About a year ago, while on a flight from Florida to California, I got talking with an older lady sitting next to me. She asked me, “is it true that your men are very likely to leave their families?” I pondered the question for a bit, struggled with the term “your men” also. I was not sure the context in which she expected a response, was I to share my opinion on African-American men and marriages which I know very little of or was I to share my views on men and marriage in Nigeria.
I told her I was from Nigeria and where I am from, men do not really leave their wives or families in any visible way, divorce was something of a taboo and our divorce rates are practically non-existent.
I forgot about that encounter until about a week ago when I saw an Instagram post – “Women should not only work to find a good man but also work to keep him” something along those lines. So I started thinking, where are the men going and why? All my life, I was taught about being “wife material”. My mother would say things like “don’t laugh too loud, a good women is never loud” or “learn to cook, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” or my favorite “you cannot buy a car before you are married, it will intimidate the men”.
So I started thinking, are men really leaving? Is divorce a real thing in Nigeria? According to the Economist quoting the National Bureau of Statistics, less than 2% of couples admit to begin legally separated or divorced. Reading through some of the articles and comments, I read phrases like “career women will want to rub shoulders with their husbands leading to conflict” or “desperation is the leading factor driving women into loveless marriages”. One guy even ended his marriage because his wife came to his house without a “grinding stone”.
To find a more balanced view, I decided to interview a number of guys. I asked, “Are men really leaving and need to be kept? If yes, why? What are the factors driving this behavior? I interviewed men married and single; here are some of their responses. I changed their names to protect their identities:
Arinze: “I dated my wife for 10 years, I’ve been married to her for an additional 10 years. She does not need to do anything to keep me”
Agozie: “People change and your wife needs to work hard to keep you else Karashikas will get you.” He went on to add, “Sometimes, women get comfortable and stop doing things their husbands like to spice things up”. I did not ask but I suspect he was referring to bedroom shenanigans. He added, “When I was dating my wife, she used to say I was cute. These days, all she says is that my tummy is too big. Meanwhile, some girl I just met over the weekend told me I was cute and she wanted to hang out. I still have her number just in case.”
Babatunde: “Everyone has the tendency to go astray. The question is how tolerant is the spouse to accepting the man back after he has gone astray. Going astray may be because of irresponsibility or because the wife is lacking certain things which the man is looking for outside. The goal should be to find out what drove him outside and be tolerant enough to want to fix it. Don’t just shut him out!”
Fred: “The key is understanding personalities and discussing during courtship to negotiate your terms and expectations so that, when marriage begins and the terms start to show up, they do not shock you. Another issue is finance, women expect men to contribute 100% of all bills but this needs to be discussed and agreed beforehand. Also, researching about marriage beforehand also equips you to better know what to do during dating and what to expect in the marriage. Lastly, love flies out of the windows immediately you get married, so if you get married for physical attributes you will immediately start to get discontented”
Rony: “There are things women can do to make the men happier at home but that does not give the man a license to go outside. Things like submission, respect, keeping the home, and cooking. I don’t like to eat out so when I get home I expect to have a meal cooked by my wife. I don’t do cooks.”
Ola: “Life is constantly changing and both parties need to adapt to that. Sometimes you need to detach to preserve your sanity but if there is commitment, you will always come back and talk through the issues. Happiness is a choice, no one can make you happy”
Somto: “There are two types of leaving, there is leaving physically and leaving in your heart. Most good men because of their traditional or religious beliefs will not leave physically but a lot of men leave in their heart and that is worse. Men leave when they feel like they are not honored and respected. A man NEEDS to find a place where he is looked up to, honored, and respected, and it is in his wife’s best interest to ensure that she is in that place. If not, he will find it at work, church, village meeting or wherever but he needs it and that is what triggers his protection. A lot of times, the heart leaving does not happen instantly, it happens over time and most good men just drift away.”
Mahmoud: “Greater equality between men and women showing up. It has never been a better time to be a woman. Laws are being made to protect women and ensure basic rights. A lot of men cannot deal with the loss of power, a lot of women now feel empowered. Both have good and bad sides. Secondly, there seems to be more drive from African women to achieve goals and excel (this actually worries me). A lot of African men seem more laid back and relaxed. It is hard for a person to carry another along, let alone a grown man who won’t pull his own weight. I guess men become intimidated.”
Kachi: “I think it’s the other way round now. I think it’s the men that have to work so hard to find and keep a good woman these days where women are increasingly smarter and more aware. A woman will not hesitate to leave you in a heartbeat when she senses you are not pulling your weight and you want to see yourself as the head of the family”. He went on to add, “I really do not think it’s that hard to find a good man. The question is, do you know one when you see one? Women love bad boys and that’s no secret. As for the keeping part ehn……what does it really take to keep a good man? Loyalty, honesty, good food, good sex, how to raise kids too.”
Interviewing only the men is intentional, I think women have pretty much talked this issue out and not enough attention has been paid to the men and their views. The views are as varied as the men are different. There are some consistent themes – honor, respect, tolerance, adaptability and good sex. To answer the question, men are indeed leaving their wives and homes, sometimes out rightly, most times disconnecting emotionally and just continuing to go through the motions.
Marriage takes work from both the men and women, and while there has hitherto been a lot of focus on women particularly needing to own the responsibility and accountability for keeping their men and homes. It appears that open communication, especially about needs in the bedroom, thoughts around money, mutual respect, kindness and consideration on both sides are a more likely key requirement.
Let us continue the conversation in the comments. Men, please air your views, maybe it’s time we asked what do men want?