From my column in the Extra Newspapers. If you are in Nigeria, please ask a vendor for this newspaper, especially on Mondays. It is a weekly.
BEFORE & AFTER ‘I DO’
I once heard a story about a lady who, early in her teen years, decided she wanted to be a full time house wife. In achieving her goals, she took her studies seriously, left secondary school with good grades and got admitted into higher institution. She graduated and completed her NYSC in due course and got a good job. While working, she enrolled for a one year programme at the Lagos Business School. There at the school, she had various suitors, encouraged them all and decided on the one to go for. While he wasn’t a wealthy man yet, she saw the prospects of how fast he would rise and in less than five years after they were married, her prediction came true and she could afford to be a full time house wife.
I don’t know how true the above story is, but it does teach a lesson; that you have to work to get what you want. Unfortunately, most ladies today concentrate only on the days and time preceding getting married, and fail to plan for ‘after the marriage’.
Rita’s marriage invitation shocked everyone especially her close friends because they knew she wasn’t in a relationship. On incessant probing, she finally revealed that John was a guy she twice dated. They dated in and out of secondary school for two years and got back together when she was in her final year in the university. The second time did not last up to six months and in the six years since they broke up, had not seen each other. When fate made their paths to cross again, she believed it was destiny. She believed they never should have separated years ago. She believed that John was her destiny, the reason all her other relationships were always shipwrecked.
In less than two months after their reconciliation, plans for their marriage kicked off. It felt safe to rejoice with Rita because finally her prayers were answered. She had been looking for a husband for quite some time. She even went for her masters in a good school in Lagos, hoping to meet the perfect husband material. She just didn’t care of the guy’s tribe or religion, as long as she got a ring on her finger and changed her last name. She desperately wanted to become Mrs. Somebody before she hit the big 30. As a result, she settled for abusive men and relationships that always shattered her self-esteemed. And in a bid to appear as the perfect wife material, she tried to live a type of lifestyle she believed was humble and simple for a would-be wife. While she could afford to live in a very good environment and buy herself a car being a top staff at her place of work and earning good money, Rita played it safe. She lived in an overpopulated environment and compound where she couldn’t have her own privacy and refused to get herself a car. She didn’t want her success to scare men away.
30 came, stared her in the face and went by, making her miserable. No amount of preaching or advice could help her. She clung on to religion the wrong way because she never went by the Word. Yet she couldn’t set out and get herself a man by being daring and in charge. When the real husband materials cross her path, they hardly last a month because she chases them off with her attitude and desperation. Then finally, along came John, for the third time.
He is good looking, tall, doing relatively well, a Christian and from the same town with her. And more important, he was looking for a wife, so he could settle down.
The ceremony was big. Friends and well wishers rejoiced with them and despite the ceremonies being far away from Lagos, where Rita had relocated for years, her colleagues from work all trouped to her home town to support her.
Two weeks after the marriage, John returned to his base in Ghana. Rita’s family had asked them what their plans would be after the marriage. Is she relocating? Is he relocating? How many months interval were they giving themselves before the final relocation? Rita and her husband brushed the questions away. While it was an issue that bothered Rita, she and John never discussed it prior to their marriage or after it, before John left. She was scared of getting him angry because she still remembered from years back how John would explode over issues he felt he should decide himself. So she kept quiet and prayed about it.
John being the one who likes to make the decisions didn’t make any. He didn’t say when next they would get together. The only decision he took was to move his wife into his parents’ house, so his parents and siblings could keep an eye on her.
Rita became more depressed as time went on. On the phone, when they discussed, John never said anything about his coming over, or her joining him. Granted that she made more money, she was ready to leave her job. Her friends tried to advice her on the step to take and Rita for once, listened. So she told her husband that she was due for her annual leave and would be coming to Ghana for a month. Without giving it a thought, he told her not to come over. Rita was shocked and hurt and did not understand why. Her in-laws were even concerned and spoke with their son, but nothing changed.
Eventually, John came to visit, nine months after their marriage. He stayed for five days. Before leaving, they had a heart to heart discussion and he revealed he had a live in lover who has a child for him and his parents are aware of the child. He doesn’t want to marry the woman. He thought marrying Rita would give the woman the idea to leave, but it didn’t. While he didn’t apologise for his act of deception, he said he would work things out. Rita didn’t have enough time to get angry because the discussion took less than ten minutes and he carried his bag and left for the airport. She was distraught. How could he not tell her before they got married?
She waited, but she didn’t know what she was waiting for. Could she trust John to work it out? And even if he could, will she ever trust him again? Unfortunately, she convinced herself it was safer to be married than single, and being a divorcee would make getting a man more difficult.
John could not work things out because when he left the house that morning to return to Ghana, he never got to Ghana. Nobody knows if he even got to the airport. Nobody knows where he is. He sort of disappeared from the face of the earth. His parents after some months were able to go through the passenger manifest of the day John travelled, but his name wasn’t there. He was nowhere to be found. Did he travel somewhere else, never to return again? Is he dead? Who could answer? And Rita? She was still his wife. Waiting and hoping and believing God.
Almost a year after the strange disappearance of John, his Ghanaian live-in lover contacted his parents concerning their grandson. She said John fooled her. The day he came to Nigeria, she left for the UK with her son. John was supposed to join them from Nigeria but he never showed. She had since returned to her country and had spent that long trying to contact them. She only wanted them to know where their grandson was, since John was no longer in the picture.
Rita got a place for herself and moved out of her in-laws house. On her second wedding anniversary, she took off her rings. She is single again and searching for a husband.
Is she doing the right thing?