There was a time when we took pride in the fact that African marriages last longer compared to other regions of the world and divorce was only considered as an indulgence of the West. Back then marriage was considered sacred and a woman’s crown. However, over the years, just as we have found it easy to adopt the ways and cultures of the West, so have we blended naturally into global divorce statistics.
While each region has varying rates, the divorce statistics in African communities are generally rising. According to Aljazeera, as at 2012, divorce rates in northern Nigeria were among the highest in West Africa. Although there were no definitive figures, it’s believed that one in three marriages fail within three years. This goes to show that the strict cultural standards that we Africans once held for marriage have been completely shattered.
So what’s to blame for the change in principles as it pertains to the standards of marriage and divorce in Africa? A couple of factors I’ll say.
1 | Infidelity
This is one of the most common reasons for failed marriages in our society today. Most men are utterly unable to remain faithful to their spouses. The cultures and ways of life we have adopted makes it even easier for married men to hook up with ladies; social medias, newspaper publications, telecom advertisements etc. Everything surrounding us somehow encourages infidelity. And this goes both ways. Not only the men, but the women too have suddenly evolved to show that they too can be in the game. And this continues with little regard for the sacred institution of marriage or their children (if any).
2 | Women are no longer willing to tolerate a cheating husband or an absent father
If there is anything women were known for (at-least back in the days), it was their ability to endure and keep the peace at the home front. Infidelity is not new to African marriages. Women often accepted their fate for the sake of not going against their cultural beliefs and the sacred vows they made before God and family. These days, women have had enough, I believe. It used to be that most women were stay home mothers and depended completely on their husbands for survival but now a majority of mothers are either employed in public or private sectors or have viable businesses which means they no longer fully depend on their husbands. With money comes power and with power comes freedom and for African women, this freedom means they can no longer accept unfaithful men as their fate, hence they pack up and bail when they’ve had enough.
3 | People are getting married for the wrong reasons
This is common among the later generation. Women settle into marriages with the wrong men for fear of not getting any younger, or because their friends are all married and hence do not want to be left out in the marriage gossips, or from family pressure. On the other hand, men marry the wrong girls because she is the type of woman their mothers would want for them, or they are good in bed, or they can cook. They spend so much time and money preparing for BellaNaija-worthy wedding ceremonies and actually fail to prepare ahead for the marriage itself. How could it possibly work when the two individuals are actually incompatible when it boils down to the things that truly matter for a marriage to thrive.
4 | It has become more socially acceptable
It was once a hush word,in fact, it was the D-Word! but now divorce is an everyday word. It is socially acceptable everywhere in the world. Hence, no one feels ashamed or awkward getting one to release them from the “bondage” they call marriage.
5 | Rushing into marriage
According to black doctor, ‘The euphoria of being in love pushes many people to say I do.” What they don’t realize is that saying that “I do” does not mean that person really “does”. You will often hear couple who lived together and dated for years, get the “it’s about time” to marry and rush into the actual marriage phase. Five years later, once the “honeymoon” phase is over you wake up next to a total stranger and realize that you have made a huge mistake. The moral of this is that true love can wait and if your relationship is meant to be, putting off the wedding till you both are sure you want to live together forever won’t hurt it’. This is no further from the truth. We need to learn to be patient, get to know our suitors very well before we can agree that we can live with the good and the bad.
6 | People are giving up on marriage too fast
Any flaws in a partner is now considered a deal breaker. There was a time when parents would advise their married children to hang in there and make it work. Some would even recommend marriage counsellors and book an appointment for them. Now at the slightest shadow of an issue, women/men bail without even giving it a chance.
With the growing divorce rate, what bothers me most is, what example are we setting for the next generation? They will grow up believing marriage never works, or believe love is just a myth, or even believe it is ok to give up. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when divorce is not negotiable and the only way forward, especially when it comes to issues like domestic violence and chronic cheating (STDs are real!) but when it has to do with personality and character flaws…giving up too fast is not always the best way forward. I often see that when a person leaves a spouse due to a character flaw, when they do try out for love with a new lover, they find that this new person comes with a whole different flaw that’s worst than the one they gave up on. I’ve got so much more to share on this topic but I don’t want to drag it out any longer.
So now I ask you, especially my married readers, is there really nothing in marriage that is worth fighting for? Even for the kids? Just so they can have a more “normal” and uncomplicated life. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Written by Sema Bassie
Photo credit: AboutIslam
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