I have just finished reading Rudolf Okonkwo’s witty but illuminating piece, What Do Men Want? All the while I was laughing. I laughed not at Mr. Okonkwo and the people he wrote about, I laughed and laughed and laughed some more because I get asked the same question by women; and the men also ask “What do Women Want?” You get the feeling most men, and most women, are perplexed at what their partners wants.
But before I move on, I offer a disclaimer: this is not a direct response to Rudolf’s piece. All I have done, or all I am doing, is to take one of the points he raised and then run with it. This is simply another interpretation of what men and women want.
After all these years, I am not sure men and women truly know the answers. I doubt if men truly know what women want and if women truly know what men want. One could generalize; but really, both sexes would be better served if they looked at their partners as individuals and not as part of a larger group. I meant to say that men and women would be better off if only they would devote some time to getting to know the person in their lives, and to treat and relate to the person as “a person.”
The way I see it, most people don’t even spend the time to get to know their partners before marriage. For such people, it is enough that their partner is from a good and well-to-do family, it is enough that their partner is from a religious and or spiritual family, it is enough that their partner is from their ethnic group, it is enough that their partner is educated and has a good job. And in most cases, it is enough that their partner meets the standards they have privately devised, and are available for marriage. Not too many people know who their partners truly are, and so most people marry strangers.
How many times have we seen “Mr. A” leave “Ms. M” for “Ms. Q” all because Ms. M is not from his ethnic group or because her family does not have the wealth, power and or influence of Ms. Q? In other word, some people marry the name and or the political and economic gain that might accrue to them. And in recent years, some people marry simply because the pastor said so or because the Holy Spirit directed then to do so. And so you have all these born-again marriages — marriages too weak to resist the vagaries of secular life. After all, more than 85% of married life is spend in the material world.
And then there are those who marry marriage, they marry the idea. Some people are not ready to be married but do so anyways just to satisfy family and societal expectations. But really, not everyone should be married; not everyone is the marrying type. Sadly such people would do everything it takes to be married — including lying to themselves and to others. These are the types of people who bail out at the slightest marital difficulty. After all, marriage is not easy. It is something you work on again and again and again. If you and your partner get it right, it is happiness; otherwise, it can be hell on earth.
One of the difficulties facing married Africans in the west is the (sometimes) insidious effect of modernization on the family unit. The expectations are different and taxing; and whether we are cognizant of it or not there is always a clash of culture — more so if one or both couples were adult before migrating to the West. Things we take for granted in Africa may not be applicable or be of any utility in the western world. It is easy, really easy to get lost and confused and depressed in a very individualistic society as the American society — a society that lacks most of the safety-net of the traditional African society.
Something else: most men are in a state of denial when it comes to relationships: they want their women to be “African women,” but sadly, most will not openly admit it for fear of being branded “African.” The fact is these men want their women in the mold of their mothers and grandmother — to cook and clean and raise babies and defer to them. Out in the open they deceive themselves by advocating for or openly professing “equality of maritality.” But once married, the African-seed comes to the fore.
And the women, in my generalized opinion, are too quick to resort to “westernism” in their dealings with their men (calling for equal this and equal and equal everything in their marriage). Some marriages are not even marriages in the true sense of the word; they are more like room-mate deals. If you’ve ever had a room-mate, you’ll know that most are doomed for failure from the word go.
And then there are women who have pent-up anger. After all these years, they have yet to forgive their fathers and grandfathers for subjugating and domesticating the women in their household. Woe befalls the man who dreams of “Africanizing” westernized-African women. Such women are cultural time bombs waiting to unleash their fury at the slightest mistake of their men.
The next time you are at it, ask your friends how many of them are genuinely happy to be married? Given the chance, how many would marry the man or woman they are currently married to? May be the time has come when we should try out short-term marriage: you sign contract for 2-4 years and then renew or discard it depending on how both partners feel, and what the cost and benefit of such a union is. Short-term or contract-to-contract marriage may solve some of the problems currently associated with traditional marriage in the western world.