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Mo’ Sibyl: Post Marital Blues! Finding Me Helped Preserve My Marriage

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Two of the things I dreaded when I entered into a committed relationship with my then-boyfriend-turned-husband were: becoming vulnerable, and losing my independence.

First, I did not want the vulnerability that comes with loving someone; or how your significant other (s/o) knows which button to press that can make you go from Mother Theresa in one moment to Cruella Deville the next. Second, I did not want to lose my sense of independence. I had been used to making decisions for myself as long as I could remember; this was one of the perks of being the first child, which was further buttressed by spending six cold years in boarding school. So, imagine my fears when my boyfriend asked to make our relationship official. I remember telling him how I did not want to lose those two things. And that I did not want to become one of those people who after getting into a relationship cut off their friends and become fixated with their s/o. I made it clear to my boyfriend that it was imperative that I kept my sense of me, for our relationship to thrive… and he seemed to get it. We dated for almost six years and I can state that probably that was how long it took me to be comfortable with the idea of spending an eternity with someone in a committed institution.

The actual wedding day was a blur. As you can imagine the typical wedding sponsored by the parents filled mostly with people and ‘relatives’ who you don’t really remember but who suddenly want a stake in your life. After the circus (OK wedding) was over and when it dawned on me that this was real, I would struggle with a protracted case of post-marital blues. My mind would churn fast as I battled with anxiety at the idea of being someone’s bride. I knew I loved a person I had married, but it was the ensuing ‘perks’ that left me discombobulated.

The idea of being called ‘Mrs.’ was a tad discomfiting and I almost went into panic mode at the idea of changing my last name to his. I could only liken this fear to that of losing my identity. I had always known that I could never fit into the mold of the traditional Nigerian wife (whatever that meant), but that did not amount to much when you live in a heavily patriarchal environment.

Initially, I tried to fit into that mold but it seemed the more I tried, the deeper I sank into depression. I also felt that some of my single friends were slowly fading away, due to no fault of theirs, but maybe they just thought they had to reduce their interactions with me now that I was married.

The months following my marriage were probably the loneliest I would ever felt and I was not prepared for it. I did not know who to talk to and as every newlywed around me seemed giddy on the outside; I kept it all inside for fear of being a Debbie Downer. My husband, on the other hand, seemed to get it and assumed his role so seamlessly… as if he got a memo I was not cc’d on.

Getting out of that depressive phase was difficult and I had to take intentional strategies not to drown in the deluge of my predicament. I decided to focus on known parameters and make the unknown ones, negligible. Two things I was sure of: my love and zest for life, and the fact that I loved this man that I had married.
Breaking the mold entailed not thinking about fitting into the box. It also probably helped that we moved away shortly after getting married and started life anew in a place where my cultural norms were not enforced, and I could create an artificial culture.

The society I had grown up does not prepare girls for independence in anything. Way before you reach pubescence, you get an earful of how all you do should prepare you for marriage and how your identity and worth is dependent on how valuable you become in the eyes of the highest bidder – aka your husband. There is definitely no winning for us as females because it seemed that our destiny had been sealed before we were born. Society worked it all out for us way before we even had a say in it. Society does not take into account your individuality as a person. Personally, adding the role of ‘wife’ to the litany of roles I already had (i.e., daughter, sister, granddaughter) almost toppled off the alignment of hats I had on.

It has been almost seven years now and I think I finally get it. For one, I have been able to keep the friendships worth keeping and I have been able to understand that my identity as a person does not lie in my role as a wife. I still do not see marriage as an achievement, but as a partnership between two people who should feel lucky and blessed to have found each other.

Last year, I walked down the aisle, albeit a different one, to receive my Doctorate in Pharmacy. I say this walk, without any iota of spite, feels more than an achievement to me, than when I did the penguin walk with my husband almost seven years ago. And I still count myself blessed to have been hitched to such fine gentleman. The triumph (and indeed the hardship) we have enjoyed together feels more like the achievements than the act of just marriage itself.

I could give a playbook of how to have a happy marriage, but I am afraid my approach is not the end-all be-all for others. From an outsider’s perspective peering into our marital life using those traditional-colored lenses, it would look abysmal.

For starters, my husband is not very traditional and he doesn’t believe in reductive gender roles. For example, he does things around the house a lot (I should give his mum most of the credit for this) and does not demand a medal (anymore) for this. This is why my story is not for everyone to glean from, but for others who may have struggled or are struggling as I used to. My hope is that the message gets to those who really need it and my message is simple: whether you get married or not, you have an intrinsic value you should not try to validate via your coupling with another person or the lack thereof.

You are already worthy, not because of what you can do or what your name change suggests, but because you already are. Husbands should also help their wives retain those unique traits they saw in them before they got married, especially seeing as we as women can easily get lost. Fostering this individuality can definitely be the key to having a balanced and happy marriage.

I have had people tell me, multiple times, that I do not look nor act like a married woman; they do not say this in a disparaging way. I take this as a compliment because I want my personality to shine from my individuality. Then, I often wonder what a married woman looks like. In any event, I can say that by finding me, despite almost drowning in the idea of being a Mrs. (with copious help from the Mr., of course), I was able to preserve my marriage, mostly.

Photo Credit: © Kantver | Dreamstime.com

Mo! hails from Lagos (yes, we still exist) and has come to fall in love with the Korean culture – politics, drama, language, food, economic development (pre and post the Korean war). Mo! also loves to writ(h)e and have meaningful conversations with people with diverse opinions.She speaks 4.25 languages (Yorùbá, English, Korean, Pig Latin, and 0.25 French), has visited a few countries, and is excited to explore more. She's also a cultural nomad who resides in Oklahoma City where she works, does Toastmasters (an organization dedicated to communication and leadership development), raises her imaginary quokka, and volunteers with Korean international students.Mo! is extremely curious, needs to learn something new every day, and hopes to infuse that insatiable thirst for diverse knowledge into BN readers. Mo! hosts the weekly podcast - The More Sibyl Podcast (www.mosibyl.com) - a podcast on culture and cultural nomads.Mo! holds a B.Pharm (Hons.) from the University of Lagos and a Ph.D. in Health Economics and Outcomes Research from the University of Texas at Austin. She currently works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Oklahoma.Mo! also writ(h)es here: https://medium.com/@MosibylFollow Mo! on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as @Mosibyl. Email Mo! on [email protected]

43 Comments

  1. John

    May 3, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    4 more years

    • Lol

      May 3, 2018 at 6:40 pm

      Of what… I bet in your mind it sounded smart. John n his fragile masculinity. Hope you are not Napoleonic with a potbelly.

    • Aare farmland

      May 4, 2018 at 1:56 am

      You play the contrarian well. But what she said is part of the stages of marriage for many. It depends on how emotional and mentally strong the couple her. Marriage as a union between husband and wife can bring together two independent Magnetic bodies joined together. But there are other magnetic forces in the vicinity trying to pull the combined independent bodies in different direction. So the marriage will have some friction and may split if one person feels the forces of attraction is fading and there is fun outside marriage.

  2. Jummy

    May 3, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Thanks for the article Mo. I definitely do agree that girls in Nigeria are brought up with no sense of individuality.

    It’s like we’re preprogrammed for marriage from the minute we’re born. And so when we become women, we often look forward to getting married like that’s what’s holds our intrinsic value. We look at marriage as an end, not as a means to an end.

    Therein lies the problem. Nigerian men know this, and use it greatly to their advantage. That’s why they treat women like they’re doing them a favor by marrying them.

    I am of the opinion that you need to lay the foundation of who you are before thinking of settling down. But I also think discovering who you are continues after you get married as well. I’ve heard women say that they keep discovering who they are even as wives/mothers.

    A marriage per se isn’t an achievement. Anyone can do that. Sustaining a happy/fruitful marriage is the hard part. Most people cant, which is why I see it a good marriage as an achievement.

    Beautiful write up again.

    • Deuce

      May 3, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      There is too much over-generalization about ‘Nigerian men’. It is as if all the problems of women are the fault of men! The things I read from women on this website are alarming… It is as if marriage is a paradise for men.
      FYI, I have sisters and I do not feel that the opinions here represent their lives. In addition, why are Nigerian men not complaining that they are conditioned for marriage’?
      I feel that bitter experiences are over-represented on Bellanaija!!!
      I am married and marriage for me is a sacrifice. I do not feel that I came into it with some peculiar advantages as a man which i then use to manipulate my wife.
      Stop the bitter rantings!!!!

    • didi

      May 5, 2018 at 6:09 pm

      HMM JUMMY THIS HAS BEEN THE QUESTIINS IN MY HEAD, ARE NIGERIAN WOMEN SO USELESS THAT ALL OUR PARENTS SUFFERED FOR IS TO GET MARRIED HAVE CHILDREN AND DIE.? I just weep its a vicious circle for women and those to come. What mo said to her husband before the wedding was exactly what i hope to tell my future husband hmm , the matter needs to be really dealt with women are really degrade in nigeria but its worse i india where women pay the bride or groom price and still losses her identity as a humanmwith dreams

  3. whocares

    May 3, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    oh Mo. I. Like. You.; and i wish you many more years of personal growth and self love, and a blissful marriage.
    Your bio is sooo interesting!!!

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      May 4, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      “Mo! also loves to writ(h)e….”

      That made me smile.

      Nice reading Mo! and it’s hoped that we get to see more of your “writ(h)ing”. 🙂

  4. Anne

    May 3, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    I like the fact that you mentioned your husband’s mentality and approach. Some marriages require wisdom, patience and strategy to get to a particular point. Individuals in marital unions are different and trained differently by different parents. Yes, kudos to his mum. Everybody must sit down and think differently. If some women put your own ideas to practice, the marriage may fail. Meanwhile they could put your ideas into practice but implement them using a different strategy. Know yaself. Know ya spouse. Men and women have different needs which rose right away from their backgrounds.

    • CeeJay

      May 3, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      Anne,
      I like your perspective on this. Indeed, no two marriages are the same. Every married individual must dwell with his or her mate with knowledge.

    • Jane

      May 5, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      That makes sense Anne. They told me that food is the way to a man’s heart until I discovered the fact that some men will choose respect and ability to spend money wisely over food.

  5. Rhu

    May 3, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    5 months married and I wish this was my sole issue. Well, in addition to this is a deep fear of poverty. Discovering a baby is on the way, feeling too sick to work as hard as I used to and knowing our bank acct isn’t looking good is a major scare. Depending on my hubby too is a major scare, I’m not used depending on someone even though he is a very hardworking man but this Lagos is sth else. Newlyweds here how do you survive this?

    • Arit

      May 4, 2018 at 8:16 am

      Five months and few weeks married as well. Don’t fret Rhu. You will be fine. Take care of yourself and wait to have your baby in peace. After the baby, pause and get back to work. Don’t fret. When you are stressed, take deep breaths. If a Christian, say thank you, Jesus. A Muslim? Say the equivalent. I just finished a procedure that has kept me out of work for some time and my husband is in his evil elements. I have gone from nagging and crying to taking deep breaths and waiting to heal. We will be fine.

    • Yettie

      May 4, 2018 at 10:13 am

      You will definitely survive…lines will fall in place for you…doors will open for u,your hardwork will be rewarded,the first few months of my marriage was almost horrible financially
      ..but God came through..i realize that many new marriages have that first few months or years difficult…but trust me with God and diligence…it gets better…
      Enjoy your pregnancy darling…God has got you

    • Damilola

      May 4, 2018 at 10:46 am

      Baby! Chill! The one thing I regretted after birth of my baby girl is that I worried so much about everything that I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy. Enjoy where u are now, take time to think of the wonder that is growing inside you. I’m sure he/she is kicking now, spend the free time dat u ave since working as hard now doing things you love that would make you happy. Fear and worry won’t bring money, it brings high blood pressure and other diseases. It’s only a mind at peace dat can think of positive ways to make money. Give ursef peace

    • Dr.N

      May 4, 2018 at 11:13 am

      Take it one day at a time
      Learn to budget
      Expect the best and it will come
      As for the baby…not to worry. A lot of gifts will ease some of your concerns of what to buy. Just buy what you can afford for now.

    • Obie

      May 4, 2018 at 6:47 pm

      My dear! Worry not! There is an Iraqi saying, children bring everything they need with them! Like someone said already, enjoy the miracle taking place inside of you. Thank the heavens for this opportunity, for health for companionship, for family! The lines have fallen in place for you already, and will continue to fall! Enjoy motherhood.

    • Bolawa Akinyemi

      May 10, 2018 at 10:55 am

      Been right where you are standing. I was very proud of being independent and contributing my share to the family income, but by some stroke of bad luck I was unemployed for the first 3yrs of my marriage.
      Looking back I can now see it was a blessing in disguise, though I didn’t feel that way at the time. I learnt how to lean on my husband and communicate my needs( financial and otherwise). I learnt to be very prudent with resources. Shopping in new, cheap places became an adventure. I also learnt not to place value on finances, but most importantly I got to spend time raising my two(yes two!!!!) children hands on. An experience I would not trade for the world.
      I’m back at work for the past 4 yrs, the joint accounts are all rosy and I learnt a lot in the process.
      I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t get depressed when you see your peers flashing their designer apparel, just know you are building a family that will stand the test of time, and it’s simply a matter of time and will have the best of both worlds

  6. fabulous

    May 3, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    Mo I love you.

  7. Zee

    May 3, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    Hi Mo. Nice write up, however I feel you still have a whole lot to learn. Dear ladies, If you want to be independent, don’t get married. Because there is no independence in marriage. But of you must rely and depend on each other. You must submit to each other in every thing.

    Also marriage is not a partnership.. You are not equals. Your husband is your head and you are meant to be subservient to him. You are under him…. You are not equals. This is why marriages fail, young wives want to rub shoulders with their men. Your husband is your Lord, treat him as such and you are the queen of your home. This doesn’t mean a man doesn’t also submit to his wife or shouldn’t also serve and take care of his wife.. A foolish head will take advantage of this setting but a wise man won’t.

    “I have been able to understand that my identity as a person does not lie in my role as a wife”
    Three, this statement is so wrong. Your identity is first your role as a wife and every other thing follows.

    Four, you need to go back to the creator of marriage for a redefinition because you are still very clueless.

    I mean no offence. I’m sorry if this offends you.. But you are young and you should know that you can’t define marriage in it’s essence without the One who instituted it.

    All the best.

    • Mrs. A

      May 4, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      She spoke about HER marriage Zee, no she doesnt have a lot to learn, this is her perspective and thoughts, You have yours- run with it and do you. You sound like you are trying to ‘school’ her but this is a woman who has been married for 7 years and has achieved so much…this is what works for her.
      I say this because as women, we sometimes try to impose our opinions on others. The writer (Mo’s) write-up shook me up a little bit because she literally could have been writing about me. I am fiercely independent: A chemical engineering and MBA holder and the idea of marriage and losing that independence scared me a lot. I got married almost 6 years ago to a very amazing man and in the initial stages, i was ‘freaking out’ because i felt i wasnt doing what a ‘wife’ should. I dont like to cook (have probably made soup 5 times in my life’, love my job and travelling. I finally realised that my husband wasn’t expecting me to be anyone but myself. He doesnt come home expecting food on the table, if it;s there- he loves it but he will gladly cook for us both or grab take-out. he has encouraged me to go for what i want at work and climb to heights I want. We both make good money, but my bonus could easily be in the thousands, when this happens- he reminds me to treat myself and that i deserve it. He is the head of the household indeed but we are also very much partners. This absolutely works for us and we have a great marriage (thank God). This might not be everyone’e story, i always say- do you. If you want to stay home and get taken care of, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. What matters is your happiness. There are many unmarried women living full and amazing , happy lives. Life is too short to be unhappy and/or live trying to please people.
      May God guide and bless us all in all our decisions and give us the wisdom to do what works for us.

    • Tee

      May 4, 2018 at 6:10 pm

      Really….. totally disagree, states the obvious but misses the point. May God help us in this part of the world.

    • Obie

      May 4, 2018 at 6:43 pm

      Well rounded and mature!

    • Bobosteke

      May 6, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      Oh dear Lord….

    • Keiskwerd

      May 7, 2018 at 4:08 pm

      Zee, How bold and rude of you to throw out another person’s opinion only to replace it with your uncooked opinion! What you’ve written is ridiculous yet it works for you, no one should have to tell you you have a lot to learn just cos you chose that ridiculous lie to believe because it’s your opinion! Respect people’s views.

  8. Dr.N

    May 4, 2018 at 11:14 am

    All I saw was Prof!
    ???

    • Mo!

      May 4, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks 🙂

  9. Eji

    May 4, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Annyeonghaseyo mo! Jenoun Eji imnida!
    Beautiful write up professor

    • Mo!

      May 5, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      안녕하세요, 에지씨 /Annyeonghaseyo, Eji-ssi/! 첫 뵙겠습니다 /Cheot boibgesssubnida/. Hello, nice to meet you!

  10. Ify A

    May 4, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    In the end hopefully, everyone finds their balance in a marriage relationship like Mo did and is doing, and not loose themselves along the way. I believe two whole people who know exactly who they are and are not afraid to discover new things about themselves and eachother, make for more interesting forever.

  11. Obie

    May 4, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Brilliant Mo’! We wouldn’t expect any less. By speaking you lend a channel to those foraging these parts

  12. californiabawlar

    May 4, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Hey Mo! I know you (casually)… annnd I for realz didn’t know you were married! what a waaaaawuuuu! You’re my road model going forward!

    • Mo!

      May 5, 2018 at 4:58 pm

      Haha. You cracked me up. Where did me met?

  13. Tilope

    May 4, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    I Just have a question for you? before she became a wife, didn’t she have an identity? Being A wife changes a lot in ones life and marriage is indeed a partnership not a lord and slave relationship.

  14. Tee

    May 4, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    This was such a refreshing read on the topic of marriage . I admire women who are able to maintain their individuality while still married . I think no one really talks about missing your parents and siblings as a newly wed . Most especially if you move to another country . Any tips on how to do that ?

    • Mo! Sibyl

      May 6, 2018 at 9:58 am

      I am also in this boat. I moved away seven years ago, shortly after I got married, and only came back briefly a few days ago for my brother’s wedding. Being the first child and the big sister to everyone while being so far away hasn’t been an easy feat. I saw one of my siblings for the first time yesterday and it dawned on me that so much time had passed between us, as he was barely recognizable. Though we all talked regularly via WhatsApp chats and videos, it was not like seeing each other in person. I am not going to ask how long you too have been away nor why you can’t visit your family or they you but here are what I did to help salvage the guilt I carried (and as a matter of fact, still do) constantly around me, having been so far away:

      1. Try to be consistent with checking in on them. Follow up on their progress, especially those in school. Get to know their significant others and key people around their life. The main take away here is interest but not the intrusive kind.

      2. Textual forms of communication, while being the seemingly easier form, is not without its downsides such as reading either too much or too little meaning into words. Before acting on impulse, try following up with a phone call to clarify so as to match the tone and emotions to what you just read. Trust me, this advice here can save you a lot of headaches. My mantra about this is “People (I) are responsible for what they (I) write, but not how I (they) interpret those words.

      3. If you have been blessed with the means, be as financially generous as you can. Help out with the family needs when things come up and trust me, things ALWAYS come up. If your parents are retired, you can take up the responsibility of consistently doing one big (or not so big) thing, maybe paying for the utility bills, or tuition for one of your siblings, or monthly upkeep of the house.

      4. Express those emotions you feel especially when they become overwhelming. I cry every now and then and I feel sad about this too. The takeaway here is that it is OK to be emotional about it. I also talk to my friends here about my family and they know all of them too well. So, in a way, those friends here can help me stay connected to my family back home when I talk about them. For example, some of my Korean friends love to hear about Nigeria and what it is like there and I use my family a lot as anectdotal examples so you can try this too with your own friends (they don’t have to be Koreans, hehe. Most of my other foreign friends are very culturally curious too).

      5. Upon returning home, you might feel estranged a bit from them. Do not interpret this estrangement as a positional misalignment (especially if you haven’t been actually estranged from them) but mainly due to distance and the erosion of time against loss of actual face time. Give yourself and them too time to warm up to yourselves slowly. It might take a long time but it is worth the effort.

      6. Perhaps, most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself. You really are doing the best that you can. I am sure that your family is proud of you in so many different ways. While that guilt you feel by being away may never go away, remember that it is not an uncommon feeling. It’s mostly directly proportional to the love you carry around for them.

      I see you, Sis. You are not alone.

      Best,
      모 (Mo!)

      PS: Dang! In retrospect, I should have written this as a separate article for BN given how much verbosity I infused into it, hehe. It’s all good. I really do hope this was helpful, Sis. I’d love to know if it was or even if it wasn’t 🙂

  15. Abike

    May 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Dr Makhinova was just telling me about you a few days back with so much glee, Nice to meet you here!

    • Mo! Sibyl

      May 6, 2018 at 9:18 am

      Hi there! I saw Dr. Makh’s name here on BN and I stopped in my tracks, haha. You had me at Dr. Makhinova. You must be her student that she told me about?! My oriki name is Abike actually. Thanks for reading this and stopping by. How’s CA and UA treating you? Give my warmest regards to her please and you as well.

      Best,
      MO!

  16. Mo! Sibyl

    May 6, 2018 at 10:41 am

    *anecdotal.

  17. Bobosteke

    May 6, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Oh Mo! You won’t happen to be Sagittarius, would you…
    Your bio us giving me life. Beautiful write up. Don’t be a stranger….

    • Mo!

      May 9, 2018 at 10:22 am

      Libra all the way! 🙂

  18. didi

    May 6, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing mo. Some weeks ago i just sat on my bed wondering if GOD only had a plan for the man alone in the marriage institution because with the way its handled by so many in africa (worse in india) its like theres no room for yourself as a woman once you marry. The woman cant travel,she must wash her husbands clothes,cook,clean,cannot visit her parents except permitted etcmy question wetin dey inside this marriage to enjoy except that as christian you have free access to sex without offending God and your body. There has to be more because am sure God has aplan for the woman too. Pls dont get me wrong i love to watch my husband eat my food but i cant cook spontaneously like have him wake me up at night to cook haba i be housegirl? Marriage is personal ohh just understand yourselves and what works for you for a fufilled journey.

  19. sizzle

    May 6, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    Mrs A and zee you both have good points, i say this becos a woman should not take advantage of a good man doing some house chores and forget her duties but at the same time i know of submissive women who really respect their husbands and possess good character but dont know how to clean and tidy up things in the house. so zee, does it mean that a woman who cannot cook or clean or change diapers not submissive?

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