One of the reasons why people advocate for the performance of the marriage rites under traditional law and customs is to ensure that all crucial family members are aware of the union and their consent is sought. According to the proponents of this practice, it is to ensure that the marriage lasts longer. So if one of the parties to the marriage loses interest in the union, the family members are called upon to impress upon them the ‘importance of vows’. Other times, the family members are there to remind the couple of the customary requirements for going their separate ways. This is usually to deter any thoughts of fragmenting the union and to keep it.
It is against this backdrop that it has become really worrisome that a lot of young marriages in Nigeria are broken. Prima facie, we tick all the boxes. We’re religious. We are cultural. We are respectful. We have values. We have set gender roles. We believe in procreation. Is there a sudden proliferation of young divorced couples or has this been happening for a long time and we’re only just seeing it clearly because we now have social media?
In trying to understand why we have so seemingly nice guys going their separate ways after 18 months of marriage, I asked some friends who separated after being married for less than 5 years.
“Well, there were some things I thought he was going to stop when we were married. With marriage, one becomes more responsible, or so I thought.”
“She was spending so much money on frivolous things and maintaining the notion that as the man of the house I was supposed to pay her driver’s salary, our rent, service charge and all that. It’s a marriage and not bondage”
“I actually knew the marriage wouldn’t last because I saw the signs but my parents told me to try to make it work. No marriage is perfect. So I went ahead.”
“Well, in all honesty I won’t say he changed suddenly. But we’d been dating for 6 years and broken up off and on. If I left him at that point, what would come out of it? I’d be single and back on the market. I had a plan to be tough. It backfired.”
“I wanted to call it off about 5 months to the wedding because I found out something about him but I didn’t know how. How would I have told my parents? I felt I’d just go through with it and take life as it comes. Life came! Sadly.”
These responses scared me. I know there are usually jokes about people getting married because of lovely pictures online but I didn’t know that people actually make life changing decision based on what other people think of them. On the other hand, if one is doubtful, where’s the room for giving someone a second chance? After all, we’re all human and have frailties.
So just when do you take the matrimonial red flag seriously? Is it dependent on how many people know you’re getting married? Is it a function of societal acceptance? What is that red flag of warning that is worthy of you throwing in the towel and saying “I know this wouldn’t work”? What are your thoughts on the saying “A broken engagement is better than a failed marriage”?
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