My dear friend Papa Kow Acquaye emailed me this piece of propagandist cr… sorry, I meant ‘article’ yesterday. He was being mischievious as he knows that my thoughts on marriage are… murky at best. I just don’t hold the marriage in as high regard as most people do.
Maybe it is because my parents divorced when I was seven, yet my mother did what I truly feel was a fantastic job in raising me and my brother right. She also made it a point not to make us bitter about it. Even as a child though, I could tell that my parents were not happy together. I remember asking my favourite aunt back in the day what divorce was. She sharply chided me and told me never to mention that word again but I did not have a problem when my parents divorced. I actually remember berating my mother at the age of eight for not having given me the good news for a year. She explained that she was afraid that I wouldn’t know how to handle it and apologized. Admittedly, I was a very strange child. I’ve never sympathized with those kids in the movies who start acting out when their parents divorce or are on the verge of divorce.
My mother has been very happily married to her third husband for years now. My father ended his third last year. Kasapoley and I have banned him from further marriages: he has rendered enough service to the institution. I got on with three out of my four step-parents and I’m very tight with my half-siblings. I don’t believe in halves. They are my blood and I love them.
So you see, I have as much a fear of divorce as I do respect for marriage.
Ghanaians on the other hand are marriage obsessed. Way more so than Westerners. Ghanaians get into long term relationships early. Even my younger brother Kobi has been in a relationship with his lovely girlfriend Sadia for what… eight years? My longest has been two and a half. By British standards, that’s not too bad. By Ghanaian standards though? It’s both woeful and depressing. I know what you’re thinking. Think bigger: I have been the dumpee as many times as I have been dumped.
I wasn’t impressed by the article Papa Kow passed my way. I found it biased and uncritical. Take this for example:
“Some researchers’ findings discussed in a Psychology Today series believed that marriage was actually toxic for women, but other researchers found that married women have a longer life span and less depression than single or divorced women.”
Then the article proceeds to ignore the pro-toxic camp and favour the pro-bridal, instead of treating the reader like an intelligent human being and laying out both arguments. I guess I was expecting too much from an article entitled ‘Why Do Women Want to Get Married’ from an institution I know (having worked there) is gearing up for Valentine’s and then the Bridal Fair.
The writer of the piece skimmed Psychology Today and picked what served his or her purposes. There are others on the same site that don’t. I read the piece, which was essentially a criticism of Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage, Elisabeth Gilbert’s sequel to her best-seller, Eat, Pray, Love.
Speaking about the book SnarkDivorce observes that Gilbert starts out with the premise that marriage benefits men much more than it benefits women:
“Married men live longer than single men; married men accumulate more wealth than single men; married men excel at their careers above single men; married men are far less likely to die a violent death than single men; married men report themselves to be much happier than single men; and married men suffer less from alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression than do single men…
“There doesn’t seem to be anything, statistically speaking, that a man does not gain by getting married.
“Dishearteningly, the reverse is not true. Modern married women do not fare better in life than their single counterparts. Married women in America do not live longer than single women; married women do not accumulate as much wealth as single women…; married women do not thrive on their careers to the extent single women do… [blah blah] less healthy… [yadda yadda] depression… [yadda blah] violent death…statistically speaking, the most dangerous person in the average woman’s life is her own man.”
This is apparently called the Marriage Benefit Imbalance. It’s not all bad though.
“As the years go by and more women become autonomous, the Marriage Benefit Imbalance diminishes, and there are some factors that can narrow this inequity considerably. The more education a married woman has, the more money she earns, the later in life she marries, the fewer children she bears, and the more help her husband offers with household chores, the better quality of life in marriage will be.”
So these are the terms under which the skeptical Gilbert makes peace with marriage. I wonder whether they apply in Ghana (her study was American).
- Are women becoming more educated?
- Getting more money (independently of men)?
- Marrying later in life?
- Bearing fewer children?
- Getting more help with household chores?
If not ladies, then maybe you’re being short-changed.
The funny thing is I am a man and so I stand to gain everything in marriage. Yet I remain unimpressed by it. I guess I want to be with someone I love but more importantly someone I respect enough to help make the above points real for.
Be with, I said. Not marry.
I think people confuse marriage with love. I worship love. Love is probably the closest thing to a religion to me. I have no problems at all with love.
Marriage on the other hand? Besides some tax breaks and perhaps the right to remove your spouse from a life-support machine, I don’t really see the point. Okay, it is the best environment within which to raise a kid. A stable marriage, that is. It is better to raise a child as a single parent than in an unstable home though. I am a testament to that myself.
People say ‘commitment’ but marriage doesn’t make you any more committed. Both Ghanaian men and women have amply demonstrated this to me. The amount of cheating that goes on and is condoned here – not even below the surface – is both shocking and depressing. Yet come Sunday, husband and wife will be all up in church clapping their hands, shouting ‘Yes Lord’ and bursting into acute cases of shabalalalalalalalism.
I really sympathized with Ben Affleck’s character in He’s Just Not That into You (yeah, I saw it: sue me). Jennifer Aniston’s character dumped him after going out with him in a blissful relationship for years and realizing that he was serious when he told her at the beginning of the relationship that he wasn’t into marriage.
She later saw her folly when she realized that she had had a much better relationship with him than her sisters and even her mother were having with their husbands. Great point, well made. Of course, Ben and Jen got married in the end. He said he loved her and if it was THAT important to her…
I get his point. But it was still a “mtcheeew” moment for me.
That said, I think I could be persuaded to marry. If I do, I will strive to have an atypical Ghanaian marriage, the type that doesn’t begin with the couple in debt from an expensive wedding (people love white weddings here but conveniently forget about the part of the practice where the wedding ceremony is a gift from the father of the bride to his daughter) and ends with her looking after the kids and tolerating his numerous affairs and lack of respect so long as he makes sure she and her children are financially well-kept and he doesn’t make it too blatant.
Oh, and if I do get married, I want a wedding incorporating ideas from the movie, Rachel Getting Married.
Yeah, I said it.
PS: if you are deeply pro-marriage, I sympathize with your predicament – I do – but please restrain yourself and refrain from commenting with anything I am likely to have heard before. It’s both annoying and insulting.
New thinking please.