Uyi and Esosa had been married for five years during which a lot had changed. When the lovebirds married, they were Security Guard and Receptionist respectively, at a small sole proprietorship business with no education beyond their Secondary School Certificate. Uyi however craved a higher education and strove to attend a part-time course at the University while Esosa seemed content to remain the doting wife and mother with no intentions of furthering her education or acquiring a skill. Recently, she observed that she was outside Uyi’s new circle of friends as she felt out of place and awkward with them. Uyi was also becoming more critical of her, causing her discomfiture which gave her reason to seek out advice from Aunty Pauline.
After she explained the reason for her visit, Aunty Pauline berated her for her lethargy. “Come on Esosa, you have to step up! You are an intelligent lady. Polish yourself up, go back to school or learn a skill and excel at it. Make him proud of you. It can only engender respect. I think I need to share MY STORY with you”. Aunty Pauline continued:
“Anda and I are from underprivileged backgrounds and barely finished Secondary School back in our village. We both decided to move to the city to search for jobs and settle down in marriage. Anda had always been very ambitious with a zeal for higher education but his parents could least afford that. However, after our marriage, he retook the SSCE and JAMB exams and came out with excellent results. This spurred the church we attend to offer him a scholarship to pursue a course in Sociology at the Federal University of his choice. He graduated top of his class and went on to do a Master’s degree in International Relations as a Graduate Assistant at the University. In all that time, it was I who sustained the family on my meagre salary as an Office Assistant – holding up the family and supporting my husband. On completing his Post Graduate course, he obtained employment with the Ministry of External Affairs and was shortly posted out as an Ambassador to Botswana. This gave the family the opportunity to travel out but I soon discovered that Anda started avoiding being seen with me or presenting me as his wife. I appeared to be an embarrassment to him as I had nothing to contribute to conversations at official events and barely understood the topics of discussion. Soon enough, I got dropped out of these events and it placed a strain on our relationship.
One day, after some deep introspection, I decided I would surprise him – step up and match him or maybe…outdo him. I was equally intelligent but had put all my energies into raising and sustaining the family, believing that the education and enlightenment should be left to the children. I had felt I was past learning. Ignorance had appeared to be bliss but I realised my safe world was crumbling. Without hesitation, I investigated the learning opportunities in Botswana and enrolled in school. At the age of 37 and after birthing three children, I was back in school with a hunger that propelled me into the Merit list of the school. I graduated with honours which earned me respect not only from my husband but from his peers and other members of our family. With education came enlightenment and technological advancement. I became a relevant source of reference and assistance – a sounding board for my husband who now respected me more than ever before and began to rely on my advice and in-depth analysis of situations and events. Needless to say, that was the tonic my marriage needed. Rather than lose to ignorance and lethargy, I “stepped up” and it paid off”.
Havilah sounds a note of advice here – In any marriage, both parties must build mutual respect. Unfortunately, this may sometimes be affected by a mismatch in education, exposure, interests, values and the like. When either party considers the partner as an embarrassment for any reason, respect usually gets kicked out the door and causes the basis for friction in an otherwise healthy relationship. Communication is key to every marriage and effective communication can only take place where both parties are operating at similar levels of communication. Both parties must be able to clearly understand what is communicated.