As African immigrants work relentlessly to pass down their culture to their children in the Diaspora, they’re cognizant of the fact of the existence of a significant clash between their home culture and the new one. In any case, the American culture and law, favorable to women as many may claim, seem to paralyze the African males, particularly the Nigerian men, to the degree of total submission and hopelessness when it comes to asserting themselves as the head of the household. Unlike in Africa where a man could resolve a marital problem by simply marrying another woman without getting a divorce from the current one, the American law prohibits such practice. In the US, bigamy is against the law—well, except in some parts of Utah where some members of religious sects roam with more than one wife. The bigamy law seems to be a chokehold on African men whose pride and arrogance have been checkmated by the American law and culture. Some African men feel frustrated and hopeless contending with the aspect of the American culture that deprives them of the opportunity to have more than one wife.
The two seminal variables, law and culture, are more profound when an African man is going through a marital problem or divorce from a wife he brought from home, Africa. It’s pertinent to note that divorce is now common among Africans, especially Nigerians in America. It’s become a common means to end marital problems. However, in some cases the problems never seem to go away long after the divorce. In most cases, some of these divorces, African divorces in the Diaspora, are nothing, but messy and destructive to children. The recurring sad stories of African men going through a divorce from their native wives are replete with comments such as these: “American law favors these women.” This could not happen in Africa (Nigeria).” “America gives these ladies too much freedom, too many rights.” “She wants to get all the money she could.” “She’s only after child support.” “She even wants spousal support.” “If I were in Africa, I would have married another wife.” “She wants to control me.” She wants to dictate what will happen.” The list goes on, at least, from the perspective of the men. On the other hand, the women often say the following: “This is America; this is not Nigeria.” “I can do without you.” “I’ve the freedom to do what I want.”
In all these, I’m most struck with this comment by a woman who was having conjugal problems with her husband: “I’m no longer in love with him.” No longer in love with him! That typifies many Nigerian marriages that in the face of buoyancy seem to harbor a violent temper simmering beneath the surface. So many people have been able to cover their marital problems from the Nigerian community. Some of these people put on a show to temporarily cover up their internal rage from outsiders. Nevertheless, fear of eruption always lurks behind such pretense.
Though the discussion on the factors that give rise to the African divorces in the Diaspora is not within the purview of this article, the causes, however, could have been reluctantly accepted by the women in Africa to remain in the marriage. It would have been culturally pilloried for them to leave their marriages.
Culturally speaking, it’s a taboo for women to leave or abandon their marriages; divorce seems to be rare in Africa for two reasons. The culture frowns at it. Secondly, the culture allows men to have more than one wife. Unlike the recent immigrants, those who came to America in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s came primarily for education and planned to go back. The frustration of remaining abroad—self-exile—seems to compound the discernible disgusting psyche. The present state of mind of some African immigrants, particularly Nigerian immigrants to the U.S. breeds rant and rave in their respective relationships. The impact of cultural clash seems to be overwhelming on some immigrants than others. Some people tend to accommodate the new culture better than others. Still, there are immigrants who have adopted the concept of cultural assimilation. These individuals seem to do well within the American culture. That said, it’s disconcerting to see the alarming rate of divorce among Nigerians in US. It would rather be a flawed assertion to blame the epidemic on American law and culture. It’s about personal responsibility.
Talking about divorce, while the nomenclature of relationships is not within the scope of this piece, in the Diaspora, however, relationships, especially monogamous ones, are under immense pressure or stress either because of the environmental factors or other unique circumstances. No matter what the circumstances are, it is often more convenient to abandon a stressful or tumultuous relationship than to painfully go through the agonizing years of resolving the inherent protracted problems. In some cases, some people are just hanging in there for the kids in a relationship that has long ended. The foundation for male-female relationship was prefaced in Genesis, especial in Genesis 1:27-28 which said, “God … created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number …” Further insight on the foundation of male-female relationship could be found in Genesis 2:24-25. Also, it could be deduced that relationships are meant to be joyful, less stressful, and without acrimony.
However, the stress in some of these relationships is exacerbated by the absence of clear communication and understanding of each other. Because of a perceived notion that the man does not understand, care, or respect his partner, the problems in these relationships inevitably grow strong wings and soar unrelentingly until the catastrophic mid air collision. Sometimes, leaving the debris and walking away may appear to be a viable option. Perhaps, picking up the pieces from the ruins may seem more painful than the initial collision. The pain and simmering anger may be more excruciating with each reflective moment of the old. This is all about deciphering the emotional construct of a Nigerian woman in an American context.
Some people feel that the stress in male-female relationships could be reduced if men have the knowledge of what the women want. The only caveat is, do women really know what they want from men? To quote a colleague in a casual conversation where he was talking about inherent inconsistencies in human, he said “My ex-fiancée wanted me to be the leader of the household, but she never gave me the opportunity to lead; she did not allow me to lead.” He continued by saying that she took the power to provide the desired leadership away from him.Secularly speaking, no one has the elixir, including the women themselves, for unlocking the mystery behind the emotional state of women at any given period.
There is even an old cliché that says that if one wants to live happily with his wife, that individual has to employ only one eye, instead of two eyes, to view things in the relationship. Though I am neither a marriage counselor nor a monogamous relationship expert, yet based on experience, I have some knowledge of minutiae in a monogamous relationship.
It is understandable that a woman’s emotional state is dynamic, particularly when it comes to expressing her needs. This phenomenon makes it difficult to sometimes accurately discern or ascertain her immediate needs based on cues. A woman’s needs keep changing continuously. Women are frustrated that men could not understand their needs in any given period. Men are even more frustrated with lack of understanding or predictability of women’s needs based on the known cues. The same cue may signal totally different needs.
On the other hand, men are not as intuitive as women. As result, men may not know what women want or need at a given time. Sadly, they may never tell us since it is expected that we should have known. Our psychological makeup, predisposition, and perspectives on things, especially on things men consider minor, are starkly different. These, among other variables, account for how differently men and women view, receive, analyze, conceptualize, and internalize things.