Monday, 23 August 2010

Balancing Modern and Traditional Culture in Marriage/Relationship

I want to discuss an issue which I believe is relevant to most women in the UK. That of proper conduct/expectation when one is dealing with an African man. Most of us were brought up the African traditional way of life but have then left the shores of our homelands to make home for ourselves in foreign lands and have imbibed many of their cultures. However, African women in the UK who display too much Western culture in their way of life face so much misogyny from African men. I have even heard that men will simply refuse to marry such women and would rather marry white women. How does one know where one ends and the other starts when it comes to relationships or marriage? I know that quite a lot of African women grapple with identity problems and who wouldn't when opposing cultures clash?

Sometimes one may have good intentions but somehow come out looking as if one does not know what one is doing. There are certain things I do for my partner that some of my friends marvel at and ask why I go to such lengths. Also, there are certain things I do and they are quick to chastise me for not handling things well saying "he's the man". Sometimes I'm left all confused and wondering what I'm doing right or wrong.

Say for instance I want to go out with my friends, do I need a permission from my partner to go? Or say for instance I've done some cooking and after cooking decides to watch some telly. My partner then decides later that he is hungry, do I have to go and fetch him some food or does he do that himself? Laziness and love aside, am talking about realistic expectations here. Naturally I wouldn't seek permission to go out but I believe that it is my duty to go and get him the food. Does that mean I'm some sort of sell out who will gladly do one and not the other? After all, both acts fall under the remits of the traditional role/expectation of a woman? Do they not?

I've met guys in this UK who will expect you to be able to cook egusi for them and then on the other hand expect you to pick up the tab at restaurants too. It's not as if they'll ever take you to the mall and pay for your shopping. Some married men expect their wives to go 50-50 with the household bills but they hardly ever share the household chores 50-50. Is that not some sort of madness? At what point does it become rebellious of the wife when she feels hard done by and demands for fairness?

I have a neighbour who spends night and day screaming on his wife. Telling her "ori e daru" (crazy or something derogatory along those lines) and she just keeps mute. Now it's either she goes comatose at the time he's busy reigning those abuse on her or she's one woman who is taking her traditional role way too seriously coupled with some heavy dose of stupidity. Bottom line is this woman never utters a word back to her husband. In fact often times I wonder if the man was merely just displaying some madness by picking a fight with their furniture. Only something that cannot speak will seat through such insults and not utter a word back in defence or whatever. In fact things get so bad that I have considered calling the cops because I do fear for her life. Now is this normal?

So sisters and brothers, how does one balance these two cultures without coming out looking like an idiot or a stuck up cow?


miz-cynic said...

my sister.....i feel you die!as per the scenario u described, the getting the foo, i'll go get it and i think this has to do wth the way i was brought up, i once told my fiance i'll bring ur food to the table or to you with tray sef but wen it comes to oda issues he says im not submissive enuff,cos me too will not ask for permission but ill inform u tht im going out so u do not worry and u know my whrabts which is wht i'll expect of u seriously i tire and i feel u.tht 50-50 too had better be all the way o if i must share 50% of the bills , u must do 50% of the chores, i argue with my bro all the time abt this and he says im arrogant and stuck up......tht he would not marry a woman like me.see
he would not mind 50-50 bills sharing but does not want 50-50 housework.childcare.but ultimately its abt understanding.

Jaycee said...

I think the balance would differ from couple to couple. I've always been one to look at things based on individual circumstances. I love doing things for hubby, and it comes naturally do me...although there are times when I physically can't, and because he loves me he understands.

I don't take it lightly when a man abuses his woman (like the scenario you mentioned). And I see no reason why the woman should remain mute, that's verbal abuse.

Some husbands love to cook, others don't. Some wives love to cook, others don't. No matter what the situation is, love requires that a couple come to some sort of balance (if the man really loves the woman and the woman really loves the man, they'll find a way to work it out.)

Naijalines said...

I'd call the Police anonymously. He has no right to do that to her!
The point is: mothers have a duty to bring up their daughters to value themselves so they do not get abused in this way.

Unless we take over that mantle and start nourishing the minds of young girls - to have a healthy sense of their own identity and self, this abuse that is widespread in our communities, will continue.

As per your duty to get him food, no it is not. In my view, he is an adult and can fend for himself. Unless the person is disabled, that is when it becomes a duty, cos they cannot help themselves. Whatever we do for our partners (that they can do for themselves), we do out of love. Therefore, it should not be an expectation or a demand on us.

The more independent the man is around the house, the better your relationship will be, especially when the children come along. Train him now! ;)

Well...those are my two cents on the matter.

Miss FlyHigh said...

Jaycee I love what you said about Love requires them to come to some sort of balance. I was telling a lady in my church that if a man loves his wife they will compromise for each other and work around things.

For example. She told me that the mans wife was not willing to always wash plates that she didn't like it and he gets vex about it. i said that maybe she needs time getting used to it. if not they can sort an arrangement out but instead he told her to leave the house. Come on? what happened to the love? is washing plates more important? ah ah . Anyways if she loves him she will be willing to start washing up regardless. The lady in my church told me that they are not compatible. I think that is nonsense. all because of plates?

Anyways couples from two different cultures can compromise and adapt to each others way of doing things. If not then it most probably won't work.

Great post

Anyaposh said...

The ideas about staying true to my 'traditional' roots are both thrilling and kind of scary. But as a woman of many identities, I don't think that I should be expected to play any stereotypical "mama iyabo" roles as per wifely matters. I believe, every marriage is unique. So my husband to-be should not confer on me the daunting representation/expectations of what it means to be a wife from a whole culture! I cannot do it, I will not do it. I'm just not up to par for that kinda hardship.

doll said...

I would imagine that there would be no standard balance; one size fit all couple balance. It depends on you and your partner, I guess the most important thing will be to be you. Don’t take what you wont take from the beginning so that if the partner cant be with you he moves on. Some people are more submissive than others, while some might be more tolerant than others. So the balance is what makes you happy. E.g for your two examples, I wont do any, I probably wont take permission from the boyfriend, or fetch him food on a good day, but that’s me. So individuality matters

My world said...

I was here,and loved the conversation :)

tankojjetty said...

Hmmm, UK,US,NIGERIA...its all the same...At the end of the day, i think its understanding between both parties that matters....

If the spouse doesnt see a big deal in the Modern/Traditional wahala, then all's well.

well the abusive part is just crossing the line, calling the cops in naija will prolly not work...maybe you should talk to your neighbour (the wife) to seek for help or something

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musco said...

I strongly believe there shouldn't be a clash of cultures. A whole lot of us forget that we are just privileged to be in another culture where a lot of things are out of hand.

To a large extent, balancing modern and traditional culture in marriage/relationship boils down to marrying the best person meant for one and who is ready to take us for who we are no matter the culture in question.

Your neighbor already knows the man she married, guess that's why she doesn't talk back.

LucidLilith said...

I say that modern relationships should be balanced and fair...50/50 if you will. If the man is the sole provider, then the woman should do her fair share and run the home. If they both work, then the household chores should be shared; whoever is the better cook should cook most of the meals, the other SHOULD help out. Whoever likes to clean should clean, the other can take care of yard work. Balance out one another's strenghts and weaknesses, and always be fair.

If one person needs to go out with friends, inform the other and if it does not interfere with any other pre-planned thing, then go.

No need for any caveman/woman ideology.

Afronuts said...

I could go on giving an analogy on how this should work but I like to speak on stuff I've experimented with and found to work.

Its a serious issue but I guess it still has to do with differences - like two different people coming from two different backgrounds. But I still don't see that as a reason for a husband to enslave his wife or treate her like some labour comodity he put in the house. The way many men treat their wives in the name of 'tradition' is so myopic and warped. A lot of our tradition is crap.

From my own experience as a married person, I think understanding each other properly in terms of background and personality is very key.

A lot of people don't realize the spiritual import of marriage . Have you noticed that people who fight with their wives will always have problems? I discovered that anytime I get into an serious disagreement with my wife, my day will be ruined.

The ill-treatment of a wife by any husband is his undoing.

Olufunke said...

I can feel your confusion.
Culture clash is a serious issue, while we struggle to be ourselves, we also want to do right by the society.
In all I think understanding is it, people differ, and every relationship is uniue, and no one should compare relationships. If we make our decisions sincerely in love, there would be less problems.

and LOL@ Afronuts....true talk

LusciousRon said...

A tad dicey, it's all about understanding I think.

Anonymous said...

some naija men are just looking for slaves. PERIOD!

StandTall-The Activist said...

Naijalines had said it all, I will just say that it is not in a woman's interest to "TRAIN HIM" like he said. It is up to the up bringing of the boy as well. If daughters are trained to values themselves, sons too should have similar training so that when marriage happens, these values will guide them through and understanding will slip in easily.

I will not tackle this issue from the point of view of traditional or modern. I will rather see it with a lens of two individual who understand what respect for oneself and each other means, who again should treat each other as human beings and have in mind that they can both make things happen in their relationship...

Seshe James said...

Your post feels like you took it right out of my mouth. I have being having this conversation with the African women at work. My own view on this matter is almost the same as yours, I believe that the 21st century has given women so much freedom(Good News) and if i have to share bills 50/50 with my Patner i believe that he should help me around the house aswell, not neccessarily in the kitchen but tidying up the house. Am a human being and i deserve to rest as well, Am no man's slave. I will treat him like the head, I will do my duties as a woman and respect him regardless of who brings in the most money but i will not tolerate an abusive,Lazy and dirty Man.

I will be humble and respectful but anyman that does not appreciate what i do and takes me for granted should forget knowing me.