The workings of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman will probably remain the most intriguing puzzle of all mankind: throw in marriage and the puzzle morphs into a game of Jumanji. The complex nature of marriage and relationships stays the same wherever you find yourself in the world. However, a notable difference exists in how individuals approach romantic relationships in the western world and in most African nations.  

A girlfriend/boyfriend for a while, a bride/groom for a day, a wife/husband for a lifetime.

The first striking difference is the disposition of women to relationships/marriage: for example women in the UK don’t seem in a haste or rather in a race against time to tie the knot, in fact, if anything they appear unperturbed by what age they get married. Note: the difference is not in the desire to be in a relationship or married as this, in my opinion, is the same on both sides. Nigerian women, however, tend to dread being single after a certain age, it’s as though there’s an unseen whistle that goes off at a particular age a countdown to the end of your nuptial possibilities.

This difference perhaps stems from societies attitude towards single women/single mothers: in present day UK most people would not bat an eyelid at a single woman/ mother (note: this was not always been the case). The society caters for the single mother, in the same way, it treats everyone else. Back home the single woman to a large extent is considered a burden to her family regardless of her financial or economic status. In some circles beyond a certain age, she might be seen as a misfit whilst a single man is deemed irresponsible, unmanageable and a tad unruly .

Another major difference lies in the acceptance of kids outside marriage or within a partnership which isn’t ‘legalized’. Having a child out of wedlock or with anyone other than your spouse is severely frowned upon by the Nigerian society. The case is, however ,different in England: teenage moms, single moms and their kids (married or divorced) are not stigmatized. It is not unusual to have couples cohabiting or to have siblings with the same mom, but different dads. This acceptance influences the attitude of women to marriage and aging in England. Women are liberated and not shackled by societies expectation, they call the shots.

The culture and religious atmosphere in Nigeria probably account for its outlook on such issues. According to the policy paper written by Hera Cook“No turning back: family forms and sexual mores in modern Britain,” the case was much the same in England prior to the 1950s. In those times people especially women, could not enjoy an adult status, heterosexual sexual activity, parenthood or household formation without being married. The unmarried usually could not form their own households and therefore remained under the control of the head of the household where they lived, with limited sexual activity. Single mothers were shamed and reduced to dire poverty. Women and men emerged from a long period of sexual control and repression in the 1960s. The emergence of the pill and subsequent improvements in birth control meant that sex between men and women no longer translated to major economic consequences and thus, the tides turned giving birth to today’s society. It is presently unclear as to whether the Nigeria will follow in the steps of its colonial masters with respects to shaming single individuals into marriage.

Having experienced life in both societies, I must say that I find neither approach satisfactory. Both systems are riddled with problems: with the one, you find the court wide open without any restrictions which in my opinion leads to less enduring and satisfying relationships, split parenting units/families and an attitude that quits on people when they don’t measure up. Whilst the other has propagated the multiplication of “families” which seem normal on the surface but are severely fractured internally, breeding a desire in people to conform without understanding or guidance. I have learned a valuable lesson from both societies on love and marriage: regardless of the route you take to love or marriage, there are no guarantees except the ones you and your partner are willing to uphold together. I believe this holds through for everyone, so don’t allow pressure make you leap and don’t assume sex, kids or cohabiting is certain to guarantee love, it doesn’t!

“Sexual Revolution and liberation altered our way of life significantly, but it did not change our essential nature; true it makes us feel free, or free-er than our predecessors— free to indulge ourselves, free to sleep around, free to pursue passing feelings like overwhelming love — an emotion which  seldom lasts, and a word, which is meaningless unless its definition includes commitment.” (Source: Dailymail online by A.N WILSON  paraphrased)

Published by Chioma Nwafor