This probably cuts across other cultures, but I’m African so I am writing from an African perspective. When it comes to lack of marital compatibility, Africans take the prize. I blame our parents, grandparents, and if our ancestors are lurking in corners anywhere, I blame them too.
On the average, male and female children in Africa are brought up with completely different models that now result in dysfunctional families and depressed parties.
Male children in Africa often get excused for their mistakes. The phrase “He’s a boy, and boys will be boys” often transforms into “He’s a man, and a man will always be a man”. Most of the time, these phrases are used to excuse unbecoming behaviour, temper tantrums, and downright disrespect. They are offered as excuses to explain emotionally and psychologically abusive behaviour. I can say boldly that we are beginning to frown harder at physical abuse so that might be waning. Male children are brought up to understand it’s a man’s world and it is important that they show they are men in all their dealings. Male children are given the power of masculinity without the required sense of responsibility that comes with that power. There is nothing in an African male child’s training manual that explains the need to be empathetic, accountable, or respectful. Instead, the manual flourishes on the ideology that men own the world and everything in it, including women; hence they can do as they please.
On the other hand, female children are brought up with restrictions. Close your legs when you sit; learn how to cook and look after a man; you should be able to manage your finances; you should be forgiving; you should be able to do ALL the housework; you must respect the authority of a man (In this case, there are no distinctions as to which men to respect, all men deserve respect); you shouldn’t be too educated because you will end up in a man’s kitchen at the end of it all; when a man cheats, you must learn to understand; And to cure his infidelity? Give him a child! He’s running wild because you haven’t given him kids (Like a person can push a button and birth kids…seriously); when he lies, he’s being a man; you must get married to be respected; you must keep the home together…. I can write a whole list but hey you get the point. African female children are brought up with the idea that they have no identity as women. So great is the model of self-sacrifice, that it starts to birth low self-esteem issues. And where there is a lack of defined achievements (which are often tied to a man), a feeling of failure might set in.
African females are brought up with an understanding of immense self-control, sacrifice, and respect, while the male children are brought up with the ideology that they are not accountable to anyone, and can do as they please for the only valid reason society can think of – they are men.
No wonder our marriages fail, and abuse is rife in our homes. We have raised women to give, and keep giving even if they don’t receive, and raised men to take and keep taking even when they are not giving anything. We have designed a marital system where one party’s emotional bank is constantly emptied by the other who does not feel the need to replenish.
This is why many men treat their wives like property and why the wives accept it as a norm. You cannot study further if you want us to get married; you cannot tell me what decisions to take; you cannot get pissed when I cheat on you, I’m a man; you cannot raise your voice when you are angry with me; you cannot expect me to share the bulk of the housework with you; if I watch pornography, you cannot expect me to be bothered about how insecure that makes you feel. I am a man, and my word is final. No wonder some men find it odd when a woman does not subscribe to the school of thought where they take from her and give nothing in return. No wonder they lash out. No wonder they feel the need to ‘insult’ her for being too strong, and feel she needs to be taken down a peg or two. To keep a marriage afloat, huge sacrifices are required and most of them fall on the shoulders of women.
What kind of hell have we created? Where did we come up with the notion that men can take and not give, but women MUST keep giving? The wife of an infidel is often encouraged to forgive him over and over. So deeply rooted are our cultural beliefs in our religious practices, that such women are often made to remember the bible verse that says “a wise woman builds her home”. Why have we put so much pressure on women, and none on men?
It is a woman’s job to keep strange women away from her husband; it is her duty to fast and pray for the marriage to survive; it is up to her to ensure arguments don’t get out of hand; it is up to her to suppress her feelings and apologise when she’s not wrong. Only the woman gets asked how she balances work and family? Are we saying men are not accountable for the wellbeing of their families? Why so much pressure on women? What are the men responsible for?
When marriages fall apart, fingers often point to the woman whether she is the culprit or not. She is blamed for not being understanding enough, not being patient enough, not being prayerful enough, not being anything good enough…. Enough! I can’t take it anymore.
The burden on women is too much. Marriage is where women go to lose their identities and kill their dreams. It is where men get fatter because they are well cared for, and women get fatter because they are stressed and depressed. Marriage is where women go to submit to men who do not love them (Ooh… I have another post coming on this crazy new wave of submission. It’s one word that really just creams my corn). Marriage is where women go to break their backs with house chores, and kids’ schedules, and husband’s schedules, and all sorts… and yet may be faced with the infidelity and disrespect that men have been told comes with masculinity. Marriage is where men believe their life’s vision is more important than that of their wife’s so she must aim to support them at her own detriment. Marriage is where many men think their wives are not people; they are acquired objects.
We have raised women to be strong, accountable, and self-sufficient, and raised men with a model of leadership that has no accountability. Surely, we must know that leadership without accountability inevitably leads to abuse. No wonder many men lose it when women do not cater to their fragile egos, yet will not hesitate to tear a woman down with venomous words.
It is time to raise our children differently. We cannot raise men and women so differently, yet expect to birth healthy functional families within the society. It’s not working. We cannot have men who do not understand what masculinity is really about. We cannot raise one half to be fully responsible while the other half is raised to believe he can run as wild as he wishes. We cannot raise men who believe women are under them, hence must be subdued and abused. We cannot raise men who think it is OK to cheat simply because they are men. No… We cannot continue like this.
I have observed different relationships, and I have honestly admired the feeling of responsibility and respect some cultures instill in men. I have admired men from other cultures for their indepth understanding of the sanctity of relationships, and the empathy they express for their wives. I have seen men do the bulk of the housework without feeling their dicks might disappear; I’ve watched men tie up loose ends when their wives are just too tired; and I’ve seen men show up with ice cream and pizza for dinner just so she doesn’t have to stand over the stove after a long hard day at work. I’ve seen men cheering their wives on, and women who understand the need to receive this kind of amazing love. Are you saying it’s romantic? It’s what dutiful husbands do. They cater to their wives with love and respect. They support her dreams without reservation, or the fear that it might shrink their penis. I can hear you saying some African men are like that. Of course! Not all of them are terrible husbands; however, it is the prevalent African ideology that women must give, and men must take – this is what we need to change.
If we want marital compatibility, we must aim for a marital model where both identities are respected; a model where the dreams of both parties are valid . We need a model where women are loved like they should be and are not emotionally abused to satisfy the fragile ego of a flawed definition of masculinity. Let’s redefine masculinity to mean responsibility and accountability. Let’s raise sons who will ruin lipsticks and not mascaras and eyeliners.
P.S: The new ariel ad on dads sharing the load might add a little more perspective. XOXO.