During my recent research on the web while spending my vacation in southern California, I came across several governmental data on divorces in most states that maintain public online databases on marriages and divorce records. Out of curiosity I pulled up data from 1988 – 1992 in the state of Texas and eventually went through several records among most states and spanning several years intervals, after deciding to write an article on it. This may technically be called a qualitative research study of some sort recognizing the empirical nature of it. What I found alarming especially in Texas, Illinois, California, and several other states is the frequency of Nigerian names on the divorce records. In some cases, I found the same names several times within the same state and the only way I could deduce if it was the same person was to apply a little statistics. Someone who was 24 in 1988 when they got married and 27 in 1991 when they got divorced is definitely the same person (assuming the name remains the same) who remarried in 1994 at 30 and divorced in 1998 at 34.
There were cases where some pages had over 50 percent Nigerian names making it relatively alarming. Factoring in the fact that some Nigerians from Edo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, and some part of Lagos states may have names that do not clearly reflect their country of origin, there may be more that I couldn’t easily identify. Also, there are Nigerians who find it necessary to change their names for obvious reasons, making it difficult to identify them. For instance, most people have a tendency to ask my specific place of origin within Nigeria. Fadal is an Ishan name (Ishan is in Edo state) and it may not be nationally common but there are several Fadals in Ishan. Some are spelled (a) Fada, (b) Fadal, (c) Ifada, and (d) Efada. Regardless of how it is spelt, the meaning stays the same and it is a name that is common among the Ishans.
In continuation of my research findings and analysis, upon recognizing the high frequency of divorces among Nigerians, I began to wonder why and a few probable thoughts came to mind such as:
1. Some of the marriages were for residency reasons and as such, the follow up divorces as there was no real love in the first case.
2. Some of the marriages were prearranged and of course, they eventually failed.
3. Some of the marriages were based on lies (people proclaiming to be what they are not in the USA to marry in Naija) and upon discovery of the truth, their spouses eventually file for divorces.
4. Some of the divorces were caused by greed and a desire for more wealth on the part of a spouse subsequently leading to disagreements and divorce.
5. Some of the marriages were possibly based on control by one party who had the upper hand for a while and when the other party became confident and matured enough, they sought divorce.
6. Some of the divorces may have been influenced by the inability to have children and/or specifically male children.
7. Some of the divorces were caused solely by infidelity on the part of either spouse most often the male spouses though females spouses are fast catching up based on recent surveys.
8. Some of the divorces were caused by strong financial disagreement.
9. Some of the divorces were caused by respect issues on the part of one spouse or both.
10. Some of the divorces may be solely based on the fact that the couples grew apart, developing two divergent ideological bents.
I could outline numerous reasons why couples justify their divorces but the fact is, very rarely do divorces leave either couple happy at the long end especially when children are involved. Most developed and “civilized” countries do not allow polygamy and in countries where some men marry more than one spouse, they are essentially experiencing some shadow of marital death and because they can, they marry other wives without divorcing existing ones or making efforts to resolve the issues. Life priorities and perception does change and oftentimes, society often tries to dictate how we should live our lives. Could the high level of divorces noticeable among Nigerians in America a result of societal influences and acceptance? I have seen couples get married and divorced over the years at an alarming rate some for frivolous reasons. Why have we suddenly embraced divorce as an alternative rather than a last approach option when all else fails? It is perhaps the influence of the society we live in or probably the desire to explore our hidden wishes that marriages don’t often allow because of the weak foundation of these marriages.
How do these folks plan to spend their last years? Will they relish being without someone they can trust, rely on and/or possibly discuss memories with? Regardless of what some might make us believe, it is not all glamorous as portrayed by Hollywood stars, as I have seen the normative and summative effects of divorces on couples, children and sometimes, extended friends and families. The greatest use of life according to Williams James is to spend it on something that will outlast it. This is perhaps one of the key reasons we seek immortality in various ways. Some individuals seek children as a source of immortality, some write books, make music, conduct and publish research findings, adopt and preach beliefs that may be unpopular but goal-oriented to them, etc. The desires for immortality through one’s own progeny are so strong in some Asian and African countries that they remain bent on having male children to carry on their names at all cost. This naïve mentality that remain deep-rooted in some people still break up marriages.
Divorce sometimes is not avoidable and in such situations, it may be justified. However, when society says, “jump”, we must seek the “why” before we jump. Most cracks in marriages are repairable regardless of how frustrating the experiences may be. Knowing and respecting each other’s temperament goes a long way to preserving relationships. A pre-evaluation and good understanding prior to marriage is perhaps old fashion but still a requirement for maintaining long marriages. The marriage institution is a level playing field regardless of how we look at it and on the long run, the ultimate satisfaction is to say, “my marriage was dead and now it is alive.”