Home: When husbands take back seat

In recent times, family bonds are being rocked apart because most men suddenly relegate their role of being the provider to their wives whose breaking point is always unpleasant. ELEOJO IDACHABA examines this scenario in the light of admonitions by some clerics.

It’s different stroke for different folks; in other words, the story about husbands taking the back seat in many homes while the wives go out to make the income thereby serving as the bread winner varies in home. While it is managed with maturity and understanding in some homes, it is a different kettle of fish in other homes where marriages crash as a result.

Different stories

For Mr Timothy Usman, a Kogi state-born former employee of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), he will forever be grateful to his wife who has been his backbone since he lost his job in 2006. He told Blueprint Weekend that his wife, who luckily works in a US-sponsored agency in Nigeria, is the reason he is still in Abuja; otherwise he would have relocated to his village or in extreme case, would have lost his manhood by now. Today, through the assistance of his wife, he now operates a mini kerosene depot in addition to other petty businesses. “Apart from living in our own house, we have tenants who pay us rents annually, all through the effort of my wife. I can’t thank her enough for the understanding. She does not see herself as the bread winner, rather, she opens to me about all her incomes and I try to help in managing it for her,” he said.

It is not the same with John Oko, a year 2000 graduate of Microbiology from Ambrose Ali University in Edo state. Mr Oko who has never been employed since he left the university told Blueprint Weekend that initially, he was doing well in business until 2015, when he lost all his fortunes to the economic down-turn. He said his wife, a lawyer, left him when it became clear that he could no longer foot the family bill.

He said: “My wife left after I could no longer pay the rent of the two bed rooms we occupied in Lugbe Federal Housing, a suburb of Abuja. Initially, we agreed that she would handle the schools fees of our two children while I take care of the rent but I could not pay the rent when it was due in 2017. After the agent gave us a quit notice, she parked out and left with my two kids to Lagos where she now lives and works. At the beginning, every effort to persuade her to remain while we sort it out proved abortive. After she left, I moved our items to a friend’s place while I sold a few I could. Thereafter, I started sleeping in my car until late 2018 when I was able to rent one room apartment. Right now, I do taxi services. I hope that one day, I will reunite with my children, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.”

From counsellors

 According to Adebowale Eso, a marriage counsellor, “Traditional role reversal can be disconcerting and can lead to frustration or resentment as an increased financial burden is placed on women on the one hand and potentially bruise the male ego and insecurity on the other.”

“This changes the dynamics in the household and places the traditional gender role on shaky ground particularly in the patriarchal society such as ours with its traditional cultural values. Indeed, the brilliant successful millennial on the fast lane appears to be less prepared or willing to play the role of the submissive wife,” he said.

Eso may not be wrong after all. Not too long ago, Pastor E A Adeboye, the general overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), while lamenting the perceived role-switching in marriages, appeared to have raised a dust over the bid of unemployed men getting married when he told his congregation comprising singles ladies that: “Don’t marry a man who has no job. Before God gave Eve to Adam, He gave him a job. He said, ‘this is a garden, keep it; so, those who come to you and say ‘sister, thus saith the Lord, you are going to be the star in my firmament’, ask him what he does for a living. If he tells you that he is a contractor, ask him to show you evidence of all the contracts he has done because the contract he is talking about is you; he wants to live off you, don’t be a fool. If he has not got a steady income, don’t marry him. A man is to provide for the house and not the other way round. If he has no income, he should not marry. Those who do not work should not eat and if they can’t eat, they can’t even marry.”

After this admonition, a number of persons went on twitter to condemn the renowned cleric, saying he should not have disparaged the male folks as perpetually dependent on ladies for sustenance. However, investigation shows that Pastor Adeboye made the comment because of the number of complaints he had attended to arising from marriages contracted under the guise of role-switching where the husband take the back seat, the woman goes to work, earns the income while the man spends it.

Research shows that many men are losing their jobs in modern times due to many factors. According to Elizabeth Badejo, “Statistics shows that a man is more likely to lose his job in today’s economic downturn than his wife because women have the tendency to work in sectors that require a higher level of education and social skills, while their male counterparts are more likely to work in manual and high risk sectors. Honestly, how does a man go home to tell his wife that he has lost his job? As much as it is tough for him, it is even tougher for his wife to accept his loss.”

What impact does this have on the psyche of men? Experts say that if the man doesn’t have a great deal of motivation or doesn’t possess a number of set skills, the loss of a job can be serious blow to his ego and to his psyche. However, if he has sufficient savings, a great deal of confidence and is willing to network, the loss of a job is a minor setback, if it’s even a setback at all. He can always bounce back to reckoning despite the setback.

Seriakana George, a former Port Harcourt-based construction company worker, told this reporter that it is better for a man to be single than cohabit with a woman who is not prepared to accommodate any set back from that man.

“My marriage is suffering because I have been out of job since 2015. My wife is a journalist; I used to take care of her needs and also provide for the family needs before now but since I left my job and could not meet up my responsibilities again, her attitude has completely changed. It has been a living hell for me staying with her under the same roof. Where there is no need for provocation, she gets angry unnecessarily, suddenly became self-centred and no longer submissive. I am contemplating quitting the marriage but sometimes I think about the fact that we have no child. If I quit now, the impression would be that because she could not give me a child, I want to leave her; no one would understand what I have been passing through under the same roof with her. I am doing menial jobs just to keep me going until I can get something better but the understanding I expect from her is not forthcoming,” he said.

Women not entirely wrong

Funke Bamidele, a career woman/housewife, however, told Blueprint Weekend that it is not entirely correct to see the ills in such marriages from the behaviour of the woman. According to her, many times, the woman simply dances to the music played by the man when the going was good for the man.

She said: “My elder sister is a living example. She has never enjoyed her marriage right from the first day. She was never physically assaulted but she went through so much psychological trauma in the hands of her late husband. The man took her humility for granted and was so promiscuous to the point that he comes home with his concubines, mostly at night. In those days, my sister would either sleep outside for them to enjoy themselves or she would endure the pain of staying awake all night as the husband and his concubine roll on their only family bed. You know in those days, it was just a room they lived in at Jos and so, everything was done in the full glare of everyone in the room. The only covering was the thin, transparent curtain that separated the bed from the other parts of the room.

“My sister went through all these until she was forced to pack out of the house. The man died years back from strange illness, but even if that man is still alive and still living with my sister, it takes a woman with a heart of God to take care of him in that illness considering what he brought on my sister. Unfortunately, we live in a society where women are the underdog, if not in the western countries, the society frowns at it. That is why it is proper to dissect the issue before concluding that women are just bad”

Role-switching non-scriptural

While speaking on the spiritual side of the matter, Rev Sam Oye of The Transforming Church in Gwarimpa said although it is wrong for a wife to show callousness to her husband because of his economic misfortunes, however, he said a man should develop the shock absorber to overcome his shortfalls quickly before it becomes an issue.

“A man should understand that he sets the path for the woman to follow; don’t wait for your condition to deteriorate before you provide solution. A man should learn to be a step ahead of the woman in terms of being a provider so that such unpleasantness doesn’t come up. There is nothing like role-switching in the Scripture; it’s either the man is there or he is not,” he said.  

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