African relationships could be likened to an octopus, a sea animal with multiple legs. It has never been nuclear and ending the extended family system practice is not near in sight. It will definitely be a very difficult task to throw the black continent’s relationship system away because nature has made it to be so and that explains why such relationships should be carefully harnessed.
Specifically, African marriage as an institution is a relationship deeply rooted in tradition and culture. The first proceed of the union is the in-laws on both sides before the offspring starts to crop up. These in-laws are not fabricated from the moon, they are the different family members related to the husband and the wife. It is important to note that as far as marriages are contracted, human relationships which include these other people called in-laws must be involved in times of good or bad tidings. Therefore, attitude, character, personal lifestyle and individual feelings evolve from the relationship of the in-laws on both sides. Some couples have tried to live as a nuclear family, but it has failed in most cases as it is alien to us in Africa. Misunderstanding between couples and their in-laws is also part of the relationship and union. But nevertheless, the ability to manage, package and handle the issues signifies how matured, responsible and accomplished the in-laws are.
Be it as it may, anybody can be an in-law. A boy, who is a brother-in-law today, will grow to become a father in-law on both sides tomorrow, likewise sisters who would grow and become mothers-in-law on both sides. If she shields her husband from his people, so also will his son be shielded away from her at old age. It is a vicious circle of relationship, which simply means that what comes around goes around.
In-laws relationships are not only about parents. It extends to other members of the family both young and old. Sustaining the relationship is not the duty of one person. It should be a collective responsibility from all involved. There are expectations and functions of all, both young and old, to make the in-law relationship a happy place. Wife is not the only one expected to be crucified on the altar of in-law mandate; she is left with most burdens because she is a wife. This assumption is wrong. Relationship is a two way thing. If a wife is busy, her in-laws could assist her with chores and she appreciates the effort.
One of the issues that brings about in-laws war are parent’s standing by their own badly behaved children instead of reprimanding and cautioning them on bad behaviours. Now, if every parent begins to see his son or daughter as a ‘blameless smart cat’ when there are issues, the centre will not hold and it will escalate into a bigger in-laws brawl.
Now, there is no parent who would not be proud to have responsible in-law who the family can always count worthy, be it a son or daughter; brother or sister, but when nauseating atmospheric condition raise its obnoxious head, things could be sorted out amicably and fall into place again and life goes on.
To reduce in-law brushes, the onus, therefore, lies on parents and guardians to begin a process of damage repair and control. Training, counselling and advising of the children before they get into marriage is very important. Keeping in touch with them is equally great. What do I mean? Accepting responsibilities as a husband or wife instead of de-marketing the spouse to your parents will make life a lot easier. Where there is need for admonition, apology, and truthfulness, please go ahead and spread it on the table for peace to reign. Nobody is above mistake.
There have been situations where husbands ban their in-laws from visiting their homes out of ill-feelings. An unruly son or daughter in-law whose parents stand by at all times is a problem that needs solution.
But again, there have been cases where new entrants in forms of in-laws into a family rewrite history. A classmate once told us that he and his twin brother were being trained by their older sister’s husband. This in-law has earned the confidence of the family through his action and could be counted on when there is need.
I have not forgotten Prof Kate Onwughalu, a former Commissioner for Education in Anambra State. We met at a media stakeholder’s conference in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. She came to the conference with her sister-in-law who is not as lettered as she is. She said… “Since her brother married me, she has been wonderful to me in many areas. Whenever I call upon her, she will answer me. So in appreciation, once I have any opportunity to be grateful, I do it without minding, especially at times like this, I take her out for sight-seeing, change her environment and give her a treat for the few days I will attend my conference. While I am in the hall or class, she could be in my hotel room, swimming pool area, or somewhere else enjoying herself. Both were thanking each other like Siamese twins meanwhile they are in-laws.
What can someone say about retired grand-parents who couple as in-laws and stood in the gap for their young married children who probably lost jobs and cannot meet up with their demands anymore. They do school runs for them. All these are various forms of fun-loving in-law relationships.
However, not all in-laws are badly behaved, both young and old, but it is for all to know their limit, know how to treat one anoother because what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. Mothers -in-law, what you will not want to happen to your daughter in her own home, you should not do to your daughter in-law.
Yet, there are also all-round demonic in-laws who exist among us. When a story broke out on how a brother-in-law wooed and slept with all his wife’s younger sisters, shame, bitterness and raging anger took over the scenario. It became a doomsday for both families. Of course, this type of in-law has left an indelible mark that history will always remember. He is a satanic shameful in-law.
Kudos to mothers who caution their tender children, both boys and girls, with words like, “Do not do that again, when you marry, your in-laws will say I did not train you”.
When parents begin to rebuke their children in marriage, it will go a long way to improving the relationship. When a husband’s confidence is reassured that his in-laws will not support their daughter’s bad behaviour, he is reassured that the marriage will not break and thus he wouldn’t take issues between them seriously.
I sincerely respect the view of a certain retired former managing direction of a clue-chip company on in-law relations. He addresses his sons and daughters-in-law as “my daughters and sons in-love instead of in-law.”. When asked why? He said… “If a son or a daughter chose a particular man or woman from the multitude of the creation to spend all the rest of his life with, and God endorses such a union with children, who are we not to follow suit? From the first day, I see my in-laws as my second family because legal marriage relationship has brought us close. When my in-laws are crying I am crying with them and when there is a reason to celebrate, it is a family celebration and I would not stand aloof; I will be committed in every aspect of the ceremony.
Also the same super in-laws relationship played out between two students during our university years. it was just a school relationship as young undergrads that blossomed into a beautiful bond that unified the families while they weren’t married. Their parents had started relating as great in-laws before their children walked down the aisle.
Yes, no parent wants his or her own child to be maltreated unnecessarily in marriage, but at the same time, all men should be followed with peace.
For the couples, marriage they say is not a bed of roses. People should begin to drop certain behaviour that raises dusts between in-laws as they grow in life. There are no specified rules and regulations guiding any marriage, but a standard practice is there for all to emulate. When your child complains to you as a parent, get to hear from his or her spouse and sort things out between them amicably. But all in-laws should respect the people involved in marriage and give them space to bond.