There is a popular Ghanaian radio show I listen to whenever I get the chance – this show is on a radio station in the city I grew up in. The show has been going live on various social media platforms and this has given me the opportunity to listen for over a year now. I like the host – for once she is a woman who does not tolerate abuse from anyone, man or woman – and though sometimes, she gets it wrong, I admire the stance she takes on most issues. In a patriarchal society like the one I grew up in, I admire that she has become a voice that challenges the norm and sometimes using the law to ensure that justice is served when required. For months, I had heard this host ask several women on this show going through one relational issues why they do not seek their own financial independence but seem to look at marriage as an opportunity to take a step back from pursuing a career and rather be taken care of by someone else financially. I could understand her frustrations with these women and why she asked this question in particular; because this practice was then putting these women at a disadvantage and eventually being abused, leading them to the show!
On one of the episodes of this show, a young woman had come onto the show to talk about her local celebrity husband who had attempted to strangle her. As I looked up from what I was doing, I looked closely at this young woman – I saw her composure and how well she expressed herself – to be honest, I was surprised she’d married this man in the first place. As she narrated her ordeal and how she had found out after marriage that the man she’d married was a pedophile – one aspect of her story was similar to the narratives of the many women who appeared on the show. After marriage, she had agreed to quit her job, stay home and keep the home and gave her savings to this man to support his music career. I am in no way against women that keep a home but I recently watched the show ‘the Maid’ on Netflix, I came face to face with my fear of being controlled because my financial decisions was in the hands of another person. As this woman continued with her story, I could detect coercive control in their relationship through out the show. Reading through the comments on this particular episode, many people labelled her a liar because she was looking to return to her husband who had now kicked her out of their home and this woman and her child were now homeless. Her being kicked out of the home, the man going on with his life with no regard for his family and not giving the relationship the closure it deserved was where my problem was.
As I listened to the rest of the show, I could clearly see the issue with the situation this woman was in – if she was financially independent, things would have played out a little different as well as her narratives. Most women where I come from see marriage as a chance to move into thier husbands house and make it a home while he provided for them everything they needed and wanted. I have heard most of these women on these shows talk about giving up their career because the men they married promised to set them up to run their own businesses. I am all good for being set up with your own business – but would it not be more beneficial if a woman had her own income until this new business was a reality? But I could see the arguments in the comment section – there were others that were pro the husband and they argued that the husband had provided a home, was the primary financier of the home and therefore, this young woman needed to stay home and make sure the home was kept when the man returned home. Then there was the pro wife argument – she had given up her life savings to this man to help complete the home he was building and to support his career – she had also sacrificed her job to stay home and support his music career plus birthing their child. All these arguments sounded good but I found them all problematic.
When someone asks the question about what people are bringing to a relationship ‘table’ – what do they really mean? To be honest, this was not something I had given much thought to and I did not have an answer. The more I thought on it, the more I felt that this statement was problematic and perhaps part of the reason why one party can decide that the other person can let go of their career to support theirs with no talk on equality. The more I delved into this, the more I realised that in the society I grew up in, there was pressure on men to make enough money to take care of their wives or girlfriends every need or risk losing the woman they loved to another who earned more money. This has contributed to some women looking for the highest bidder in relationships and some men indulging in corrupt practices on their jobs to sustain these expectations. These relationships may sometimes work but I assure you that 99 times out of 100, if these couples move out of this society to western ones, these relationships fail. Because whatever these people were bringing to the ‘table’ is no longer sustainable and the ‘table’ eventually falls apart.
I left a comment on the radio show – ‘teach your daughters to be financially independent so they don’t make decisions about their relationships from a place of lack’. And likewise, ‘teach your sons domestic chores so they don’t have to pay for a partner to do these basic life skills for them’. When talking about what people are bringing to the table, one person should not wield all the power because they bring more. I feel people should work equally on their relationship – looking realistically at their situation and bringing to their table what works best for them in the particular season they may be in. Thinking about all this, I think it should not be about what we bring to the table but rather how we both build a table that is balanced – a table that can support what is being created in the relationship. It is only when people acknowledge that there is not a table for them to bring something to, but rather the chance to build a table that can support what they are creating for a relationship will all this imbalance of power perhaps cease.
Perhaps instead of asking what people are bringing to the table, we should be asking if they are willing to build a table that can support the life and future they both want. This expectation of bringing something to the table is steeped in gender expectations and some how one party always feels like they are giving more and the other party can potentially have all their freedom taken resulting in coercive control. Maybe its time we re-think these things and practice what is best for our relationship instead of following whatever society has laid down for people to follow. If you are in a position where your relational table is not balanced and you are carrying more of the weight, then speak up and express your expectations. Ladies, have a plan for your life – don’t quit your job so your partner can look after you, that is not fair and you increase your risk of being abused in the future. If one party in the relationship needs to leave their job, then both must agree on how the power dynamics will not shift against the party not earning.
Thank you for always taking the time to read and comment – I appreciate it and always look forward to hearing from you. Please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.
Maybe we do not need to bring anything to the relationship table but rather a mindset to build a ‘table’ that is balanced enough to support the relationship we want for our lives and future.Tweet