Till Death Do Us Part, Or Not

“Make sure you don’t do court marriage. Girls of nowadays are terrible.”

This advice was given to me by an “aunty” in her early forties when I came home in 2018 to present my intended bride to my people. Here was a young guy seeking to start a new life with his bride and being advised to start the marriage on a foundation of distrust. More worrisome is the fact that the adviser was not some aged “misogynistic male defender of the patriarchy”, but a “young woman”, which would make some persons say “if a woman is telling you to distrust women, then, she must have a good reason”.

At the time of writing this article, social media is awash with reports that a certain footballer, Achraf Hakimi, placed all “his assets” in his mother’s name, such that his divorce-seeking ex-wife having being granted 50% of “their assets” would get zilch. Although there are counter claims disputing that this tale is true, the news has reignited an ongoing gender war regarding marriage, divorce, and everything in-between.

The polarity could not have been more obvious. One hand, we have those (mostly males) who argue that modern marriages are greatly skewed against men and cannot comprehend why any woman should claim half of a “man’s wealth” just because she was married to him, regardless of when the assets were acquired. The other side (mostly females) defend a woman’s inalienable right to half of whatever exists in her (ex-)husband’s name. For me, both sides need to take a chill pill.

The way I see it, the sustained gender wars are a direct consequence of second-order problems caused by poorly designed solutions. Two critical areas buttress my viewpoint. First, we had a historical problem of men throwing out their wives into the streets, sending women “back to her father’s house” without any considerations for their welfare, especially where such women were full-time homemakers. To address this problem, we pushed the swing fully to the other side by creating a society (not yet in Nigeria) where a wife can throw her husband out of their home, even if he paid for the house, and where divorce proceedings allow a woman to seek assets that her husband may have acquired before their marriage. Similarly, females have historically suffered the brunt of rape by males who usually went scot-free. So, to fix this, we have created a society where any male accused of rape is considered guilty until proven innocent.

Grievances over the two societal mis-corrections above lie at the heart of the frequent gender wars. To compound matters, there seems to be a committed agenda to sustain the conflict by making each gender believe that the other gender is evil. Hence, we have “men are scum”, “women are gold-diggers”, and similar campaigns which transcend the internet and play out in regular offline discussions. Unfortunately, the agenda is successfully poisoning peoples’ minds. How else can we explain someone boldly arguing that “your wife is not a member of your family”?

I have noticed that the gender attacks tend to be pushed by persons who have been hurt. Someone is hurt or indirectly gets impacted by the hurt suffered by a close person, but instead of healing, we proceed to generalise the actions of one person to an entire gender. We then proceed to give advice designed to prevent that hurt because we believe that “whatever Man X did is what all men would do”.

This mindset now keeps us from truly enjoying our relationships. I usually compare marital relationships to businesses where the most profitable businesses tend to carry the greatest risks. Similarly, by entering relationships with a mindset to “protect ourselves from any loss at all costs”, we keep ourselves from true vulnerability and then wonder why things go downhill rapidly. If we are all thinking selfishly, how can anything of value be built “together”?

Moving away from individual actions to the society, imagine a society where rules are not made to perpetuate the myth than one gender is evil. Imagine where divorce is not incentivised, such that a partner seeking divorce cannot get anything outside what was acquired during the marriage. Where alimony payments are required, this can be limited to an average expected income that a spouse may be expected to have earned if such a spouse had maintained a conventional career. For example, if a trained engineer maintained a home for ten years, we can use the average income level of the spouse’s peers who maintained their careers to determine the alimony payments. In my view, this would be fairer than the trend of using the richer spouse’s financial status as a basis. Changing the current system would reduce the incentive for marrying rich persons as a poverty alleviation scheme or free cash flow generator. If you would like to maintain a certain lifestyle, stay married to whoever is funding the lifestyle, rather than seeking a divorce while requiring the funder to morph into Santa Claus.

A similar approach could be applied to rape allegations, which should be treated as any other crime (i.e., innocent until proven guilty). Where guilt is established, the rapist should be punished appropriately, but where it is proven that a false allegation was made with malicious intent, the accuser should face the same sentence that would have been suffered by the accused if he or she had been found guilty. This would greatly reduce the incentive for delegitimising genuine rape cases by those who use rape allegations as a weapon of revenge.

At the end of the day, the reckless gender wars are sustaining a negative perception of marriage. If we do not find a way to address the existing grievances, the society would be worse off with time. But while we await a fairer society, let’s not deprive ourselves of the blessedness of love just to convince ourselves of the myth that the other gender is irredeemably evil. Wickedness is not determined by chromosomes, so before you treat your partner as trash, ask yourself if your partner ought to pay for the sins of another.

Image Credit: jcomp on Freepik

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