Monday, May 16, 2016 5:56 pm
By Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi
I did not want to write about marriage this week. In light of the fact that International Day of Families falls on May 15th, and the day will be marked throughout the week, I have decided to address an email from a young man who read my last article on Loud Whispers, ‘Then and Now’. According to him, I am always championing the cause of women, and it sounds as if men are always the culprits in any relationship that flounders. He then went on to ask, ‘What advice do you have for men? I am getting married soon and I don’t want to get into trouble. How can I be a good husband?’. I do not like giving relationship advice to either my peers or the younger generation.
This is simply because each person’s situation is unique, and what works in one context might not work in another due to so many variables. I however get asked for advice a lot of time by mostly women, and I found this young man’s question interesting. We are always telling women how to be good wives. If something goes wrong, perhaps she did not try enough, was not submissive enough or did not pray hard enough. There is a common saying amongst Nigerians, ‘It is the woman who keeps the home’. Really? Why do we think like this? Every marriage involves two human beings and not one person on a perpetual ego trip. It takes two mature, respectful and compassionate people, who love each other, to make a marriage work. Back to my young friend (or son), I will share some thoughts with you. It is information you will find on any number of articles on relationships, but here it is anyway.
1. Respect your wife.
If you want your wife to respect you, it needs to be earned. If you make a habit of disrespecting your wife by for example by yelling at her in public or private, dismissing her or putting her down, she will fear you, but not respect you. There is a difference.
2. Protect her.
Your responsibility as a husband is to protect your wife. What or who you protect her from will vary. Never give any one the impression that it is alright to disrespect your wife. The usual culprits would be your family members or friends. Your wife might be too haughty, too rude, and too opinionated. Whenever anyone complains about your wife to you never say ‘This is exactly what I have been telling her’ or ‘I will deal with her’. Just say, ‘I have heard you’. When people see that you have not ‘dealt with her’ they will leave you alone. Of course you can raise these issues with her, but in ways that make her feel that you have her back. Never throw your wife under the bus.
Many of you would have read the famous John Gray book, ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. One of the pillars of the book is an exploration of the different ways in which men and women communicate. Regardless of the planet you think you are from, as a husband, you need to communicate with your wife. This means saying what you want and do not want, in ways that are not hurtful or threatening. You then need to listen to what your wife has to say, and then have a mutually respectful conversation that brings both of you to a point of comfort. When you are trying to communicate, playing ‘the man card’ is not very helpful. This will only push your wife into passive aggressive mode. This does not help anyone.
My father used to say ‘There is no place where they do not steal chickens at night’, a Yoruba saying which is about the universality of shady behaviour. If you feel the need to ‘steal chickens at night’, remember that each chicken you steal has the potential to give you any number of diseases, not to mention the fact that you will find yourself in a big mess should the chickens decide to lay eggs. My advice is face your business of being a husband without the distractions and potential destruction that will come with being a ‘chicken farmer’.
4. Make important decisions with her
Many complaints I have heard from women about their husbands is that they take major decisions without involving them. A very important way in which you can show your wife you respect her is by making sure you make important decisions together. Arriving home and showing her documents of land you have just bought is not wise, unless it is a surprise gift for her. Men might say they have a right to do anything they like since they are the ‘head of the family’. Buying property, accepting a job that will entail your relocation to another city or country, taking out a big loan, those are important decisions that should be tabled for discussion. You cannot present your wife with a fait accompli every time and expect her to be happy.
5. Do not betray her trust
There are many ways in which a husband can betray the trust of his wife, but the specific issue I will address here is cheating. This seems to be second nature to many married men, thanks to their conditioning by patriarchal norms and values which grants them the license to do whatever they like. My father used to say ‘There is no place where they do not steal chickens at night’, a Yoruba saying which is about the universality of shady behaviour. If you feel the need to ‘steal chickens at night’, remember that each chicken you steal has the potential to give you any number of diseases, not to mention the fact that you will find yourself in a big mess should the chickens decide to lay eggs. My advice is face your business of being a husband without the distractions and potential destruction that will come with being a ‘chicken farmer’. You also need to think about how you will feel if your wife decides to make herself available as a chicken to be eaten, why not, she is beautiful and attractive. Oh, you think others are not looking at her, knives at the ready?
Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com