I could decode the apprehension etched on the face of my wife that very night after our wedding when, I teased her that “you now belong to my family and with you shall my people do as we like”. Nwosu’s has been a family where men are warriors and women tigresses by inheritance.
Against the biblical injunction, and in line with Igbo culture, my wife had left her mother and father to join with me, her husband, to become one flesh.
My wife’s case was worse because I had married her from another town despite Nnewi men’s tradition to marry from their home town. Also, the fact that she had been forewarned about the powers of mothers-in-law and husband’s sisters from Nnewi on marriages.
Knowing the dynamics of marriage politics of my people, I had already perfected my plans on how to protect my wife and insulate her from my relations.
And that I did.
I took resolute decisions that paid off.
In a family meeting a day after my wedding, I boldly told my family members that I had married a partner, not a typical wife, to help me achieve my life’s goals. I told them that if she was a mistake, let them not help me correct it.
I further revealed to their astonishment that my wife did me a favour to marry me in spite of many more capable men that died to have her and that I would kill anybody that would make me lose her.
I also told them that starting from that night, that my wife would cook for me alone that I would never eat from the general family kitchen; that only my mother was entitled to the food from my wife’s kitchen for the reason of her advanced age.
To an embarrassed family members wondering the type of juju I had eaten, I announced the killer punch- that nobody including my mother, should ever visit me in the city without first obtaining approval from my wife.
My aunty could no longer bear it.
She shouted “o riri ya eri, ñụọ ya añụọọ!” meaning that “not only did he eat the juju, he also drank it oooo!” She continued “nna m ha anọkarịa na m, mana afụ karịanam ha n’ife” meaning “my ancestors had lived longer than me but I have seen more awful things than them!”
And she commanded me, “Anayo bụpụ!” meaning “Anayo, spit it out, recant now!”
Because I had shown some traces of independence as I was growing up, the new madness was not seen as strange by my family members. They knew I could be bold but this “new normal” suspiciously stoked by this “nwa ọkpụ Uga” or “Uga woman” was a big surprise.
On the other side, I was able to carefully and explicitly let my parents-in-law know that I would not ever endorse the resolutions of their meetings with their daughter as to what should be done in my home. I too must approve of their visits to my house as my wife would approve of the visit of my peeps to our home.
It was tough but I held my ground until the “abomination” was accepted as a “new normal” at my home.
To ensure that I did not open any flank for encroachment, I refrained from discussing my wife with my family members neither did I invite them to come “discipline” my wife even in time of quarrels.
I rather noticed that it was my wife that would bribe my siblings to come help cure my periodic madness.
Nobody amongst my siblings was surprised when I told them two years ago that I had written my will and have given my entire assets to my wife.
My cousin asked “what if she kills you, remarries and dissipates your assets with the new husband leaving nothing for your children?” He reprimanded “Anayo, receive sense and realize that a wife is a visitor to her husband’s family!”
To my cousin, I said “go behind me Satan!” And he left wondering the version of my traditionally strange mental illness. He murmured a veiled insult-“woman wrapper!”
The prime effect of my initial insulation actions was that my relations realized that my wife was the gateway or mediatrix of most of the extra things I could give them.
To maintain balance, I ensured that I met the needs of my extended family to the best of my abilities. That is the only way to chain the dog of family feud.
The genesis of intrusion by relations into marriages of a brother are largely economic, greed and envy. Mothers-in-law’s problems are sometimes caused by Oedipus Complex or pure mischief.
Inexcusably, the husband is squarely to be blamed if his relations ridicule his wife. Adams attempt to make God exonerate him by telling God that it was Eve that plucked and gave him the apple or abụna to eat did not sway God from punishing. Meaning that a man is to blame for his silence, collusion, action or inaction.
A capital fool is that man who allows his sisters, relations or his parents dehumanize his wife.
It is even more puzzling that some of the sisters-in-law who make life difficult for their brother’s wives would not take any of such indignation from their own husband’s relations.
So are many mothers-in-law who were lionesses and caged their husbands in their primes, would now want to protect their own sons from their wives. There are many of them.
Because of those steps I took early in my marriage, I have gained absolute loyalty from my wife and peace from my relations.
By Anayo M. Nwosu