Dear Auntie Chambu:
I have been happily married for over twenty years yet financial opportunities, allowing me to help settle two of my three children into the American system, have brought on a temporary separation from my husband. He is retired and living back home while I am here working as a nursing assistant. It was a decision he and I took together in the understanding that we could better afford college bills for our kids with some dollars in our pockets. Yet for the short time that I have been here there has already been some strain- I call my relatives and hear so much gossip flowing about my spouse. Hear about infidelity and how my youngest daughter is being neglected. When I ask my husband about things he is distant and accusatory about what I've been up to while here. I don't want to lose my marriage- what should I do?
You are joining an ever growing club. There are many couples that I know of who are living apart. Some men and mostly women, including myself, are here in the United States away from their family and friends in Africa for the very reasons you have stated and more. Most of these couples are apart in order to provide a better future for their children and families. On the other hand, this is a sad state of affairs because the separation creates so many other problems.
So there is gossip about your husband running around with other women. Right? Well I have known instances in which female relatives and friends who bring food to the home in order to help in your absence are then reputed to be concubines. Even women whom your husband may help give rides to, regardless of their relationships, are considered your husband's "girlfriends." And to add insult to injury, I bet that you hear talk of your husband squandering the few dollars you send him from time to time, on his female friends or on clothing. But ask yourself, unknown to the gossip mongers- could it be he is only wearing the latest suits, shirts or trousers you sent him last Christmas?
To top things off, you're told your youngest child is being neglected- probably reports of her not being fed well or receiving adequate parental supervision. So you assume the worse right? Wrong. I remember the time when I was told that my young children left in the household in Africa were running wild. They were supposedly out late and walking the streets with known neighborhood prostitutes. Naturally, I was very concerned especially since they were girls. After some investigating on my part- it turned out that during some weekends, my children attended their friends' dance parties and other normal teen activities. Fortunately I had a healthy relationship with my children so I could ask them what was going on their lives and not leave things up to hearsay.
Normally you would talk to your spouse and get to the bottom of things but it sounds like he is going through his own spate of distrust. Forgive him- he is probably missing you and it's easy to forget that there is an important reason why you're here. It is not a vacation. You are not living it up in America without him. You're holding down a difficult job, you're working hard and probably tired all the time. All to support your children who are in school buy books and pay their tuition. Unfortunately this is not the news that gets back to him. Instead the phone lines burn up about the fancy lace attire you wore on the one time you attended a cultural event. You are expected to look like death itself or to look shabby or else you must be dressing up for the eye of another man or a "boyfriend." And so the gossip goes both ways.
My advice to you, first and foremost, is that neither you nor your husband hire any private detectives to watch over your affairs. It seems to me that there is a lot of mistaken identity and misinformation that is being related to you both. As you stated before, you do have a good marriage. With a more than twenty year union, I am sure that there is a lot of love and trust between you and your husband. I suggest that you keep the trust and concentrate on your relationship with each other. They say that "too many cooks spoil the porridge." Don't let anyone else dictate the terms of your marriage. My last suggestion is that you, communicate, communicate, communicate, and keep it going with your husband.
Auntie Chambu, 53, 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.
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