The Curse of House Husbands

I spent the morning reading up and watching videos of the drama that followed Beyonce’s phenomenal visual album ‘Lemonade.' Yesterday, I followed Tiwa Savage’s story and found profoundly touching her interview on Pulse TV. Unlike some, I believe Tiwa’s version of events, I support her, and I am not particularly interested in hearing her husband’s story. Before yesterday, I did not know who Tiwa Savage was. You see, I am not a core fan of Nigeria’s pop music or its stars. Entertainment and celebrity news is not my thing. I have learnt a lot about her and her husband since yesterday, though. I have caught up with the gist. I know what is going on.

Several things from her video interview show the commonality of her situation. She is not ALONE. Female breadwinners exist around the world. Unlike in Nigeria where men and women are jointly emasculated by harsh economic conditions when you find househusbands in the UK, it is because the man is either not financially motivated, he may be down right lazy, or it is agreed that he would be looking after the children. The bottom line is that there is always work in the UK for a man (or anybody), who wants to work. Nigeria is a bit different as a man may be working, but his income may not be tangible, or he may not work at all because there is no work. The fact is that there is high unemployment in Nigeria. It is a fact. When that happens in a marriage situation, it is very hard on the woman, if she then becomes the breadwinner.

There are also millions of Nigerian men who are a drain on their wives simply because they refuse to hold down a steady job. These men spend their time looking for contracts. A vicious cycle for when they are eventually paid for their labor (from the contracts), they spend the money, settling debts. It can also be said that there are some women who are better off single than married. This is because, in addition to looking after their children, she has to provide for the man as well. Sad isn’t it?

Back to Tiwa Savage and her husband, after TeeBliz (Tiwa’s husband) was fired from being her manager, he struggled to find meaningful work. It is important to note that he was fired for stealing from his wife by the way. He got what was coming to him. But this made Tiwa the bread winner, forcing her to pay for everything including Jamil, their child. Again here, she is not ALONE when I write that there are men who have never provided for their children. As in, there are men, who keep saying they don’t have money, to buy nappies, baby milk and so on for their child. But, these men have money to cut their hair, buy petrol /diesel for their cars, travel in search of contracts and so on. Cruelly, these men, leave their wives the burden of being the sole provider. One wonders the role love plays in these scenarios.

Perhaps, Tiwa would have carried on stoically but for the fact that he also cheated, and he compounded issues with his alcohol, debts, and drug problems. Naturally, resentment sets in. He resents the fact that she is successful and that he supposedly made her. She resents him for spending so much whilst earning so little. A man who depends on his wife to pay for him loses the respect of his woman. Somehow, Tiwa carries on as gracefully as she can. But, no matter how kind she is to him, he hates her primarily because he expects her to pay the bills -and still come home and ask him if he has eaten- and metaphorically suck his dick. It is hard for breadwinner wives to pay the bills and still be wife. Yet, this scenario is common up and down Nigeria. Women are expected to still be humble and carry on with the man whilst he freeloads. Freeloading is basically what it is.

The writer knows not one but five couples where the woman is the bread winner. In three out of these five relationships, the wife had wanted to leave but for family intervention and the children, she has stayed. In all five cases, there is domestic abuse. Mental abuse which Tiwa alluded to in her interview is a common factor here. There is the silent treatment they (the women) get when they try to talk about the situation, there is the verbal abuse they get as well, and some of the men here are also cheating on their wives. On social media, some people are saying it is traditional for a woman to do anything to preserve her marriage, including staying put in difficult situations like this. Tradition or not, a woman needs to decide what she is getting from such a marriage and why is staying, should she decide to stay. Tiwa’s decision to leave the marriage will inspire and strengthen other women in marriages such as this. There is no point in staying when your partner is a deliberate drain.

Obviously, there is a link between a lack of steady finances and abuse in marriage. Men are frustrated for whatever reasons, and they take their anger out on their wives by becoming less supportive and emotionally responsive. I know a man who accused his wife of infidelity each morning she goes to work. The marriage lasted only 18 months. He married her knowing she worked a 12 hour a day job. Once married, she was expected to give up her job and maintain with the man’s cleaner job. She couldn’t do it. Who would? The mistake she made was marrying him.

Tiwa also admitted she made a mistake. Many women make the mistake of marrying men who marry them knowing their money making potential. Perhaps, I have over simplified the issue. Some men loose their jobs months into a marriage and then they spend years finding a well paid job. This takes its toll on the woman who is then forced to have children, care and provide for the family as well as work a job.

With Nigeria’s precarious economic problems, there are a lot more women who are breadwinners than men, it seems. The nagging truth is that women find it hard to deal with a man who does not work. We have been brought up to think a man should be the breadwinner and the provider. When we marry someone who is neither, it is a huge disappointment. His sex appeal loses steam, and the marriage is stressed. A househusband loses the respect of his wife, he may look after the children excellently, but because even the presents he buys maybe on his wife’s credit card, the wife nurses a desire for a ‘proper man’ who works. The woman becomes resentful and anger.

Tiwa can take comfort that her situation is not local to her but international as well. Julia Llewellyn Smith wrote an article titled “Female breadwinners: why earning more can poison your marriage (but not in the way you'd expect)’ in the Telegraph in 2014. She wrote: Thirty-one per cent of British women are now the main financial provider in their family – a rise of 80 per cent in the past 15 years, with an increase across all age and income groups. This is partly because more men’s jobs than women’s were claimed by the recession, partly because women are now more employable than men. Next year 75 per cent of graduates will be female, leaving the most prestigious careers theirs for the taking. Further more, it may be of some comfort that the former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his wife, the international lawyer Miriam González Durántez, earned four times as much as he did as Deputy PM.

What Tiwa has done is that she has allowed us to talk about the burden women who are bread winners carry. She has opened up her heart and her situation for us to learn that we don’t have to carry on with men who are a drain. Most women would prefer a man who respects himself enough to hold down a job. Most women would rather have it fifty-fifty financially.

Is the house husband a curse, a blessing or a drain? There is no one cap fits all situation. Each woman needs to decide alone what she needs to do if her husband is a curse, a drain and an abuse to her.

@TundunAdeyemo

Choosing Wisely

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This song encouraging Nigerians to “ChooseWisely” in the upcoming elections was sung by sisters, Dinachi and Chibundu Onuzo.

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A poem by Benjamin Zephaniah
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Responsible: a poem by Benjamin Zephaniah

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