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 Lost his Job
I knew a day would come when our family would face a major crisis we were not emotionally prepared for. That day had come. Families face crises all the time. I always believed the strength of the family unit made all the difference. In an ideal world, husband and wife have a strong relationship based on mutual love and trust. They have grown and matured together over the years. They have had major and minor disagreements and roughed through it all together. They have grown to understand each other. Neither is perfect, but they have adjusted and adapted to each other’s idiosyncrasies. The husband loses his job, and they sit and discuss the adjustments that need to be made. The wife steps up. They work their way through the lean years, life goes on.
Now back to my reality. In the midst of a bad marriage came a major calamity. He lost his job. Hitherto, I had had no idea how much he earned, just that he paid the mortgage and I paid all utilities. Suddenly, everything was up in the air. How much was the mortgage? I did not know. Would he tell me? He was still cocky enough to believe he would pick up another job in a matter of days. He was still secretive about his finances. I began to ask tough questions. What would happen if you cannot get another job soon and the unemployment payments run out? Where are the mortgage documents? Perhaps I had delusions of grandeur that I could take over the payments. Ha!
No concrete answers. He collected a big severance premium from his former employers and kept it all to himself. I was extremely uneasy, but I had learnt not to push him too hard. He would just snarl at me. Then came the big announcement.
He was putting the house on the market and moving to Florida to get in to the real estate business. Some friends of his had told him that real estate was really ‘hot’ over there. I told him I could not just leave my job, my son’s school and friends and all that was dear and familiar for an uncertain future. Let’s talk it over, maybe there are other options… No. He had made up his mind – he was selling his house, and using the money to start out afresh. I said, wait a minute, it’s my house too. I will spare you the details. A few more words flew back and forth, and just like that, my tortuous marriage was over.
In a nutshell, the house would be sold. Since I refused to move to Florida, I was advised to start looking for alternative accommodation for myself and my son. Out of the goodness of his heart he would give me some money from the proceeds of house sale to pay the first few months of rent. He would be moving immediately and would come back in a few weeks to pick up his things.
The next few weeks were a blur. The real estate agent put up a sign. People came to my house to look around. He was gone. I was numb. I reached out to a friend and told my story. What should I do? What have I done? Should I have agreed to move with him?