Navigating life as a woman in the world today is incredibly difficult. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.
For this week’s What She Said, I decided to do something a little different by asking women from different parts of Africa about their marriage experiences. While the answers form a wide range of experiences — from the woman who hates sharing a room with her husband to the woman who doesn’t want to have kids — the truth is that they are similar and show us that our experiences as women in spite of our backgrounds, sexuality, age, religion, etc. are quite universal.
‘My husband is mostly progressive online, but expects me to wash his boxers.’
Before I got married, I was looking for someone who was on the same progressive wavelength as I was. I really didn’t want anyone that would stress me as past boyfriends had. Then I met my husband online and he said all the right things. He also did (and does) some of the right things, but the truth remains that he’s a man and men, they expect some things from you that they consider mundane. Like he expects me to pick up after him and to do things like wash his boxers. Hell no.
“It’s having to share a room with someone for the rest of my life.”
I’ve never liked sharing spaces with people. Never ever. On getting married, the plan was to have separate rooms. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen due to Lagos and other financial reasons. The one time when we got the opportunity to have separate, my mother-in-law came over for a while. She was so mad that we were not sleeping in the same bedroom. My husband tried to tell her it wasn’t her business, but she wasn’t having it. I’d have to add that in-law wahala is another thing I hate about being married. Now that we have children, I’m back to sleeping in the same room with my husband. The worst part is that he snores. Sometimes, I go to the parlour to sleep, but it’s not just about sleeping at night. There’s nothing like having a room of one’s own.
“It’s being married.”
I got married when I thought I was ready to get married which was when I was 22, right after university. After the wedding which I loved and the honeymoon, which I loved even more, I realised that I wasn’t ready to be married at all. I always have to consider the needs of my husband before doing anything. This is stressful because I feel like I could be out there, having multiple boyfriends, having fun. Some of my single friends from university or high school are living their life. I’m here, preparing dinner at 8pm, watching television with him like we’re an old couple and then going to bed by 10pm. It doesn’t help that my husband doesn’t like stress. We’ve tried to have fun together a couple of times, but he finds nightlife boring and too much. I’d rather have fun without him too, but if I have the fun, I’ll end up in another man’s bed.
“It’s people calling me Mrs A, when they can see that I am Ms B.”
You’ll go somewhere and introduce yourself as Ms A, but because they know your husband, they’ll insist on calling you Mrs Y. That’s rubbish. It’s the one thing I cannot stand at all.
“I’d have said the flirting, but it’s the fact that he’s allowed to flirt and I’m not.”
We’re not religious, so everything has been on the table since we got married. Every single thing. At least that’s what we said before getting married. Five years in, we haven’t explored much. No threesomes, no open relationships, no foreplay. I was okay with this until recently when I noticed my husband flirt with other women. At first, I wanted to talk to him about it. But I changed my mind and decided to flirt with other men. The reaction wasn’t pretty at all. So now I asked him, you can flirt, but what about me? He said he’s a man and he has needs. I won’t be surprised if he’s cheating.
“My husband doesn’t rate my cooking, but he makes me cook because it’s my duty”
I went into marriage with the belief that the kitchen and bedroom were the two most important places. The kitchen even more because ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his belly’. The catch is, I’ve never been a good cook. I know it, my husband knows it, even my children know it. I recently began to understand that cooking is not a validation of my person and neither does it make me a good wife. I wanted to stop cooking, but my husband has refused. We can afford a cook, but he says it’s my duty to cook. How can I allow my kids and him eat outside, he asks me. Is this some kind of punishment? I don’t know. I hate it here.
“For me, it’s the foolish arguments. Who left soap suds on the wall? Who didn’t put the toilet cover down? Things like that sometimes become big things.”
When I got married, I imagined that it’d be a fairytale. I like to think my husband and I are quite compatible. We can go months without arguing. Then something tiny would happen and we would start screaming at each other. We’re not hot tempered people typically. In fact, we can be very good natured and we don’t have any issues — the sex is great, our conversations are great — but sometimes, those arguments creep in and make us look like fools. Sometimes it is perhaps taking out our stress on each other. Other times, I can’t even explain it.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the subjects.
If you’d like to share your experience as a Nigerian or African woman across a range of different issues that affect women, send me an email.