I have to say that this conversation only comes up in certain societies because of cultural and religious beliefs. It is quite a common discussion among friends who are Nigerian, American and some parts of Africa. It is less so among European friends. I have recently noticed that the more equal the society, the less this conversation. So, let’s have a discussion. Should women pay the bills? Should women contribute in a relationship, within the home?
As an aside, I have friends who have told me that if they went out on a date, and a man did not pay, or split the bill down the middle, that relationship was over before even starting. The logic is that the man should show his spirit of generosity and show that he is able to provide. Would you, a lady, continue to date a man who takes you out on a first date, and expects you to pay your way?
Before embarking on any kind of relationship, partnership or marriage, it is absolutely important to consider one’s outlook to life, values and belief system. If you are quite conservative and believe in the theory of hunter-gatherer, then it would make sense to find a partner who shares your views. Such a person probably believes that men should provide, women should nurture, and so right from the onset, the roles are split down the middle for you, the old school way. Please find someone who shares those same values. However, if you believe that times have changed, and women are just as smart and driven as men, then find someone with whom you share those values of equality and balance.
I was chatting to an old friend recently, and he told me that his wife had recently been promoted in the international Supply Chain company that she worked for. I was very excited for them, but in the same breath, he was concerned about the area in which they lived which was not the safest. Surprised, I asked him why they had not moved since his wife was earning at senior manager level. He laughed long and hard, and said she kept her money to herself. Although I always say, to each their own, I could hardly mask my surprise. Why do we build careers if the fruits of those careers do not benefit us and our loved ones?
I had a video call with a favourite cousin recently, she had just returned home from work, and in the video, I saw her husband sitting on the sofa reading the papers. The kids were running around the living room. She had worked late because of an end of the year audit, and upon her return, she had to hang up because dinner had to be made, laundry had to be done, the kids had to be fed and put to bed. Her husband said a cheerful hello to me and went back to his paper. She didn’t look too pleased that he did nothing, but this was quite normal. Everything that had to do with the kids and the house; cooking, cleaning and organising, after school clubs, were always left to her. Again, I say to each their own, although I could hardly mask my surprise. Why do we have families if all hands are not put on deck to look after the kids and the home?
Personally, I was raised to understand and believe that the basis of all relationships should be equality and fairness. I do not believe that one party should have any power over another; be it financial, sexual, physical or emotional. Of course it is not a perfect world, but this would be the ideal situation, where all parties chipped in according to their strength and capacity, not only in finances, but in the process of family life and raising a family. The party who earns more, should naturally contribute more to provide a nice standard of living for all parties, the gender notwithstanding.
This is a tough one that goes way back. I wrote about it over a year ago here. The traditional perception of family and relationships are evolving and changing. There are more divorces in the world now that there were 50 years ago, and these numbers apply everywhere; in North America, Europe and Africa. Look at Nigeria for example, the nuclear family unit or the “mono-polygamous” families as we knew them are fast disappearing. That is evolution though, things are changing and will continue to change. Only progressive people who embrace change, understand it, open up to its good sides, face it headlong, and emerge stronger for it.
There is divorce, single parenthood, civil partnerships and so forth. The world is changing. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, it all depends on how you approach it. Are we better off for the changes or not? I say we are; look at the miracle of technology and the internet, social media, family so far yet so close, transactions made easy, and so forth. Look at the 2015 elections and how effective the media updates and live streaming were. Look at the strides made in medicine for example. There are treatments for cancer, vaccines against polio, advancements raising the numbers of safe childbirths, people are also living longer. Some people may argue that all these advancements have come with a cost. But one must weigh the pros and cons, do a cost comparative analysis and see how much time you save by conducting your business online. Does anyone remember those dreadful NITEL days? The dynamics of relationships have changed forever, thanks to these advancements.
When our grandparents were in their 20s and 30s, the population was lower, the pace of life slower, women were essentially marginalised with lower pay and fewer opportunities, and men were seen as superior. Thus the women kept the home, raised the children while the men were the breadwinners who paid all the bills. The mid-19th century arrived with its major advancements and economic boom, the landscape of human rights began to change. The world required an increase in the number of skilled workers. This came with a clear evidence that men and women had the same intellectual capacity. The days of hunting and protecting the hearth, of superiority based on physical strength, were gone. Thus boys and girls became educated for the same opportunities and vied for the same jobs. There is still a lot of growth required in the area of equal opportunities and equal pay, but that is a post for another day.
Enter, a different kind of dynamics in the world with my focus being Nigeria. Women began to undergo the exact same pressures as men, working the same long hours and in some cases, earning the same pay. But their roles had not evolved and men refused to change. Women still cooked and cleaned and looked after the children, and when the men helped to change the baby’s diaper, the woman would say “thank you” as though he was doing her a favour. Men in turn carried on watching their football, coming home late and playing “tennis” on Saturdays.
It remains a society which has stubbornly refused to evolve despite a clear evolution happening with the world. Whether you are on social media or not, whether you are anti-equality or not, we all need to wake up and smell the coffee, the world has changed. Only people who study this change, can adapt and survive. Closing oneself off to the change and Facebook, will not save your marriage. In some way, it is this denial, this refusal to change, that is wreaking havoc on family institutions and ruining relationships.
You see, there is a certain entitlement that comes with being a breadwinner, a certain power if you will, which acts as an enabler and makes that breadwinner feel that as though he/she is not accountable to their partner/spouse. Just as long as the bills are paid. It is a human thing particularly in an unbalanced society like ours. When someone doles out money for every expense in a society that is patriarchal, he will feel a certain entitlement to do as he pleases. Men do this. The same actually applies to women, it is a human thing. If she solely pays the bills, she will act as she pleases. I must issue a caveat; this does not apply to everyone. Theories do have exceptions after all.
Most women with whom I have discussed this have said that they preferred men who were responsible and ready to step up and provide for them. Some said they were happy to be a good partner, helping out with the finances. But they argued that men were cunning and the minute you gave an inch, he would shirk his responsibility. Others have said that they were happy to support, as long as he pulled his weight. A minority said they were happy to lay the cards on the table and divide up bills based on the income, but expected the man to treat them as an equal, that means ringing to say where he was going, coming home early just as the woman would, and doing his fair share of the housework.
What did the men say? A mix of different things. Most said they thought the woman should keep her money,if you allowed them to contribute, they start wearing the pants in the relationship. Others were resentful and complained about the women in their lives never contributing, yet they had jobs. What did they do with their money, one asked me? Some said they would not never be involved in “domestic anything” around the house.
It seems like relationships in the 21st century are a badly coordinated dance. Women are resentful because they work as hard as the men, yet when they go home, they work twice as hard, and the men are nowhere to be found, after all Chelsea and Utd are playing. So what do they do? They keep their money and make the man pay for everything. Have you seen those types who punish their men for coming home at 3am by making demands for more material things? Men in turn are either resentful or taking the mickey; I pay the bills, this is my house, I can come and go as I please. And then in moments of anger, they ask her “by the way, what do you do with all the money you earn?”
All these pressures and falsehood lead to divorces and break-up. My solution? Change with the times. Adapt or find a like minded person. If a woman and a man work just as hard, why not put all the cards on the table and upgrade your lives with your double income? Why does one party have to carry on bearing the costs and another the labour of keeping house? It just breeds resentment and inequality. Look at your income (s) and whoever earns more can pay more.
The biggest destroyers of relationships are a) a lack of understanding and agreement of roles, b)unmet expectations c) finance problems. If you are traditional and believe in the “man pays bills, woman keeps home” arrangement, find someone like you. If you have evolved and are in a partnership of dual careers, find someone who thinks alike. It is really a business partnership founded on love, approach it as such and survive.
NB: If you would like to write a response to this, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Before I start, I must apologise in advance for what may change from a benign post, to a rant about moral obligations, double standards, and equal rights. This title speaks to my initial idea for the blog post, I have now written about so much more.
Today I decided to blog about an “epidemic” which seems on the increase in Naija. Have you noticed how it is now quite common place for men to cheat on their wives? If you go into the clubs or just regular fish and drinks gardens in the evening, you see scores of older rather unfit (although sometimes youngish) men wearing wedding bands, hanging around with younger women and the body language tells you that this is no family or blood connection. They don’t even hide it anymore. A good friend of mine spent Valentine’s day with her girlfriends (they are all single) at an entertainment centre, and apparently, one girl came up to them sobbing uncontrollably. Her boyfriend stood her up, they were supposed to spend valentine’s day together. Obviously this was a “side chick” who had been played. In the course of consoling her, this man’s photo came up and he seemed to be in his late 30s.
“Is he married”? My friend asked her
“Yes, he is. But his family is in Calabar”, She said
The girls just looked at each other, and bade her farewell and godspeed. Here was a side chick who knew she was with a married man, and felt entitled. She also felt it was ok because his family lived in another city. In other words, she was the non-Calabar wife. What exactly did she expect? I wonder if she expected anything different when she got married herself.
I have spoken to many men about this issue of cheating on their wives, and the answer has always been the same; men are polygamous, you do not get married planning to cheat, it just happens, the temptations out there are too strong, the wives are not supportive and are too materialistic, they need an outlet, etc. I often ask them if their wives know, and the answer is always the same; there have been close shavings, but the women always let sleeping dogs lie. I ask them if they know that it is wrong, unjustified and smacks of a lack of integrity, disrespect for their partners, and a gross let-down of their children. I ask them how they would feel if their wives did the same, the answers are usually varied, but have the same theme.
“Abeg Anne go and rest, it is a man’s world, men are polygamous na, that’s African culture”
“Ha how can she cheat on me? Women are usually faithful and supposed to look after the family. If my wife cheats on me, she’s gone the minute I find out”
“You know women attach emotions to sex, that’s when your real problem starts. To a man, a side chick means nothing. That’s why it is not good for a woman to cheat, because that means that you have lost her”
“How can you even suggest that? Are you becoming western or what? If a man takes care of his family and has an affair, as long as he takes care of his family, it shouldn’t matter”
“Well my wife is still number one, I don’t joke with her. I make sure she doesn’t lack anything”
“There is a lot of temptation out there, you may not want to cheat on your wife, but these single girls will not allow you to rest”
All these responses left me feeling amused, particularly the second and the last one. Our society is still a very unbalanced one, what is good for the goose, is certainly not good for the gander in Nigeria. Men are quite egocentric and expect submission, it is almost as though women have not come fully formed, and are lesser beings than they are. You think we do not feel exactly what you feel? We do, but do we act on it? No. You think I do not see all those hot men? They are everywhere; in the banks, in the restaurants, in church. Chai. Have you seen those types?
I follow a lot of them on instagram too o. All they do is close business deals, work out and take photos of their bodies. Their bodies make me want to sing “Imela chineke m ooo”, drop out of postgrad school, and cook for them all day long. In high heels and lingerie of course. They are so hot that I want to cook all the dishes my mother taught me, like ofe onugbu, nsala, ukwa, abacha, coconut rice and pepper soup. I feel like adding a twist to all the dishes; cheese, just because I can grate those blocks on those abs, then take my clothes off very quickly. But do I do that? Mba nu. Do you think I don’t want to have Bible study with that assistant pastor all day, everyday? Look, he has a lot to say about the Lord and he looks good saying it. I must find out what lipbalm he wears and the aftershave. Dear husband, I don’t want chapped lips or “townsend” perfume on you. Pastor Gaf’s lipbalm and aftershave are your possession and keys to the holy land.
I have been told that I am a feminist; no arguments there. Why are we so afraid of that word? Why has it been demonised? According to the Oxford dictionary, It simply means the “economic, social and political equality of all sexes”. I think this is fair, do you regard yourself as superior or less than any other human being? Do you regard yourself or anybody else, regardless of sex, as undeserving of the same opportunities? I think God is a feminist as we are all created in his image and likeness. So are the gods in traditional African religion; think about what you have read and heard about the roles of Ani, Idemili, Yemoja, Oya. Sometimes I worry that the advent of new religions in Nigeria and the subsequent interpretation has stripped us of all fairness and objectivity, with the verse about “submission” consistently quoted halfway and taken out of context.
I blame my father for my views hahaha. I was raised to believe in equality and to hold myself and others accountable for mine or their actions, regardless of sex. We were raised (boys and girls alike), to be able to cook, and clean, and carry heavy things up flights of stairs, and change tyres, and be compassionate and empathetic all at once. I was 16 before I realised that it was unusual for a Naija husband to wash his plates after his meal, to wash his clothes by himself, to help his wife out in the kitchen while she’s making dinner, to cobweb, dust family photos, take the thrash out, and also be home at 6pm unless both of them were out together. Forget all those fake late meetings and constant hanging out with the mistresses, missing the vital family time.
My friends were shocked when they spent extended time at the family home and saw this. Ah it was already too late, that was my worldview, that everyone chipped in, that this was a partnership full of love and laughter and accountability and equality.
I took this worldview to the university and I still remember my first serious boyfriend. He was a great looking “corper” from Ilorin. Bros invited me to his flat one day, and this ensued.
“I bought ingredients for bitterleaf soup, come and cook”, he said
To which I responded by staring at him in shock. He carried on.
“If you are worried about staining your clothes, you can wear my boxers and singlet,” he said, while reclining and chilling with a football match on.
When I didn’t budge or take my eyes off the Readers’ Digest which I was reading, he carried on.
“Oh you don’t know how to cook? Ok, come, you can do this one.”
I followed him into the room where there was a mound of dirty clothes including jeans and the like for yours truly to wash. I went into the living room, chuckling to myself. I picked up my handbag, and like Lot, I never looked back, poor guy. Now tell me, who raised this man to have such expectations that a girlfriend was his housekeeper? O gini?
Anyway, enough digression. I have theories around why married men cheat on their wives and why there are such saintly expectations of women. I shall share these soon enough in my next blog post. I leave you with a thought; it is time that women started picking up some of the bills and helping out financially around the house, and ask the men to pull their weight domestically. I wrote a post last year titled “Should Men Pick Up All The Bills”, there, the comments and opinion came to 50-50, some thought a man should look after the finances of his family solely, others felt women should contribute, my theory is that a partnership brings about accountability, open and honest communication, and reduces the chances of infidelity in marriage.
Unfortunately, it looks like women are now beating men to their game; your wife going to fellowship and bible study three times a week, or going for school run 30 minutes before the time, and attending all those weddings in asoebi, may be enjoying other less ideal activities. This is just something based on a survey for the most unfaithful wives in the world, carried out by Durex, which found Nigerian women to be the most unfaithful wives, emerging in first place out of 35 countries surveyed. It seems we have now overtaken Thai women who were number one in 2012 and last year. Is this true? Could this actually be happening? Why are the tides turning (besides the temptation on offer on instagram :-)?)