A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Ask Auntie Chambu
By African Magazine Staff Writer
Importing a Spouse from back home

Dear Auntie Chambu,

I'm a thirty year old systems analyst who has been living in the California for the past five years. I've been dating for most of that time and have found it hard to find a life partner. My parents still live back home and have been talking about finding a wife for me. I never thought I would say yes to such a thing but after internet match ups and blind dates, I'm ready to take a chance. Should I take that chance?
San Jose

Dear Peter,
In many traditional African village settings, marriage is arranged by the bride and groom's family members. A groom's family searches high and low, locates, then courts a wife for their son taking in to consideration the prospective bride's behavior, social standing, and even family wealth. The groom's family usually has a general idea about the particular family before they begin their investigation. If and when the groom's family is satisfied, his family lets their intentions be known to their potential in-laws. If the girl's family accepts the proposal, a verbal agreement is entered into between the two families and a wedding date is set. The girl may or may not have actually spoken to her future husband but she might know him from village gatherings.

In today's modern world, we are scattered all over. People live outside their village: in towns, cities, and overseas. The closeness and familiarity that once existed has faded to a threadbare recognition of family names. The support network that held relationships together including marriages is weakened.

It is therefore no surprise that the groom's family does not quite know the girl they are sending over to their "son " as well as they should. In most cases the two families barely know each other and the bride- to- be may have been off schooling far from the village for many years. And so under the best of circumstances, the girl is sent off into marriage overseas to meet a husband-to-be she has only known through pictures. No telephone calls, no e-mails. She arrives in let's say, America with her own grandiose ideas about freedom and the good-life. The groom of course has his own ideas about what his straight from Africa wife should be like, submissive and all. He forgets that that was then and now marriage is different. And so the dance begins. When the husband says right, the wife says left. The result is friction and continuous bickering over nothing. After some time children are born into this chaos. The couple hangs in there and the family goes on because after all, they are from the same village.

Don't let this be the story of your union. It is true that we live in an ever changing world today. We all move around for work, education, to personal reasons. But the advantages of the modern life are many. We live in an age when telecommunications and travel is easy. May I suggest that if at all possible that you as a man choose your own wife. I mean, allow your families and friends to introduce you to many young ladies. Make calls or take trips back home to meet and get to know women there. Though e-mails and telephone contact helps, there is nothing better than a face to face visit. Make sure you find someone who's not looking for a meal ticket- a Yankee boy to come home for the holidays and be her 'Fada Christmas.'

You have an advantage here that you are both coming from the same cultural background which should ease understanding. But find out more. Communicate. What are her values? Is she a go-getter, church going, education-minded, and family-oriented? Pay attention to her relationships with her family and friends. I assure you that if you take the time to ask these and other questions, you will understand the young ladies who have been introduced to you. And I can guarantee that you will choose wisely. It is better to lie on a bed you make yourself. At the least you will have developed a lot of understanding, patience, but most of all, the necessary communication skills along the way. I wish you peace and bliss in your time together. Good luck!

Auntie Chambu, 52, was born and raised in the grasslands of Cameroon. This sheltered nineteen year old, boarding school girl came to a rebellious 60's United States to pursue a college degree and her dreams. She garnered degrees in social work and counseling, got married, and had four kids who constantly put her education and home spun wisdom to the test. After over twenty years of living on the two continents, her advice has a great mixture of traditional African insights with a spirited American independent thinker streak.

Need answers to a problem? Send your question to Auntie Chambu at askauntie@africanmag.com. Only letters selected for publication will be answered