Getting married to the love of your life is the ultimate ‘happy ever after’. Most especially here, where till death do us part is taken quite literally. Divorce is never the answer, but for this 29 year old woman it was.
How did you meet?
Through our parents. I used to make a joke to my friends about how my marriage was arranged. His parents thought it was about time he settled down, so did mine. I don’t even know if there was a courting period. Both our parents were so involved from the get-go, we both knew how it was going to end.
And the proposal?
Came about 9/10 months after we met. It might as well have been the introduction. There was no ring right away. He had his parents escort him to meet with my parents and I, to inform us of his intention to marry me. After he spoke and his dad spoke, my dad turned to me and just asked do you accept, and I nodded.
Did you feel coerced?
No. Never. Not even a little bit. For me, it was just why not. I had never had a boyfriend, never dated anyone. Before we met I had always wondered how I’d go about it. He’s also has a genuinely good heart. There were just no downsides to it.
So no ring?
Oh the ring came, a couple of weeks after. Lol very unceremoniously though. He just sort of handed it to me.
How old were you?
23, I turned 24 a couple of months after the wedding.
The wedding was…
Small by Nigerian standards. About 300 guests in total. My parents are simple people they hate anything elaborate. I think his Mum would have liked something bigger. But my parents are very persuasive.
Didn’t happen. It was marriage then husband’s house. There’s a significant age difference between us so he was already settled down, living in a family appropriate accommodation.
The first year was…
Uneventful really. We were like housemates. I cooked and cleaned, he went to work. I was working in my Uncle’s firm before we got married. And after the wedding, I just sort of stopped going. We attended social functions together and always had dinner together (his idea). He didn’t want kids right away so I had to get these shots every three months.
Were you in love?
I don’t know. I was quite fond of him in the early years. I don’t think we were as close as couples could be. But we had our moments.
How would you describe him?
As a deeply cultural man. Which is funny because he had spent quite some time abroad. And in my mind, that should bring about a certain level of exposure. I don’t think it was something I noticed before we got married. We never had conversations about things that affected both of us. He gave instructions. Our first tiff was when he asked me to get on birth control. He also asked me not to mention it to my parents. And I disagreed, I just didn’t keep anything from them. He said he was disappointed at my insubordination and didn’t talk to me for days.
The first odd thing was…
How often he travelled. He’d go for several weeks at a time. No business meeting takes that long. But that wasn’t the problem, it was that I couldn’t ask questions about it. When I did he’d chuckle and say ‘you too talk’ like he was talking to a ten-year-old. Then there was the policing of my clothes he didn’t want me wearing jeans, which I found ridiculous. The matter escalated and got to my parents. I stopped wearing jeans.
I suspected but never cared enough to actually find out. There was the frequent travelling and many late nights, but I don’t think he ever brought another woman into our home.
You were married for?
6 years and 2 months. Separated for the last 3 years of the marriage.
What ended it?
I was deeply unhappy. I became increasingly independent as he became increasingly controlling. It felt unnatural to have every facet of my life be so utterly controlled by someone else. I don’t think I even felt that way with my parents.
How did the separation happen?
I just left. I didn’t leave with the intention of never going back at first. I just knew I wanted to leave. I called my sister in Abuja, asked to stay with her for a couple of weeks. Weeks turned into months, months turned into two years.
The most significant thing you did when you left?
I wore jeans to the airport when I was going to Abuja.
Do you know that I don’t know. He called incessantly for the first couple of weeks and I took the coward’s way out and ignored the calls. Then he just stopped. The first time I spoke to him after the separation was when I was asking for the divorce.
How’d he take it?
He protested the divorce at first even though we had been separated for three years. But it didn’t take a lot of time for him to cave. He too was tired. I wasn’t the subservient 23 year old he married. I’d protest decisions he made and ‘disobey instructions’. I was just tired of having my life controlled.
And your parents’ reaction?
Explosive. Jesus. Family meeting upon family were called and I was summoned. I didn’t attend. I’m so thankful for my sister because there was pressure on her to send me back to his house but she didn’t budge. My mum even came to my sister’s house to beg me. My dad’s own was I must not set foot back in his house. The more pressure I got from family, the more I dug my heels in.
They had still not come to terms with the separation when I told them about the divorce. 3 years after imagine. We are Catholic and one of the very few grounds of annulment don’t include being tire.d of your husband. I told them I’d think about it because of how badly they took the news. But I’ve finalized things with him.
What’s it like to be divorced under 30 and living in Nigeria?
I can’t say I know yet. For me that journey has only begun. I kept on wearing my ring throughout the separation. And only close friends and family knew about it. So everyone else naturally thought I was still with my husband. Those who knew I was staying with my sister assumed he was working abroad or something. We never corrected the misconception. But I finally stopped wearing my ring this year.
How did that feel?
Odd. Very odd. I wore the ring long enough for it to leave a permanent mark. Sometimes when I look at it, I sort of miss wearing the ring. It was a very nice ring.
Haha. No not really. I’ve been out on a date or two. But not dating dating and not interested. The only person worth my time right now is me.