18 January 2013

Nigeria: Dealing With Prying in-Laws


Marriage cannot be complete without in-laws. In fact in-laws are an essential part of your spouse's life and by extension, your life. Perhaps they are a crucial string required to pull your family into harmony as a result of our African culture which emphasizes on building bridges of extended relations.

This does not mean that marriage is unworkable without the in-laws. On the reverse, it can be better without their undue interferences in the everyday issues in family life.

Thus when in-laws begin to wade into your family to the extent of dictating the course of family decisions, then you have to strengthen your relationship with your spouse and draw the boundary for them.

Some people do not usually exhibit the courage to take charge of their family and resist the overtures of the in-laws even where it becomes detrimental to their own nuclear family's well being.

This was similar to the story that emerged in the social media penultimate week about a man who lost his wife in an Abuja hospital due to pressures from his in-laws who refused blood transfusion for his wife.

The man identified as Emmanuel Timothy was quoted as saying that his in-laws refused the transfusion for religious reasons. According to him, his wife having had complications from miscarriage was made to undergo surgery which resulted in further complications.

"When she complained of serious stomach ache, we rushed her to the National Hospital where the doctor said her stomach had to be flushed. But, before the flushing, they said she needed blood transfusion because she had already lost so much blood. However, she did not get the blood transfusion because her religion and family forbid blood transfusion. 'Over our dead body, it is better she dies than for her to take another person's blood, they said to me."

The narrative of Mr Emmanuel, which unfortunately had a fatal outcome, is not a perfect example of how to relate to your in-laws in a marriage situation, analysts say.

According to Mrs Chinwe Igwe, a business woman, decisions should not be taken for couples by their in-laws. She said married couples are one in the eyes of God and the law and therefore distinct from their in-laws. She asks, "By the way is a woman not expected to embrace her husband's faith after they are married?"

Advancing this argument, Madam Ngozi Patrick, another business woman said it is wrong for couples to allow third parties, including in-laws to make decisions for them especially unfavorable ones. "The Holy Bible made us to understand that if you are married, the husband and wife are one; you have an independent life from your family and in-laws".

She also explained that a woman has a right to maintain her religion after marriage but if the husband accepts to worship with her or has his own place of worship, she has to adopt her husband's. She says in a paternalistic society like Nigeria, a woman will marry without imbibing the man's culture and religion saying.

"When you are not married you have a reason to worship in your own way, but once you choose to marry a pagan, you have to abide by the paganism. But if you marry a person who practices one faith and after that decides to change to another you have the right to maintain your own religion because that is not where you met the person. So it is wrong for a wife to be influenced by her family's ways even when they are wrong rather than those of her husband", she said.

Mrs Katharine Hart-Watkins, a Data Analyst advices couples to stick to each other. Advancing that the couples married each other not the in-laws; both parents and siblings and to see their respective families as extended families because, "they need to know the two of you are now a package deal. Remind, anyone that unless they pay the bills or sleep there, they have no say in the matter".

In his contribution, Sunday Abba, a civil servant blames in-laws who interfere in the marriage of their children.. He identifies step mothers as the worst interferers saying they usually refer their problems to their in-law. He agrees that Africans practice the extended family system which implies that you have to assist your in-laws when they are in need but not for the day-to-day decisions of the family.

Lawrence Iloh, a Barrister said it is an act of irresponsibility for couples to allow external interference in their marriage. He said the couples should take charge of their marriage to ward off "any influence or advice that could be detrimental to their family".

Explaining further, he said if any of the couple is a drunk or wayward, it will provide the in-laws the grounds to interfere into their home with the aim of resolving the issues. To avoid this, he advices the couple to take charge of their family and make their in-laws to maintain their distance. In addition, he said while couples should not completely push away their respective in-laws in the spirit of love, respect and African culture, they should accept advice from them but also sieve the truth from the fallacy.

From the preceding submissions, it is obvious that couples have enormous role to play in maintaining the stability of their marriage. Creating a balance in managing your home affairs and some issues of the in-laws is achievable. Indeed, couples must not sever the bonds of blissful family life nor cut the bridge of extended relations.

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