In Africa, Nigeria in particular, the undue influence of a mother-in-law in marriages has torn many homes apart. Many parents try to interfere in their children’s marriages thereby causing a feud between the couples.
For a lot of Nigerian women, getting along with in-laws, especially mothers-in-law, is one of the tough challenges of married life.
When Fatima Hassan parted ways with her husband 15 years ago, not many were surprised. From the first day after her wedding, her mother-in-law swore never to make the marriage work.
Fatima, who is from Auchi in Edo State, was raised in Kaduna. Her husband’s mom wanted him to marry a Yoruba woman. So, when he brought Fatima home, his mother did not hide her hatred for her.
Fatima and her mother-in-law engaged in a bitter rivalry for long. Although the couple showed love to each other, the marriage didn’t last. The mom-of-three shared with PUNCH,
“It was hell for me because my mother-in-law wanted her son to marry a Yoruba lady. Because I was born and raised in the North, she saw me as a Hausa woman. Even when I came to Lagos, my mother-in-law only accepted me because I was already pregnant.
She was angry with me because I didn’t understand Yoruba. But I forced myself to speak, read and write Yoruba to keep my marriage. Despite this, she made sure I left. She always swore that if she indeed gave birth to my husband, she would not allow the marriage to work. ”
Fatima said she was forced to divorce her husband when her mother-in-law went as far as getting another Yoruba lady for her husband. She also blamed her hubby for telling his mom about their private matters such as sex, finance and other issues. She shared further:
“My husband always complained that I refused him sex not knowing I don’t enjoy sex. I don’t have sexual feelings like other women because I was circumcised. I told him I loved him. We had sex only once in a month.
“He couldn’t bear it and he told his mother, who already hated me. Her hatred for me increased and my husband focused his attention on the new wife. When I could no longer bear it, I left.”
Like Fatima, many couples in Nigeria have stories of how their mothers-in-law meddled in their marriages. One of the most common problems couples face is third-party interference in their marriages, usually from in-laws especially mothers-in-law.
Fatima is not the only woman whose marriage has crashed as a result of the influence of domineering mothers-in-law. Last year, an Ejigbo Magistrate Court dissolved the 5-year-old marriage of Adaeze Nwosu.
Nwosu told the court how her mother-in-law made life unbearable for her when she could not bear a child for her husband, Godwin.
The story of Mrs. Kehinde Adeola is similar. The mom-of-3 is currently facing a storm in her marriage. She blamed the problem on her mother-in-law.
Adeola narrated how her mother-in-law used to treat her well before marriage but suddenly took her as an enemy when she could not attend a family function which other wives of her husband’s siblings attended. She stated,
“Sometimes ago, there was a family meeting where wives of my mother-in-law’s children were supposed to attend. The wives were asked to observe a rite which involved dancing around a village in the South-West.
“I refused to observe the rite. That was what caused the rift between us. Before that issue, she appeared to like me, but she changed thereafter. When I had an issue with my husband, she supported him. She even used to say all sort of bad things about me to him and to my husband’s siblings.
“I heard that when my husband and I divorced, my husband fought with her. He reportedly told her that she was the one who ruined his marriage. I thank God that he realised his mistakes.”
Another woman, Mrs. Kemi Adelabu, told PUNCH that she refused to visit and pick the calls of her husband’s mom to avoid trouble.
Adelabu said the interference from her husband’s mom further compounded the issues she was battling with in her home. She stated:
“As a wife in the house, it is difficult to handle the obvious pressure from in-laws. The situation is sad and annoying that I always avoid them most of the time by ignoring calls and rejecting visits.”
Akpan Udoh is, however, lucky. The mother of four, who is from Cross River State, said she had managed to stay out of trouble with her mother-in-law because the latter was nice.
“I am fortunate. My husband’s mother has never for once given me any trouble. I have always been a very respectful and dutiful daughter-in-law. That is why we get along very well,” she stated.
Women are not the only ones having issues with their mothers-in-law. Some men, who shared their stories complained that their wives’ moms had become difficult to relate with.
One of them is a civil servant, Mr. Bola Adeoye, who has been married for four years. Adeoye said:
“It is actually challenging and disturbing. My mother-in-law talks to me as if it is a written law that I must do some things compulsorily. I am only praying to God to show me how to manage her increasing pressure and unnecessary demands.”
A clothier, Peter Ayeni, has a similar experience. The 54-year-old told narrated that he was tired of her mother-in-law’s nagging attitude when he did not meet her demands.
“Her overbearing influence is alarming and I am tired of it. I don’t just know what to do. I regret marrying from their family. They see me as a slave,” he stressed.
A relationship expert, Mrs. Fisayo Dayo-Samuel, said she had heard couples complain about their mothers-in-law and how they had been a threat to their homes over time.
She explained that although such threats could be dangerous to such homes, one should critically examine the reasons some mothers-in-law do the things they do.
According to the expert, doing so will give such couples better understanding of how best to respond to the situation. She added,
“First, couples should understand that their homes are the most important. From the beginning, they should put things in place to secure their homes from any external threats. Due to past tales of mothers-in-law’s involvement in their children’s homes, couples tend to attack even when the act is not a threat to their homes.
The first thing is to understand the personality of such mothers-in-law and see how best one can relate with her. Also, a man or woman facing such a challenge must find a way to ask questions.
This is because the offensive mother-in-law might have gone through some peculiar challenges as a child or had a horrible marriage and afraid her own kids might experience same. It is high time we started asking questions on how and why she behaves the way she does.’’
Dayo-Samuel urged the couples to see each other as a team to achieve their family goal by putting different perspectives into play; changing the meaning they give to things for their own sanity; understanding the reasons some mothers-in-law behave in certain ways and embracing their shortcomings with love and caution. The expert stated,
“There is no mother who would want to intentionally hurt her own children. It is either she has been exposed to unpleasant experiences or not even aware she is overbearing due to her personality. Bear it in mind that she has her reasons.
“Instead of fighting them, remove what the society had fed you with about mothers-in-law and learn to relate with them in a new way.”