Several friends of mine are going through some trials in their marriages. This is not of itself an unusual phenomenon. But we are African women and our story needs to be told. Our experiences may or may not be similar to yours. The common threads however are the peculiar challenges faced by African women married to African men in Diaspora, far away from the context of family and home. Far away from the checks and balances that make us who we are: – the wise counsel of our elders, the massive support of our mothers and sisters, the refuge of our family compound.ï¿½Foluke'sï¿½ï¿½ (real name withheld) story continues.ï¿½
He moved out of our shared bedroom when the baby was a few months old. It happened insidiously, and no coherent reason was ever given.
He was a light sleeper.
He did not like to “cuddle”.
He needed to be awake and alert for work in the morning.
He had to study for some technical exams.
He needed some privacy.
He set himself up in the guest room. Now you have to understand that the bedroom had never been a particularly fantastic aspect of our marriage to begin with. He was selfish, arrogant, ignorant and self-serving in life and in bed. He would go for days without speaking to me, really communicating, and suddenly, boom! I am expected to respond to advances. I felt used. But at least he was there, and I still had the illusion that I was married. He was the quintessential finish and roll over in a tight ball guy.
When he moved out, he took it to a whole new level. I would be fast asleep and suddenly, there he would be, unannounced. Then he would finish and leave. If he had left some money by the bed stand I could not have felt cheaper. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of our life together. I told no one. I could not. What was there to tell, and to whom? All I know is that I lived with this constant, gnawing pain and emptiness in my soul. Eventually the pain dulled, as I learned not to care so much. I was convinced I was useless, and hopeless, and it was my son who got me out of bed daily. He was my raison d'ï¿½tre.
I was no angel. I occasionally rebelled against the tight control he wielded over me. I complained, I screamed. It was useless. All rebellion was quickly and expertly squelched. He was better at conflict than I was, and knew how to fight dirty. He called me names, used really personal knowledge about me to put me down. My family background. Intimate stuff he learnt about me because he was my husband. Everything was fair game. I backed down each time, defeated and wounded.ï¿½My self-esteem was in the gutter. Would there be a happy ending?
To be continued.