Tuesday, 07 February 2012 08:24

When Tying the Knot Turns Business

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There was a time when Africans, especially the men, kept to their promise of someday returning home to marry the women they left behind. And indeed, a great many did without regard to the women’s financial or social standing. Promises were generally kept, and love honored. Others returned to marry women that had been prearranged based on culture, religion, or family relationship. Those days are mostly long gone as relationship between fiancé and fiancée, at home and abroad, generally comes to an end within a few months of one party leaving the African shore.

Today, most Africans who return home to marry do so for different reasons -- with no bearing on past relationship or family connection. Most would not confess the true reasons why they return in search of a bride or groom; and neither would those in the continent admit to the real reasons why they agree to such marriages. The way I see it, it is mostly economics on both sides.

As the economic situation in the continent becomes dire and abject poverty becomes endemic, more and more African men and women find ways to snag overseas-based suitors. As overseas-based suitors ponder their lot in life, they realize that their lives would be better off only if they snagged a partner with high financial potential to improve the household economic and social standing. In other words, recent marriages within the African community in the Diaspora are a bet on future income and prosperity. Altruism is out: self-indulgence and narcissism is in. Seen from both ends therefore, economic consideration becomes the overarching and decisive factor for marriage.

Put another way: marriage is a business venture. Most people no longer speak of, or allude to love, affection, respect, rapport, common interest, common vision and such variables. Economic considerations trump all “emotional” arguments. That love is overrated, inconveniencing, and gradually becoming a nuisance is not lost on most African suitors. The vast majority of prospective brides and grooms have at the top of their minds a simply cost-benefit analysis. They not only wonder if marriage would be beneficial but also what their prospective partners will bring to the table. In recent years, those who discount economic considerations are now in the minority -- their numbers thinning and becoming statistically insignificant.

There are exceptions to this proposition as some marriages are still based on love, affection, family and cultural considerations, religious tenets and value. To truly grasp what is happening to marriage, one needs to examine the African community in the United States of America, where stories abound of how men go back home to get married to professional women and return only to be used and abandoned by the women. But of course, imported professional husbands are also abandoning their wives.

In the end though, many African marriages are a farce, and an embarrassment to the marriage institution. It has gotten to this state mostly because men and women enter into the union based on false premise, false pretext and bogus promises. The lies and the deceits on both sides, the superficiality of intentions on both sides, and the broken promises coupled with high expectations have become the bane of African marriages. 

Africans, Nigerians especially, prefer nurses and doctors. These groups of professionals are considered cash-cows in the United States. If you live in any of the big cities in the United States, you are likely to hear about or be invited to a welcoming party for newly arrived African wives, who are sometimes 10-18 years younger than their husbands. Often, the new arrivals would be men, imported husbands.

Most African women come from systems and traditions where men are better educated and are at the helm of political and economic power and therefore, in most cases, are the sole economic providers. Once in the US and able to go to college, work and provide for themselves, most of these women no longer see their husbands as sole-captains, but co-captains, co-breadwinners, and co-equals. This realization changes the way they relate to their husbands.

Consequently, the big cities are replete with African women who are either single mothers, women in their second or third marriages, or women who simply provide sexual favors to hungry African men. There are groups of single or divorced African women who “move” from one city to another in search of husbands. Most are well read, well traveled and have achieved some measure of financial and career success. By then, the question for most is “What is success without a husband or a children-filled home?”

Rare is the African man in the US who will marry a woman with children or one who went through a messy divorce. So, for all those “homegrown African wives” who think they will find another husband once they leave their matrimonial homes, well, they are in for a big shock…a rude awakening! After the shock comes the sadness, depression and hopelessness.

As for the men, well, most will feel cheated, used, failures, and may develop psychological hatred for African women. It is never easy on the men. Never! After several years of sending money to Africa to support these women, going through the tedious immigration process and now have the women unilaterally declare self-independence, walk out of the marriage and in severe cases, call in the government to intercede, this is injurious to the men’s ego and sense of self.  Once the men come out of this experience, they tend to marry women of other races. Their view of the African woman is never the same again.

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Sabella Abidde Ph.D

lives in the Washington DC area. His previous state of residence includes Minnesota, Texas, Washington State, Florida and Oklahoma. He has a wide range of leisure pursuits i.e. cooking, military and political strategies, the informal economy and diplomatic concerns. He also considers himself a good dancer.

His essays have appeared in several Nigerian newspapers including the Guardian, Vanguard, Daily Trust, the Daily Independent, and the New Age. He is also a freelancer for a California-based magazine. In addition, he has a noticeably presence on the internet -- churning out sociological and anthropological articles; and also commenting on global politics. Politically, he is a liberal. He teeters between agnosticism and atheism. He is however, a great believer in social justice, ethics and morality and the rule of law.

Until next time, he leaves you with the words of Max Ehrmann (in Desiderata): "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time..."

Sabidde@yahoo.com