My father didn’t like the idea of my marriage. He asked me to be patient. He asked me to wait until she starts working. He said, “She’s not going anywhere. You’ve been with her all these years when she was in school. Waiting for a year or two more wouldn’t hurt anything.” I was a man in a hurry. Not in a hurry per se but I wanted to get things done quickly and settle down. I felt the more I wait, the more I waste money on unnecessary things. “If I can marry her this year, why then wait for another year or two?” I asked myself. So I told my father, “She’s a trained nurse. Getting a job wouldn’t be difficult for her. She’ll be posted very soon so there’s nothing to fear when it comes to a job. She’ll get a job very soon after marriage.”
My dad is not a difficult person. The fact that he had known Efe for the past three years also made things easier. He saw how respectful she was and how she was always ready to help around. He told me, “If you insist, then go ahead. I won’t be the one to stop you from pursuing something as honorable as marriage. If your pocket is deep to cater for her until she gets a job, then go ahead.” He was the only one who expressed misgivings about the marriage so when he accepted that I should get married, I quickly set the ball rolling.
Three months later, we did the knocking. We used five months to put everything in place for our wedding. We had a beautiful wedding. It wasn’t anything extraordinary. We were happy to see our friends. We laughed when they cheered us on. We enjoyed dancing in their presence and most importantly, we were happy to leave the church as a married couple. We moved in together and started our married journey.
I knew my wife wasn’t earning so I had to put in extra effort to carry our weight. I was living with my parents before I got married. I was working but I wasn’t paying bills. I was experienced in earning money but didn’t experience what it meant to pay bills, keep a home running and most importantly keep a wife happy. It was when we moved into our own place that I started learning all that. I won’t say I was overwhelmed by responsibilities. No. My salary was ok. There was an opportunity to earn more if only I could avail myself to do more work. I took those opportunities, earned enough to support the two of us.
For two good years, I was the one doing everything while praying my wife gets a job. She was two months pregnant when her posting came. We celebrated two blessings in a month. It was the reason we named our daughter Nhyira. She came with a blessing of a job for her mother. The biggest worries of our marriage had been solved. I’m working. My wife is also working. Time to make new plans for our future. We talked about how we were going to use our income going forward. We didn’t plan to split bills. I was only expecting her to support the running of the home. Generally, I will provide for our existence. I will do the heavy lifting while expecting her to hold the load once I’ve lifted it up. I will continue to pay bills but once in a while, she could also pay. I will provide for food but once in a while, she can also provide. Those little things a woman is expected to do.
It took close to a year before her salary came. When she came home that day, she brought me a parcel. She said, “My salary hit my account over the week and I decided to surprise you. You’ve carried a lot. Take this to quench your thirst” I looked at her with happy eyes. I was content. What was in the parcel didn’t matter to me but the gesture. I said, “At long last, you can call yourself a salary earner.”
She started earning but nothing changed around the house. I continued doing the heavy lifting. Once the load is up, I will look at her, expecting her to provide a helping hand to carry the load to a safer place but she wouldn’t. She will stay in her corner, chewing gum and making chewing sounds while she looks at me sweating under the load.
Some games have time out where the referee holds up play for some seconds so the coaches can have a moment with their players. I called for a time-out. Maybe she had forgotten. Maybe, she thinks I’m enough and doesn’t need help. Maybe she doesn’t know how to be a wife who helps. I sat her down and explain things to her holistically; “When we got married, you were not working. I took up all the responsibilities because you were earning. Now you do so I expect you to do something to help the running of the house. Pay utility bills sometimes. Pay for food sometimes. When baby food is finished or diapers are used up, I don’t expect you to send me a message asking me to buy some on my way coming home. These are things you should be able to cancel off for both of us.”
Of all the things I mentioned, she said she heard only diapers so she bought diapers when they were finished. From buying nothing to buying diapers. That was an achievement I could be proud of. I felt she was taking baby steps. “With time, she’ll come around to the idea of helping around the house. I was out one evening when she called that the lights are off. She said, “If you’re not coming anytime soon, you can send me the money through MoMo. I would go out there and buy it.” I told her, “I don’t have anything on my MoMo. Buy it, when I come I will refund.” She bought it. I came home and she asked me to pay her the money she used to buy the prepaid. I ignored her. In the morning when I was going to work, she asked. I ignored her. When I returned from work she asked. I ignored. I was in the kitchen fetching food when she screamed, “Don’t forget to pay what you owe me ooo. That’s what I will use to go to work tomorrow.”
I walked out of the kitchen, went to where she was sitting, and told her, “From now onwards, you’re buying prepaid. Don’t wait till it goes off before you top up. This is not a suggestion. It’s an order.” She said nasally, “Then get ready to sleep in the dark.” I said in my head, “We’ll see about that.”
The light went off. We slept in the dark for two days. I bought the light. I bought baby food. Came home with my own food, ate, and went to sleep. I did that for a month. She got what I was trying to say but did nothing about it. She also bought her own food. For over a month, no cooking happened in the house so I asked the question I know everyone reading this is asking, “What does she do with her money?”
I went through her phone and read the transactions. Her junior brother is in school. She is the one paying hostel and school fees. She sends money to her parents every month. When her senior brother was getting married, she made a huge contribution to him. All that aside, her bank account was in better shape than mine. I quickly confronted her about it. “Oh, now I get it. So it’s all about your family, right? You won’t do anything for the growth of this family but will do everything in support of your family, right?”
She pretended she didn’t know what I was saying. I took my time and took her through those transactions one after the other. After exhausting all my points she said, “What are you trying to tell me? That I shouldn’t help my parents? The people who gave birth to me? Where were you when they were paying my school fees? Were you the one who took care of me from infancy till you married me? Would you have found me appealing if they didn’t take care of me the way they did? I don’t see what your problem is. You better find something else to do than go through my phone.”
We’ve been married for four years. Since I left home, I’ve never sent a dime to my parents. I have two siblings who are also at different stages of life. I can decide to send them something but I’ve never done that because I’m building a family. My dad understands that. My mom understands that. I have responsibilities so they don’t bring theirs to me. I told my wife, “My parents also took care of me just the way your parents did. They took great care of me and it’s the reason you found me appealing. My family provided the same support your family provided for you so no problem. From now onwards, take care of your family and I will also do the same because we owe them that much.”
We’ve been waging this war for several months now. I’m the one who is not happy. I appear confrontational and ready to fight whenever she’s around but when I’m left alone with my conscience I think a lot. That’s not how I perceived marriage to be. I saw my parents. My dad worked all his life in the security service until he got to the top and later retired. My mom had a huge shop she was managing. I never heard the two of them fighting about money or who is supposed to provide this and that. My mom paid our fees often. My dad traveled a lot so it was always my mom providing. The house they own now, I can confidently say that my mom built over seventy percent of it because my dad was always out. Whenever he was around, he was the man. My mom didn’t do much. Such a support system is what I foresaw when I thought about getting married.
I go home often these days. I go home with little gifts here and there. My parents don’t need anything from me but I can’t use that as an excuse not to give anything back. My dad. He’s a clever man. I mean that is expected from someone who had worked in the security service all his life. I was with him alone one afternoon after I’d visited. He said, “You’re not a happy man and it shows. What’s the matter with you?” I laughed. I tried putting on a happy demeanor. I said, “Oh I’m fine. Work is tiring sometimes but I’m really ok.” He said, “I know what is fine. You’re not. You’ve been coming here often these days. You sit on the sofa and begin to sleep immediately. You wear black a lot. You walk with your shoulders hanging low. You talk slowly and you speak to me with your head down. That’s not how a happy man behaves. It’s fine if you don’t want to tell me but fix it. The cracks are showing.”
So I opened up to him. I told him everything. He only said, “Fix it. You’re the man.”
He didn’t tell me how and didn’t tell me where to begin. He asked me to fix it. The woman I’m with doesn’t see what she does as the problem. She thinks she’s right. How do I fix someone who thinks she doesn’t need fixing? She thinks her first call of duty is to her family. She thinks our family and its wellbeing depends solely on me. How do I change that? I’ve talked to her. I’ve acted my thoughts. I’ve played the silent treatment game. I’ve played the joker and I’ve played the King. Nothing has changed.