The Pressures of a Nigerian-American Marriage

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

Married men and unmarried women have very few things in common; but they do share an unusual commonality, especially when examined against the background of Nigerians in America. These two seemingly inchoate sub-groups of Nigerians in America have a linked, but unusual Nigerian in America experience.

In one breath the married man in America is busy, and engaged. In search of the proverbial Golden Fleece he often works himself to death. The American dream to him is a “not ever ending” mirage of shadowy goals whose attainment only waters the ambition for the next conquest. No matter how much he earns, his wife’s (and perhaps his own) insistence on keeping on with the Joneses, means his suffering knows no end. He might be a specialist doctor earning millions, yet never has enough. Thoroughly maxed out on credit cards, he works for his mortgage company half the day, Uncle Sam for a quarter and his credit card company for another quarter of his work day. He hardly stays in the house as he relentless has to pay month in, month out.

Visit, any Naija church on a typical Sunday, and the shiny new cars and absent husbands tells you half the story! This lifestyle as I previously mentioned robs him of the total experience of the society in which he toils. and for which he his taxed. Don’t be surprised that even though he had passed through America, the country had hardly passed through him. His limited worldview is dictated by his spouse: who happily bounds him to the church, her social circle and of course his work. He is the type whose bush mannerism and lack of sophistication will put you to shame when you meet him at the subway or at the airport. Loud, brash, arrogant and pompous- his ego is well oiled by his woman’s daily push for the dollars and his seemingly relentless ability to continue supplying it.

I know one engineer in Houston, he works in Foley’s as well in the weekends at the mall, and holds another job as a caterer for Mexican restaurant where he moonlights after his eight to five work, while his family enjoys the shelter and bed he has provided in his Mac Mansion (whose jumbo monthly mortgage can put a fairly used car under a young college undergrad). Don’t get me wrong, many of these men like where they are: or so they think. They have bought into the age long notion of the relentless provider that (“African”) men are supposed to be. While all that is well and good, it robs them of many valuable life experiences; it indeed, leaves them surprisingly naïve in their environment, and vulnerable as you can imagine. Undeniably, at the end of the pursuit of these bounties- many of them become burnt out, and realize the relentless rat race leads to no where. Rats gets fat, cats feed on them.

He is the type who has been in the US for 30 years and has been to five states for six nights; all for Owambe (he came back overnight to base to continue working). He doesn’t know the joy of watching his kids read; enjoy the beach or even mere playing in the yard. Paint ball, laser tag, white water rafting, hiking, skiing, jet skiing and golf all sound like stuff out of fantasy movies to him. His annual HOA dues that pays for the use of the well stuffed community center at his ostentatious neighborhood is as good as wasted; when one considers his next to no utilization of the facilities therein. Life to him is defined by: work, work, church. The church he has to go because madam also requires it.

His sex life, oh well, let madam answer for that. He is surprised when he finds out that the “brethren” from church had actually being filling the void in his bed while he was away moonlighting and his kids were busy snoring his wealth away. Even his health suffers; last time his new employer (in one of his odds short term jobs) forced him to take a physical, his doctor asked him to watch his diet and exercise more because he is pushing hypertensive and doesn’t even know it! But with three jobs, a good meal is a good sit at Burger King and his flabby stomach “is a sign of good living”, his wife told him. Who is to blame?

The first shock for him comes when he first manages to squeeze his first three day vacation to Nigeria in fifteen years past his wife (who had to take a temp job to cover for him) in order to attend a close relative’s funeral. There he finds himself relative to his peers back home, left behind and much left to be desired. His American dream soon becomes a nightmare as the once confident, cocky medical doctor in America, becomes self doubting, bitter and badly adjusted to the twin contending worlds of Nigeria and America. At the funeral he was a mere wall paper.

In Nigeria, he is a stranger: utterly out of place no thanks to his long sojourn from home. In America, his heavy accent still won’t cut it in the nirvana social circles, and his ability to break into it is heavily hampered by his long unusual work hours. He is a prime candidate for depression, anger and the common place result of drunkenness, wife battering, parental violence and ultimately divorce. He loses it all, and to him life cannot just get worse. Who is to blame?

Well just before you blame his wife, the formerly single Nigerian woman professional in America who finally got lucky with him, well consider her once unbeknown fate. Let us just say, “she frittered away her youth”. Since that last day of college when her mum gazing at her newly minted diploma reminded her that marriage was the next logical step, she had known no peace. She can’t even remember when she was 23 years old, not to talk of mid twenties or when she hit the big three-O. The day she crossed over that magical 30, her mind was totally focused on finding Mr. Right that enjoying life was far from her thoughts. She can’t even recollect where that birthday bash was held.

Her schedule looked like this. Pray, pray at fellowship until mum calls to remind her of her singlehood- then work, work, work thereafter to bury her depression afterwards. In the weekends, she forces herself once in a while to party out with her more carefree friends, but she is more obsessed about spotting and identifying the single men that it soon lost the luster. When she finally hooks up with one good nothing arrogant young Nigerian professional or 419, it is obvious the chase of the booty is more important to him than settling down. No sooner is she acting like the wife-to-be: all caring and motherly, does he push back and reward her with a token of heartbreak. All the while, she had cancelled the trip to Europe, or Florida or Las Vegas with her American buddies who couldn’t figure why she is so hung up on marrying any thing in trousers.

Well, she finally got lucky. She met him at one of those parties. He was unsophisticated, but was hardworking. He loves to work and makes good money she was told by her contacts. She figured out, why settle for less? Why not make up for time lost? He likes the fact that she worked: if only he had asked if she will continue working after they got married. Little did he know that the power of the Joneses “passes’ all understanding”. Well, what can a man do? I am just figuring why the few wise single men out there are running for their dear lives from the hell hole of Nigerian-American marriage, and the legions of eligible spinsters are pushing harder towards the altar. One man’s meat surely is another man’s poison. Go figure.

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just a concerned nigerian woman October 13, 2019 - 7:54 pm

I would say your lack of knowledge on this particular topic is evident. You sound like someone who has never in their life encountered this feeling called love. I pray that one day you will be able to experience that and see for yourself the beauty of marriage,

dmyles December 1, 2010 - 5:10 pm

agree.. title misleading and realistic fiction.. American woman with a Nigerian husband of almost 13 years. it may represent someone’s experience and to that notion it is written well…

Enitan June 29, 2010 - 2:04 pm

Mis-leading title. More appropriately titled Nigerian marriages in America. Overly dramatic. One sided. Cautionary realistic fiction?

Ifemi May 11, 2010 - 1:49 pm

This is an awful article. You are describing one marriage, but imply that this one marriage represents a trend, which it does not. I just wasted my time reading this.

NVM February 17, 2010 - 5:36 am

“My people perish for lack of knowledge.” They have REJECTED knowledge.

Why are you moaning and complaining? Are you not guilty of doing the same things she does? Were we supposed to be tricked by your “fair and balanced” ‘Well just before you blame his wife…’? Be more realistic than that.

“He loses it all…” because he needs to find God. That’s what happens without God. Or maybe it was God’s fault since He made women?

“Why oh why do you hate Nigerian women?”

I agree. Anyone naive enough to buy into this article, or write it, is lacking in moral efficiency. But, God has enough grace for all. And please, do not treat the wife of your youth treacherously. Read it in the Bible! Some of you all need to read songs of solomon. lol. I’ll stop talking. I shouldn’t be taking this too seriously.

Reply August 2, 2009 - 1:42 pm

To anyone that reads this article and is struggling with balancing marriage and life in America, I would recommend a book called Peculiar Conflicts by Femi Awodele.

Patricia August 1, 2009 - 5:21 am

Did anyone pressure the Nigerian man to leave his homeland and come to America in the first place. He and his wife wanted to experience the American dream–did they not. So now when they come to America, he is forced to work by gunpoint by his wife, work long hours for his wife, have sex less with his wife, and be dragged to church by his wife. This poor, manipulated Nigerian man seems as though he was dragged around with no option but to comply. Surely this is coming from a male perspective. Since when did the average Nigerian male allow a woman to totally control them to the point where they have no input. This is written from the perspective that one should have empathy for a Nigerian man who voluntarily came to America and was overjoyed to do so. If the American lifestyle is too much to bear and that horrid, why does not the Nigerian man (husband in this case) gather his family up, sell his posessions he gathered during his stay in America, and return where he can focus on family and the more important things in life since he cannot do that in America. You cannot have it both ways–long to come to America to enjoy the land that is seemingly flowing with milk and honey and then turn around and speak volumes of negativity against it when you feel it fails to deliver all of your expectations. Many Nigerians I met do not even teach their American born children their native language–when they get married and have children, they will not have any Nigerian traditions too pass down to their children. Whose fault is that–Americas. Stop dying to reach the American shores and then turn right around and complain that you found riches but have lost your identity with your own culture when you did not take the time to invest into it once you left your homeland’s shore. Again, is America to blame for that as well.

The Truth August 1, 2009 - 1:49 am

I am shocked that “feminist” Rosie has the nerve to talk about fair and balance writing. Especially when all her writings sound like some lunatic feminist who forgot to take her prozac.

This is his opinion and he doesn’t have to be fair. You seriously do need to chill-out since you do the same thing you ignorantly claim this author is doing.

Noni July 30, 2009 - 10:24 pm

Bats, I have to disagree with you, Rosie is probably closer to the mark. This write-up seemed like a composite of “types” of marriage mainly from a male perspective, but then I wouldn’t have expected a balance unless one has a very deep insider’s view of any couple’s situation. Even then, sometimes it is difficult to be objective.

In any case, I don’t think this is unique to Nigerians in America or Nigerian American marriages.

Rosie July 30, 2009 - 6:18 pm

I am refering to his 'a' marriage. Btw – who do you think you are to tell me to chill out. I don't like his misogynistic write-up. And you don't know me well enough to think I am touched. If you like it, give him an applause and get on with your life.

Bats July 30, 2009 - 3:25 pm

Chill out, the author was writing about “a” marriage, not all marriages. And what does this have to do with hate? Looks like someone was touched. Nice write up

Rosie July 30, 2009 - 2:26 pm

Why oh why do you hate Nigerian women? What in God’s name is wrong with you? If you want to honestly write about Nigerian marriages in America, be honest about it and write about the good; two people sharing a similar culture coming together to make a life in a foreign land – and the bad; the pressure of keeping a marriage together despite societal differences as in Nigeria and America. Don’t go around mouthing off about how the man’s spouse is responsible for is rat race life. Everyone is in on this rat race. Even Americans! And why do you have to dig in on the fact that the woman married out of desperation? How do you know? I know quite a few successful Nigerian marriages. They are not perfect but they as good as any marriage can be. Marriage is hard work. Period. No one, not even those back home, will tell you otherwise. This is your usual rubbish but with a lot less class. Shio.


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