They say events come at you either as blessings or lessons. My marriage has been half of both. I married from a relatively richer family, and I must add that the fact that my wife came from a wealthy family, had absolutely no influence on my choice. I met her when her parents were not as wealthy as they would later become, and we were in love. At that time, my parents gave me a ‘mid-budget vehicle’ shortly after my graduation from a state University in Nigeria. And so, even though my father was not Dangote, he could afford quality life and education for his children. My wife’s parents over the years ascended in wealth and riches, and our wedding was relatively big. Dowry from her side of Nigeria was expectantly high, and I paid it with relative ease.
Fast forward to seven years afterwards, when as a man your financial apron-strings to your parents has had to be cut even before leaving your parents’ house, as you make your way for yourself. I have come to learn that these apron-strings are easier to cut for a man than they are for women, especially women from comparatively well to do backgrounds, and hence the troubles for the unwise woman in this situation.
Leaving the comfort of my father’s house in Ibadan, I could afford a mid-income apartment in a sub-urban part of Lagos, with few house gadgets and facilities. My business was doing great, and even though not luxury, our living was comfortable. But then, comfort is subjective, for no matter how much sacrifices I put into stocking my abode with items to ensure comfort for my wife, she and her parents always believed I could do better. They rarely visited, and when they did, would sit in a corner with their noses in the air, and as they leave shortly I would swear they will take a long bath in hand-sanitizers when they got home. Nonetheless, I did do better, and over the years things went on fine at the expense of my personal self-care.
And then came that family-finance stifling recession. You assure yourself that things would be fine, and all you needed to do was double your hustle. Hustle doubled, and results reduced. Bills increased, and nagging followed suit. I have found out that a woman’s nagging on her husband could either be overt or covert. I’d take the overt nagging any day, over the quiet and obvious discontent. At least with the expressed discontent, you can target your financial attention. No matter how much you try, her communication reduces and you know why. She starts visiting her parents more often, and discussing financial choices with them. They start dropping hints into her bank account. She starts paying some bills and buying ‘luxury food-items’, but you cannot complain, even though you know where the money came from. Yet you double, nay, triple your hustle and hope for better days.
And that’s when the problems started- A classic case of he who pays the piper. Her parents start giving instructions without consulting you. It starts with suggestions, and then downright directives on how your home should be run. But you are the man of the house and you direct otherwise. Short of them laughing at your effrontery, they are infuriated that you dare overrule their wishes. Who are you? You observe the gradual disappearance of your wife’s respect for you, while you notice that her parents don’t even factor your presence in any equation. You are vilified, and your wife is torn between obeying her parents’ wishes and abiding by your directives.
I give you an example. This here school is where my children will go, because that’s what I can afford and they are happy in this school, you say. And the response through her, of course because they don’t call you directly but speak to your wife. They say, ‘what? That school? Okay, find a better school in your neighbourhood and let us know how much it costs.’ You get to know about this when your wife starts hunting for a new (expensive) school. I can’t afford that for the two of them, you say. ‘Don’t worry,’ she responds. ‘Mummy said she will pay for it.’ Now, domestic violence is a big matter to the state government and the news is rife with men sent to jail for wife battery. Otherwise, you would have sent those series of slaps in quick succession, enough to wipe her make-up clean off and change her phone network. Besides, if you had done that, her parents would be glad to take her back in their huge mansion, while you battle for your children’s custody or even access to them. Since you can’t react, you swallow your anger and put your foot down, albeit tenderly.
But things did change for the better part of 2017, far better than before, and during the festive season you conveniently sent bags of rice and vegetable oil to them. Occasionally, you send recharge cards and cash, no matter how small to them, while maintaining your physical absence. You can now restrict your wife’s visit to them. I must add, that the respect has grown tremendously, and hilariously too. Now they call for permission before they send her on errands. Now their calls always go unanswered because I am busy, and they graciously understand, and just wanted to check up on you.
Lessons: In family relationships, money is important. Your love is noticed when supported with money. Maintain your respect with strategic absence. Money used strategically buys your wife's (and in-laws) respect. Teach your wife to always reveal lesser information than necessary; the less you reveal to people (in-laws) about what goes on internally, the better, and more respect both of you get. There can only be one captain in a ship, and as a husband you need to put your foot down, sometimes diplomatically. Your ships must sail in one direction, and orders are from only one captain. As much as possible, reduce or eliminate holes in your matrimonial walls, to prevent matrimonial lizards from creeping in. No matter what you are going through, you will go through it. I knew that that phase would pass, and I pray I live to tell this tale to my kids when they are about to get married. Importantly, I have learnt that my boys should pick from a home and not a house with arrogant in-laws with the feeling of entitlement. And if you can avoid it, try not to marry a woman from a wealthy background, unless you can assure yourself of her humility.