Nmuta is a mother of 3 beautiful daughters she bravely speaks about her experience in a difficult marriage and more. Her message is simple if you notice red flags at the dating stage then don’t ignore them!
In most marriages, there are bound to be challenges. But those challenges can only be sorted out by two willing, matured partners who are ready to compromise. In my opinion a number of marriages are just a façade. God’s intentions in making marriages and by extension, family have not been fulfilled to a very large extent in the world and most commonly in Africa. Some African men’s perspective of a marriage is akin to modern day slavery more so where there is an exchange of money and gifts in the form of bride price which is symbolic in African culture but has been grossly misconceived to be an outright purchase of a slave in the form of a wife who is expected to clean, cook, bear kids and every other bidding of her husband. This is why people like Chimamanda Adichie and a host of others are calling for bride price to be abolished in Africa.
In my own case for instance, my husband never ceased to use any opportunity he got to remind me that he paid my bride price with his hard earned money and I should be grateful that he came along when he did. I know many women are dealing or have dealt with the same scenario. There are of course exceptions to every rule, as you find men who still cherish their wives and understand that their wives exist as their partners and team members not slaves.
Red flags can also be known as warning signs. It is important that a woman recognises red flags when she sees one and ought to do her very best to avoid ending up in that relationship or marriage at all cost. In the event that she does end up in that marriage, specific and strategic steps should be taken to exit as safely as is practicable.
Using my life as a case study for instance, I cannot honestly say that I did not see some red flags because I did but I ignored them. I was so in love and also ready to settle down. I could remember the very first day he took me out to dinner after work. We parked in the office and strolled to the Restaurant due to limited parking space. We had a colleague of his as a companion and I actually also wondered why he brought a colleague along and of course without pre informing me. That was a red flag for me and it took being married to him to realise he was timid and had very low self-esteem and did not know how to treat and properly woo a woman. He never consulted me in any decision making or even volunteered any information so I never knew what to expect.
Secondly, we had to cross the road to get to the restaurant, mind you it was already getting dark and the road was busy. He simply crossed alone without looking back to check if I was alright or even offering to hold my hands or walk me across. I ended up having to thank God for his colleague as he waited for me and actually ensured I safely crossed the road on our way to and from the restaurant. It was a red flag which also registered in my head that he was an insensitive and uncaring person but I also ignored it. I lived with his insensitivity for 8 years and it never got better. He did not change and it got worse by the day and it hurt like hell.
They were several other red flags but I ignored them all and went ahead to marry him. Throughout our married years, he made very conscious effort to suppress me and subjected me to all forms of unspeakable things just so he could break me. I thought maybe if I could be everything he wanted just maybe we will be fine and he would be satisfied but it was never good enough. It was as if the more I lost myself the more determined he was to break me to tiny little pieces until I realised I was not the problem. He was obviously intimidated by me even in my broken state. That was a red flag which I obviously ignored and I paid dearly for it.
If like me you ignore the red flags and you find yourself in an abusive marriage and there is a threat to your life my advice is that you make an exit. I know it is almost a taboo in Africa and especially in Nigeria for a woman to even conceive leaving her matrimonial home. Speaking out in cases of domestic violence is crucial to survival. Women are blatantly discouraged from exiting an unhealthy and toxic marriage with words like “endure” “a woman keeps her home” “have you prayed about it? “Consider the kids because they need a father figure” “just bring your head down and be submissive ” or ‘Marriage is martyrdom”‘.
Surprisingly, most of these comments come mostly from women. You would think a fellow woman will even offer a listening ear without necessarily judging. However, instead you are judged and asked to accept your husbands excesses like being a womaniser, being verbally and physically abusive and much more.
People forget abuse can take several forms, It could be physical, mental and psychological, emotional and financial. All these forms of abuse are horrid and should not be tolerated. Non physical forms of abuse can cause irreparable damages. and the fact that there are no physical wounds does not make it less destructive. In fact, in my own marriage and experience, non-physical abuse is the worst type of abusive. It is systematic and well-calculated with the intent to utterly destroy your very essence. Emotional abusive can kill; can lead to depression, use of drugs and alcohol as an escape. Whether you accept a certain abuse or disrespect as highlighted above and even those not listed does not in any way make it right and acceptable. It is a red flag and you should make your decision to either walk away while you still can or find a lasting, realistic and workable solution to put an end to it before it spirals out of control.
Breaking free of an abusive relationship and or marriage is no small feat especially where children are involved. However, staying in an abusive marriage and ignoring all red flags is not the solution either as you could lose your life in the process and the children will end up losing a parent. Also, the children could end up becoming abusive themselves due to long exposure to abusive atmosphere , and end being another person’s nightmare. Breaking free from such a relationship might not necessarily mean divorce or even official/legal separation; it could be mental, psychological, physical and emotional separation while both parties try to work things out from a safe space. Distance could be a healing factor sometimes.
In conclusion, before women get involved in any form of relationship, there should be a reasonable time spent dating or in courtship . That is when a woman should be very vigilant, prayerful and observant for any red flags. These red flags show up while dating or courting most times but it is usually ignored either out of desperation, love or fear of losing this person. Women have the exceptional gift of intuition and we should never ignore that gift, It turns out more often than not to be true and that which you ignored at the inception becomes your worst nightmare in the future.
Nmuta Ngozi Igwe-Okin is a Lawyer and a mother to three adorable daughters. She has ventured into different carreers aside Legal including Customer Relationship and Insurance; CEO at Vanelle Couture a thriving fashion outfit. She is very passionate about Female Advocacy and Empowerment and has zero tolerance for all forms of abuse.