He Suggested Counseling
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. Foluke's (real name withheld) story continues.
He Suggested Counseling
For years I had been the meek, retiring wife. My husband would hurl mountains of verbal abuse at me and I would sit and take it, quietly sobbing. It took very little to set him off, and it was practically impossible to predict and avoid his episodes of manic ranting. Once it was toys sitting in the middle of his living room. Another time it was breakfast dishes still unwashed at lunch time. A long lecture would ensue about Discipline, Cleanliness, Peace and Order in the universe, his role as tireless Provider, working day and night to keep body and soul together; expecting nothing more than a few creature comforts of home, ad nauseam. In it would be woven the common thread of my inadequacies in childrearing, house-keeping, personal hygiene, intellectual ability, time management and social graces to name a few. This was of course as a result of my inferior family background, uncurbed appetite for food, evidenced by my recent massive weight gain (that at least was true, I had put on some weight). The more disgust he expressed at my weight, the more I ate. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. My son kept me focused. I could not voluntarily leave him at the mercy of that cold hearted man.
These were exchanges with no resolutions. We never fought and made up. We were neither lovers nor friends, just a married couple, strange as it may sound. Our home was a hotbed of tension that grew worse with each passing day. I remember thinking once that all we needed was a major disaster, (I hated to imagine the possibilities) for all hell to finally break loose. We had not built a family that could withstand a major upset. Little did I know that it was coming.
One day, to his utter shock, I began to answer back. I stopped shrinking back, quit the crying and looked him in the eye.
“Have you ever thought about helping out around the house, you selfish bastard? I work night shift five days a week and I am not lazy. I work just as hard as you, if not more. If you want the house cleaner, clean it yourself.”
I had stood up to the bully and he backed down. For a while. Maybe he thought it was a fluke and he came at me again, a few days later for another minor infraction. I unleashed the fury of hell against him, and this time I saw some uncertainty in his eyes. He was not quite sure how to handle this new me.
After a few heated exchanges in which he came out the worse (his fragile ego could not handle it), he suggested that we should go for counseling, because it was obvious we now had ‘problems’.
Of course I agreed. An African man agreeing to or even suggesting couples’ counseling? Unheard of! Counseling was an unqualified failure. Apparently, all he wanted was a forum where he could resume his typical raving and ranting, unchallenged. There was a lot of finger-pointing and unbridled rage on his part. He was not there to listen or to compromise. The counselor threw in the towel after a couple of fruitless sessions.
Where would we go from here?
To be continued…..
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