the time comes. Why? There is a limited number of times I want to see close friends and family get misty-eyed and cheerful at the same time. What about you? How did you celebrate your birthday?
Look around you. Look at the Nigerian marriages here in the US. Look at the Nigerian couples found in many communities here in the US. Have you noticed the increasing rate of divorce and separation between Nigerian men and women? What is responsible for this rising trend? Is there anything that can be done to remedy the situation? This is a huge topic so I am going to limit myself to discussing just a few things. I am going to offer a few suggestions on how men and women (potential spouses) can better understand each other so that relationships may continue to survive.
For the Men:
A) Nigerian men in the US need to understand that by living and operating in the US, they cannot claim to be insulated from, immune to or unaware of the effects of decades of a sustained push for gender equality and women empowerment. This means that even though the Nigerian cultural practices and norms are a guiding principle for many Nigerians in the US, one cannot completely ignore the altering effects of the American society ideals on the perceptions and actions of Nigerian men and women who dwell there in. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to Nigerian men, if Nigerian women in the US, seem to be more assertive of their rights; Nigerian men should not be flabbergasted when their wives demand for equality in all things pertaining to the marriage. This is usually a tougher pill for men to swallow—the very idea that their wives would have equal and sometimes greater say in how the marriage ought to proceed, or how the home should be run. From a Nigerian man’s point of view, it is tantamount to losing his natural position as the head of the household, but it doesn’t need to be so. It is time to drop the authoritarian or dictatorial mindset. Your wife is not chattel—she is not your property for you to talk to or treat anyhow you deem fit. A little flexibility coupled to an attitude that listens to and considers the opinion and contribution of the woman would go a long way in fixing many broken Nigerian homes.
B) Nigerian men ought to appreciate their wives especially if such wives are also working to take care of the family. I cannot understand why some men feel particularly threatened by the possibility or the fact that their wives might be earning more than they do. Granted, when this happens, it is often the case that the wife becomes more impatient and sometimes disrespectful to the man, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Any self-respecting man who cherishes and respects his wife’s commitment and contribution, and moreover shows by his own actions and efforts that he is also doing the best he can to provide for the family, will usually compel a loving and respectful wife even if the wife earns more. Nigerian men therefore have to show in words and deed that they appreciate and love the woman for bringing something to the table no matter how big or how small. A little appreciation for a wife can go a very long way. Buy her something of sentimental value—doesn’t have to be expensive; just something that shows that you really care. These things are not much, but it is these little gestures that cumulatively form the bulk of her fond memories and feelings for her husband.
C) It is true that times are hard and that people have to work perhaps longer hours these days to make ends meet. It is also true that the job of providing for the family falls squarely on the man’s shoulders even if it the case that in most families the man and woman are working. However, that should not turn men into work slaves. It should not detract from the commitment given to the marriage or to the family. Sometimes, Nigerian men fall into the trap of thinking that just by working insanely long hours to put food on the table and to put a roof over the family’s head, he has fulfilled his duties and thus he ought to be congratulated. He forgets that he also has to make time for his wife (or for the family if the man already has some children). Take her out every now and then. Make time from your busy schedule for you and your wife to spend quality time together. Take a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of daily living. Find a recreation, sports or exercise you can do together with your wife. The benefits really cannot be overemphasized. This is not asking for too much, is it?
D) In Nigeria, or in Nigerian circles, sex and bedroom matters between couples are usually not discussed publicly—or if there’d be discussions to that effect, they’d have to be done ever so discreetly and with a lot of pretend decorum. Now that is good: we wouldn’t want any discussion of marital sexual relations to spiral into a most obscene and tasteless display of carnal lechery. But this is a double-edged sword in that sometimes, men and women are denied the opportunity to truly learn what works. It is no secret that for a marriage to thrive, a man and his wife also have to be very intimate sexually—and this means that it is very important that they be able to truly stimulate and satisfy each other sexually. This view is sanctioned by most schools of thought, including most rational religions. Now, many Nigerian men will quickly and eagerly boast of their virility and stamina or perhaps of their previous sexual conquests. For them, sex is never a problem; they are quick to make you recognize their libido. But I want to suggest that wholly separate from having the urge to have carnal relations with your wife, is the dexterity or skill with which you execute it. This means that what is worth doing is worth doing well. Nigerian men have to be sincere and humble enough to actually listen to their wives if their wives have suggestions about what the men could be doing to make the sex more enjoyable for them. If you are the easily-provoked type of guy, or the easily-suspicious, you run the risk of having a sexually-frustrated wife who is just too scared or too resigned to let you know how you could be a better lover. If need be, buy and read some books about the female anatomy and how you can truly please her. Fantastic stories recounted in pepper-soup joints, men’s locker rooms and other all-male gatherings are hardly ideal if you really want to know what makes your woman tick. Learn to listen to her. Sometimes, it is the simple soft touches, the kisses, the petting and caressing that will ignite the fire in her—not your caveman’s exaggerated emphasis on the frequency or forcefulness of your penile thrusts.
E) Effective communication in marriages is very important. Whenever there is a misunderstanding or a disagreement, the mature and adult thing to do is to approach each other and TALK about it. There is no wisdom in a man deciding to keep his feelings and emotions bottled up in him as he continues to burn inwardly from rage and frustration. Already, men know that by nature, women love to talk especially when it concerns their feelings, relationship or well-being; frankly some women talk entirely too much. However, just because your wife always wants to have “the talk”, that should not mean that you should begin to disregard the importance of these talk sessions. Therefore, it is very crucial for Nigerian men to talk (no matter how sparingly) whenever an issue needs to be discussed and resolved. She is not a mind-reader and so you cannot expect her to automatically know how badly you felt about a certain issue or how some of her actions or words annoyed the living daylights out of you. You have to tell her and at the same time listen to her as she also expresses her concerns. No slamming of doors please; no running off to sleep on the couch while leaving the bedroom to her; no running off to go sleep in your single male friend’s house; no sleeping on the same bed but turned the opposite way; no codes of silence until you feel like you can talk to that “annoying wench” again; no refusing to eat the food she cooked; no temper tantrums. Be a MAN. That means that you have to confront or face the situation and be humble and considerate enough to understand your role in the misunderstanding so that you and your wife can resolve your differences. This is not rocket science—this is just commonsense.
F) Finally, do not allow others to dictate what should be done in your home. It does not matter how close a person is to you. Only your wife should count in any decision you want to make regarding your home. This means that you shouldn’t be listening to the suggestions of friends, colleagues or associates with regards to your family at all. You should also not have meddlesome brothers, sisters or your mother coming in to dictate or suggest what should be done in your family. Nigerian men tend to love and cherish their mothers to the point that they may often invite their mothers to come and stay/live in their own houses. This is usually seen in cases where the man (and his wife) has a new child or have children that may need the services of a nanny. Unfortunately, in many cases, these mothers-in-law or sisters-in-law needlessly undermine, berate, harass or annoy the wives in these families to the point that separation or divorce begins to look desirable. While you may get suggestions on other peripheral relationship issues, you should jealously guard the secrets of your marriage with your wife. Your best male buddy has no need for the details of your relationship and should never be told any confidential information that pertains to your wife no matter how hard they pry. If there is a personal husband-wife misunderstanding that is so huge as to make you require a second opinion, then together with your wife you should make an appointment with your pastor or see your marriage counselor—of course, the pastor or the marriage counselor in question has to be married and be seen to be living harmoniously with the spouse. If the pastor or marriage counselor is unmarried, divorced or separated then do not bother taking your problems to him or her! Yes, because “Nemo dat quod non habet” meaning that you cannot give what you don’t have. You may additionally seek parental advice on general matters, but never on specific and intimately detailed issues concerning your wife and marriage. They have lived their lives and made of their marriage what they wanted; now you are a man, learn to deal with your own problems on your own without running to daddy and mommy for every single issue. I say this because I realize that a lot of people value and cherish their parents, but if it were left to me, under absolutely no situations would parents be consulted for any personal problems at all! By all means invite them over on special days to eat and celebrate with you but never to come and settle intimate marriage problems or vexing husband-wife misunderstandings.
Later on, I’ll give tips to women for a successful marriage.