Being born and raised in an African family is no easy task, so much expectations and a lot of enforcement for said expectations to materialize regardless of one’s preferences or personal ambitions. This might be a common trend among all cultures and societies across the globe, but it is more accentuated in Africa than anywhere else.
One always has to be ever mindful of his/her family identity and values shaped by previous successive generations, so at the end of the day you just feel like a cog in a machine designed and operated from beyond the grave by your ancestors. There is obviously a bivalent view to the benefits and costs of this system but this is not the core argument of the thesis being presented here.
As far as the responsibilities and account-abilities of operating oneself within the limitations of one’s own African family can be arguably strenuous, imagine marrying into another African family and quadrupling all those limitations, anticipations and responsibilities passively placed upon you.
African matrimonial arrangements are not for the meek nor the faint heart.
Luckily enough African society ensues that its children are pre-trained and tutored to be well prepared for what lays in store for them in the post-nuptial realm.
Growing up, you are always reminded that one day you will leave the comfortable nest that is your family homestead and operate somewhere else were you will be under the full scrutiny of others, hence in Chichewa there is the phrase “osachitisa manyazi makolo” loosely translated to ‘don’t bring shame upon your parents, and this ethos is more reminded when one is getting married, your behavior and conduct will determine the amount of respect that will be accrued to your family …you are essentially an ambassador representing your entire clan and sometimes ‘tribe’.
This is more pronounced for the girl child who is expected to develop stamina for doing household chores tirelessly and with a happy face lest she dishonors her mother later on in marriage.
Thus when death or a wedding chances upon a family and there subsequently is conducted some sort of ceremony, best believe all the donkey work in preparing food and board for all attending will be done by daughters-in-law (both actual and potential) attached to that family regardless of the woman’s economic or educational status
…likewise in the logistics department, the sons-in-law and suitors are expected to take an active yet non-decision making role…and all eyes will be on them, some sort of ultimate litmus tests of sorts…whose results(by way of gossiping) go a long way in family politics.
So yes it is hard work and may take an emotional toll, but this does not even half compare to the requirement that one has to adapt to different personalities however boring or repulsive that might exist among the ‘in-laws’
Here you find people being forced to pay patronage to drunkards, sex-offenders, prostitutes, drug addicts, thieves, psychopaths etcetera …characters they wouldn’t even tolerate within their own family but forced to be nice and pay homage to just because they carry similar genetics with the spouse and thus are of political significance in the marriage whether directly or indirectly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to paint a bleak picture of African marriages… surely the experience isn’t homogeneous …if you are lucky and blessed you might find yourself married into a family that has got their shit together and that will surely be more than a bonus to your life…but let’s face it, the majority of our families have one sort of mess or the other so at the end of the day most of us shall have to compromise and remain stoically chinned up…long enough to ensure that we do not bring shame upon our families…at the end of it all you shall configure that a substantial percentage of your marriage is owed toward your family starting right from the decisions to marry and choice of spouse…indeed some families have stayed so long and survived out of fear of personal and family embarrassment.
I really don’t blame people of other races/societies who just want to explore our bodies and not commit to us or our fellow Africans who take the easier route of cross-marrying into less-weighted cultures just because they feel all of this hullabaloo is not for them.
Because marrying into an African family is hard work and mentally languishing…it is only for the strong.