Marriage is a covenant or show of love but Marriage is first and foremost a contract.
After the video of mine where I made the statement “I won’t take my partner’s last name except his name can open doors that mine can’t “ went viral, I came across three profound findings from reading the replies-
- Many people do not necessarily disagree with the comment, they simply hate that I had the guts to say what I said; that a supposed nobody could make that statement.
- Many Nigerians believe that being a single mother is shameful and something that reduces the worth and value of a woman. Hence, the wishes that I end up like Linda Ikeji
- Many Nigerian women are not yet aware of the new opportunities of the 21st century.
I feel I need to alert people that before marriage is a covenant or show of love, it is first and foremost a contract; which is why people are made to have a court wedding- to ensure that it’s recognized before the law.
This doesn’t in any way negate the fact that people marry for love, it simply shows that love is merely one factor amongst a plethora of reasons that exist for why people decide to get into the institution of marriage. And like every institution that exists, I recognize the power it has over one’s life and ability to actualize their vision.
When you hear people say- one of the best investment you can have is to make sure you marry the right person- it is no joke. When you are a career woman, this statement can never be overemphasized – marriage has the power to influence your life, vision, and career trajectory.
One of the replies I got from someone was the fact that viewing marriage in that light reduces it to nothing more than a brand acquisition – which is interesting because it was meant to be insulting but in reality– that is exactly what marriage is- It could either be an acquisition or a merger.
In today’s world, it’s often an acquisition with the woman as the minority shareholder but I have chosen to view mine as a merger. When you realize that you will need to navigate life merged with another person, you recognize why it’s important for career women to be guided when making certain decisions.
However when I use the word career woman, many immediately imagine a woman in her 30s with a high paying job but lonely and have no husband. This idea of a career woman is so limiting and incomplete. A woman selling Titus fish can be a career woman; a woman who is a primary school teacher can be a career woman. Viewing yourself as a career woman is not limited to a white collar job and stripping away of any family bonds.
But like I mentioned earlier, many women in Nigeria are still unaware of the opportunities of the 21st century, thereby limiting how they see themselves and what they can accomplish. For example, a job is simply to pay rent – many things done are simply means to simple and short-sighted ends. Very rarely do they see a job as something they can build an empire on- rarely do we see women selling 10 fishes today and thinking of how to sell 40 tomorrow.
This inability to see past what they currently have makes it impossible for them to be aggressive to push for more- a huge reason why I keep speaking on the poverty mentality in Nigeria.
However, when you work and know your vision for yourself, family and community; when choosing a partner and going into marriage, you negotiate it to benefit you in order for you to achieve those goals.
Whether we accept it or not, it is a fact that names have the power to open doors to opportunities, access, and more social status. It is for this reason, that I am not deceived by an illusion that my partnership under marriage will be based solely on love, as negotiating the use/non-use of my partner’s name as a surname is right at the top of my prenup requirements. Yes, I believe in prenups; they are important.
So if I cannot start a conversation on that with my partner,then he’s not the one for me; if I cannot say ‘Guy imagine if I nack your name for back, O boy!’ and we get excited at the prospects of me using that privilege to attain my goal- The person is not the one for me.
The surname is not marriage. I could decide to date and marry someone with less influence than me. This doesn’t mean that I do not realize that his surname might do me no added good or even diminish my chances at some opportunities. Therefore, in this case, I see no need for me to take it up.
This doesn’t in any way negate the value of my partner or feelings that we share for each other but it means again, I am choosing to go with decisions that lead to the vision that I have for myself and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Whether it’s called gold digging, prostitution, selfishness etc.; it doesn’t change the fact that it’s strategic. To quote Mr. Dikachi– Marriage is simply finding someone whose selfish interest aligns with your own selfish interests.
I also noticed that many attributed my statement to my feminist stance and ideologies. Honestly, it wasn’t borne out of some feminist debate or belief but simply because of how I want my partnership to follow- A symbiotic relationship. But I also believe that feminism itself is common sense so I guess I can see where people are coming from.
I work hard; I have been working since I was a teenager towards a vision. It will be a shame and a huge disserve to me to refuse to negotiate marriage on my terms and end up short-changing myself. As a 21st century woman, these are things we need to begin to think about.
Women, please keep working hard and building yourself to fulfill that vision you have for yourself, family and community; so that when the time comes and you make those heavy demands, you do it with your heads held high.