I’ve been compelled to write about the culture differences I faced being married to a Nigerian man as an American woman for some time now. Let me say from the front here that my marriage was in no way an immigration scam or financial thing… it was purely a matter of two people from opposite sides of the world falling in love.
The cultural differences extended into every single aspect of our relationship and who we are as people. This relationship was heartbreaking. For two people who loved and adored one another, we came to truly hate each other. Law enforcement was involved, orders of protection to keep me safe, he did a couple stints in jail for domestic violence and breaking protection orders. After our divorce, he went back to Nigeria to live with his family a broken man. I struggled to put my life back together and heal from the trauma and abuse. I was hard pressed to love again…. and certainly to marry and trust anyone like again.
Tochi spoke often of how many Nigerian men he’d met who ended up returning to Nigeria with their ex-wives refusing contact with their children, doing jail time, police being called on them and all of the other things which came to pass in our marriage eventually. The rumors they hear and stories they tell are true!!! The reasons behind it are cultural differences!! Until you are up close and personal with another culture you have no idea what it’s actually like. Words and stories on the internet don’t mean a whole lot. Even having your loved one tell you what it’s like doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.
The main difference that all of the other problems stemmed from? Nigeria is a 100% Patriarchal society. America is anything but. We make noise about how much power and control men have in the USA. We’re making noise about something we know nothing about as American women. We’re very fortunate to have the freedoms we do!!!
The second huge issue was religious differences. I was raised Catholic and know the religion well. Tochi is Catholic, went through the junior seminary, his brother the senior seminary, his uncle a priest and another uncle a protistant minister. Aside from the prevelance of religion… everything is set around religion!!! I’m talking about taking modern American religion and going back to the times of burning witches with a bit of Hoodoo thrown in for good measure!!! The entire culture is religious based. I can go into details about the scary beliefs like illnesses are demons and punishments from God and how many superstitions there are. I left the faith a long time ago and have been Atheist for moons, but I’m still familiar with Catholicism and can tolerate those who practice. When it comes to such a huge difference, there is no common ground, even between believers.
Let’s get back to the patriarchal system. Tochi is from the Igbo tribe, one of the 3 major tribes in Nigeria, so most of my knowledge relates specifically to his tribe and what he taught me of other tribes over the years. Tochi was being “generous” that I didn’t need to be available to him 24/7 for sex in any way he wanted without argument ever. He was being generous that I was allowed to sit at the table and eat with him, rather than serve his plate to him on my knees bowing to him as a slave. The man makes every decision in the household. He is the earner. He is the protector. He is the final word on EVERYTHING. A woman in a family may be allowed to express her opinion politely, but it’s ultimately the decision of the husband, sons or brothers-in-law if her husband is deceased. The husband decides how his wife should dress without argument. He is allowed to cheat on his wife without argument for whatever reason. Corporeal punishment of wives is totally acceptable without her agreement. Women in the society are raised that this is the way it is to be. The right way. Women don’t climb on latters or step stools. Heavy pots are solely the job of the men. Tochi viewed things like this to be protecting me and taking care of me. To a degree it is!!! There comes a point when it hinders the freedom of the other person. Screaming, verbal humiliation, silent treatment are all totally acceptable forms of communication and punishment… or “correcting you” as he often called it.
I can tell you a million stories of what it was like between us. Not all of our relationship was bad! Far from, honestly. What was bad was unbearable and broke us both. Some cultural differences are too far off to find a balance. It takes tremendous work on both parts… but honestly… the Nigerian man must bend to a point of his social and cultural beliefs being all but shattered in most cases.
When I entered the BDSM community full swing after my divorce, I learned that the dynamic Tochi was expecting of me a was a Master/slave relationship. In western society, this style of relationship is purely kinky and outside of the social norm… almost to the point of being shunned by outsiders if you share too much with someone who doesn’t live your same lifestyle. The majority of American women expect equality in all things and many are fierce feminists. The idea of having a submissive role in a relationship at all is unreasonable… taking it to the point of the man having ALL of the power is a set up for disaster! This was the case with Tochi and me. We did not agree on the Master/slave lifestyle with rules and negotiated limits. It was imposed on me by a man who’s upbringing made it totally normal. Neither of us were able to understand why the other was so upset by our needs.
As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am an owned and collared submissive slave to my husband. I’m obedient and submissive. He has the power and control for nearly all decisions in our home. We decided and negotiated what the rules would be for both of us. How things are handled. Who has what responsibilities and how we change things as needed. I am a slave to Daddy in all ways. He has the option of punishing me when I’ve misbehaved or broken a rule. He has control over where I go, what I do and with whom. How is it that this style of relationship works with Daddy and not my ex? WE CHOSE IT TOGETHER AND NEGOTIATED THE BOUNDARIES!!!!
There is another element I want to discuss here. I mentioned at the start of this post that there was domestic violence, orders of protection and the whole lot that goes with that type of relationship. I want to distinguish that Master/slave relationships are not inherently violent and abusive!!! All BDSM relationships are founded on respect!!! Even the ones where there is brutal impact play, humiliation and emotional sadism! Every aspect of these relationships is based on respect and negotiated elements where both people enjoy what’s happening. That does not constitute abuse!! I’m not going to say that all Nigerian or Igbo men are violent or abusive!!! That is far from the truth!!!! It’s a cruel and unfair judgement against an entire nation of men.
Taking grown man out of his culture and placing him in a society where everything is different with a wife who is fighting for her rights within her culture is a breeding ground for anger!!! Add to this that the man is used to having final say and can use physical means to make his point…. you’re looking at a disaster waiting to happen!!! I am in NO WAY making an excuse for my abuser! There is NO EXCUSE for one person to physically and emotionally harm another person no matter the circumstances. When I look at the overall scenario of what this man dealt with… I can offer a glimmer of kindness for a man who lost everything dear to him trying to survive in an unfamiliar land where the cultural expectations and racism made his life Hell.
I know one couple whose marriage made it… at least as of a year ago. They went through similar Hell. She was just more willing to fight and tolerate bad behavior. The drama never stopped, so I am no longer friends with her. Of the multitudes of couples I met along the journey with Tochi, only one made it. If you are considering an international marriage and all of the immigration and living with a person from a different culture… DO YOUR RESEARCH!!! Listen to the horror stories!!! LISTEN to what your partner tells you about the assumptions about Americans and the failed relationships. Trust your gut if you think there’s cheating involved. Even when the love is real, the distance, time and cultural differences make it hard to love when life and marriage get real.