First and foremost, I need to state clearly that from the first webisode on this topic to this one which is going to be the very last, none of them is meant to be a relationship or/and marriage advice, as I’m not in the position to give anyone any kind of advice on relation or/and marriage. Everything I have published so far and this are just reports of my observations on relationships and marriages, and my opinions on them. I am not married, I’m not in any romantic relationship, the only time I’ve ever loved someone, it failed. So, there is no way I have the practical experience on what happens in marriages and relationships. I’m just an observer who likes to react to the things he observes, and try to spread the information about them to as many people as possible. And this is me doing just that again.
I have some friends—older and married friends—who wouldn’t stop telling me stuff about their marriages just because they want to hear my opinion. Even some of them who are in their several-years-old relationships always want to discuss things with me about their relationships, just so they get me to say something they like to hear (but I get too blunt sometimes and tell them things they don’t like to hear). You know what they say about how people who are watching a game are always the ones who know how to play the game best? That seems to be my case here. I have never made a relationship work because I’m a big time screw-up when it comes to that (I’m not proud of that though, but it has to be said that way so you get how serious it is), and I believe being a screw-up in my relationships is how I get to know so much of the things one should not do if they want to make their relationship work. If you understand what this means, you’ll get that I’m trying to say I might have zero experience to share from about making a relationship or marriage work, but I have more than enough experience to share from about what to avoid if you don’t want to screw your relationship up—I’ve been in too many bad relationships enough for me to have gained all the experiences I need to have on what to avoid in a relationship.
Talking about marriage with a friend of mine lately, we had a discussion on the legal wedding, and so many crazy things popped up in the course of the discussion. The bone of contention was whether the legal wedding is advisable for the typical Nigerian or not. Left to me and my progressive beliefs, any kind of wedding would do—even if it’s just the bride and the groom in their room declaring themselves “man and wife”—so long the two understand what they are getting into, and they are ready to roll with it. But unfortunately, there are so many factors that can determine the workability of a marriage other than the vows. This is my point: the legal wedding when the purpose is well understood can strengthen the marriage, but when other crazy purposes are attached to it—as the rampant cases around here—it will most surely have bad effects on the marriage.
Here, the legal wedding is seen as a way of giving the wife some leverages over the husband, and this is the most destructive purpose added to the legal wedding in Nigeria (and maybe in some other countries). Let me make this clearer; here, everyone just keeps trying to inform the bride that the legal wedding is her best leverage in her marriage. Humor me, who needs leverage in their marriage? Leverages are why marriages don’t work! Legalizing the leverage is why it wouldn’t even last any long. Leverage is why the couple will only be joined together and yet not be able to see themselves as one. Leverage is why most of the legally registered marriages end up breaking in no time.
This is no mere assumption, it’s based on fact, the United States of America has always been leading the rest of the world in the rate of divorces per year. One should want to know why Americans still divorce despite all the rigorous procedures and sanctions put in place to check and discourage divorces. I strongly believe the cause of the high rate of divorces in America is the leverages their marriage system puts in place; it affects the thinking and the beliefs of the parties and definitely determines how they live with each other, and how they react to each other’s actions. In the case of Nigeria now, how everyone around the bride makes the legal wedding seem to her will surely have influences in determining the longevity of her marriage, and how happy or not she’ll be in it—if she doesn’t take the great care. Her friends charge her to make sure it’s the legal wedding, her family wants it to be the legal wedding (for security purposes), everyone wants her to make sure it’s the legal wedding; and it’s all because the woman has to have leverage in her marriage. Even when the marriage is getting registered, everyone at the registry keeps singing the same song to the bride’s ears: “this certificate is yours, it’s your power in the marriage, don’t lose it”. All these will come together to mean one thing to the newly wedded wife: “yes, I have the leverage now”. The leverage that’ll define how far her marriage goes, and how happy or not she would be in it. This explains why most of the legalized marriages in Nigeria don’t work. The woman’s thinking, her beliefs, and her perception of her place in the marriage are affected by what she has been made to think the legal wedding means for her.
Statistics now: about 70% of the registered marriages in Nigeria separate in lesser than 5 years after the wedding, although only a very tiny number of the separated 70% come back to the laws to file for divorce. We don’t even need these stats to know how it’s going; we see these cases around us everywhere? They register the marriage and go back to ask for it to be broken just a short while after registering it. Why is this happening? It’s certainly not because the legal wedding is bad or unworkable, but because so much crazy purposes have been attached to the legal wedding that even the marriage cannot stand. This explains why it takes only the mature-minded couple to not let the leverage concept of the legal wedding in Nigeria have any definitive power on their marriage. For the wife especially, it takes great understanding of why she’s getting married for the leverage concept of the legal wedding to not define how she handles her marriage. I say this from my knowledge of the fact that what a person bears at heart when going into marriage will surely happen—especially the negative things. A woman who retains her nee (her initial surname) because “anything can happen in the marriage” will end up making “anything” happen. A woman who is conscious of the name she puts on her assets and achievements in preparation for when the man does his worst will surely end up having the man do his worst. Confirm this by observing marriages of this kinds around you—marriages in which the couple prepare for when the marriage breaks—they always end up breaking, and in fact in no time.
I’ve not argued against the legal wedding, I’m just saying it takes the mature couple to understand the effects it could have on the marriage; especially the effects coming from how everyone around the couple makes them understand their legally registered marriage. The woman will have to make herself understand that her legal wedding is not for the purpose of not making the marriage break (legal wedding is not what keeps marriages together, it in fact does more harm than good). She also has to understand that the legal wedding is no safety plan for when the man does his worst. The man—as well—has to understand that he has not fallen into a trap by going to the registry with his wife. He also has to know he has not over-empowered his wife to give her the leverage over himself by sharing the oath of marriage with her in a registry. For heaven’s sake marriage should not be a platform to struggle for power, and it should not be entered with the ways-out already prepared for. You don’t prepare a way out of your marriage and not use the way prepared, you surely will.