As African immigrants work relentlessly to pass down their culture to their children in the Diaspora, they recognize the existence of a significant clash between their home culture and the new one. The seemingly significant difference seems to frustrate many sometimes. 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. Indeed, it’s clash of cultures many men and women are unprepared to deal with.
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 action. In the U.S., bigamy is against the law – well, except in some parts of Utah where some members of a religious sect roam with more than one wife. Nevertheless, 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 the opportunity to have more than one wife in their adopted home country.
The two seminal variables, law and culture, are more profound when an African man is going through marital problems or divorce from a wife he either brought from home or met here. It’s pertinent to note that divorce and legal separations are now widespread among Africans, especially among Nigerians, in America.
Divorce has become a common means to end marital problems—it is becoming a new normal, producing an increasing number of a particular demography.
However, in some cases, the problems never seem to go away long after the divorce is finalized. In most cases, many of these African divorces in the Diaspora are unfortunately 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: “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 can.” “She’s only after child support.” “She even wants spousal support.” “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: “This is America; this is not Nigeria”, “I can do without you”, “I’ve the freedom to do what I want.” Oftentimes, the ladies will say: “I can’t continue to be the only one carrying the family.” However, lately the tide is slowly turning. African men are increasingly gaining custody of their children after divorce.
In all these, I’m most struck with this comment by women who have conjugal problems with her husbands: “I’m no longer in love with him.” That typifies many Nigerian marriages; even those living under the same roof are devoid of love. The phenomenon indicates that in the face of buoyancy, many marriages 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 domestic rage from outsiders.
Though the discussion on the factors that give rise to 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 abandon their marriages—the culture is also changing in Nigeria, where I’ve read incidences of divorce. In any case, divorce seems to be rare in Africa for two reasons: culture frowns at it and the culture allows polygamy.
Unlike the recent immigrants, those who got to America in the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s were there primarily for education, and planned to go back. The frustration of remaining abroad – self-exile – for so long seems to compound the discernible disgusting psyche. The present state of mind of some African immigrants, particularly Nigerians, to the U.S. breeds rant and rave in their respective relationships.
The impact of cultural clash seems to be overwhelming on some immigrants more 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. They seem to do well within the American culture. That said, it’s disconcerting to see the alarming rate of divorce among Nigerians in U.S.
It would rather be a flawed assertion to blame the epidemic on American law and culture. It’s about personal responsibility.Some of the immigrants are not equipped to deal with the pressures arising from the American culture and they shy away from counseling services. However, American culture does not condone infidelity, which has been the primary cause of divorce among Nigerians here in America.
However, unarmed with the skills to cope with the pressure, a few African males have taken laws into their hands by murdering their wives. Nevertheless, it’s not only dreadfully wrong, but also sacrilegious for anyone to take the life of the other, especially his or her spouse. There are other options to get out of a marriage besides killing a spouse. Domestic violence is not one of them; Nigerian communities everywhere must help stop this madness – domestic violence! With this sad development, some people continue to wonder why some of these marriages end deadly. Again, it appears that the gargantuan societal pressure of living a good life coupled with an undue burden from family members in Nigeria continue to exacerbate the many troubled Nigerian marriages. Additionally, some Nigerian marriages in the Diaspora are steadily and surely growing out of love. Compounding the marital problem is the issue of infidelity on both sides.
Sadly, infidelity has ruined some Nigerian marriages in America. Some of the recent divorces have claims of infidelity as their primary causes of marriage travails. Marital infidelity is causing a vast majority of Nigerian marriages flagging with the inevitability of total collapse. No other Nigerian community has suffered more jinx of infidelity than the Dallas area.
The aspersion has permeated the fabric of what was once considered a cohesive community. This has broken the trust members of Nigerian community once had with each other. Forlornly, still, infidelity among Nigerians has been worsened by the recent trend. The latest trend is the annual visit, pilgrimage, as some call it, the men pay to Nigeria in December, which seems to be an escape from the burdens of culture and law. While in Nigeria, some of these men engage in high-risk behaviors with flawed boldness and, perhaps, short-lived excitement in the face of ravaging effects of AIDS and other STDs. This behavior is utterly deplorable.
In any case, we cannot continue to swim against the tide; we have to engage in cultural assimilation no matter how long it takes. Also, the African immigrants should take advantage of array of services that would help them strengthen their marriages or dissolve peacefully those ones that cannot be saved as they dismiss the charade of the illusion of going back to Nigeria soon.