Several friends of mine are going through some trials in their marriages. This is not of itself an unusual phenomenon. But we are African women and our story needs to be told. Our experiences may or may not be similar to yours. The common threads however are the peculiar challenges faced by African women married to African men in Diaspora, far away from the context of family and home. Far away from the checks and balances that make us who we are: – the wise counsel of our elders, the massive support of our mothers and sisters, the refuge of our family compound. Foluke's?? (real name withheld) story continues.
Foluke's Story continued….
The first thing he did was to destroy my credit before I had even begun to build it. Being ignorant of the system and trusting him implicitly, I went along with his bizarre plan. We needed furniture in our new apartment. We would buy a luxurious leather suite he had been eyeing for years. We would apply for credit in my name. The cost was staggering, and I did not come from a credit oriented culture. How would we pay it back? I asked. He would help out a bit, he said, and if we couldn’t pay, so be it; after seven years, the record would be gone from your credit file. The absurdity and fraudulent leaning of his statements did not register immediately?
Despite being a responsible and honest person all my life, I found myself in America unable to buy a car, get a student loan or a credit card. He never did pay for the furniture. ?My meager wages as a Personal Care Aide did not even come close to being adequate. My credit was ruined. I relied completely on him to help me out with his (of course, excellent) credit. Oh, he never messed around with his credit. It remained inviolate. I had to beg him to co-sign every thing I needed credit for. Sometimes he would refuse. He did not want to ruin his credit.?I shed many a private tear and wondered where I had gone wrong. This man was completely in control and there was no means of escape.
It never occurred to me to leave him.?Where would I go? What would become of me? What would people back home say? She has become like these liberated American women, abandoning their marriages at the slightest sign of conflict. I did not want to be a stereotype or a statistic. So I endured.
Life continued. We bought a house. We had a child. I struggled hard to keep my head above water. On the other hand, my husband thrived. He lived well and dressed well. I realized I knew very little about him. I did not know how much he earned and what he did with it. He made me pay all household bills, because he ‘paid the mortgage’. I drove a used, decrepit and cantankerous little Honda. He drove a shiny brand new Lexus SUV. Apparently, he was more ‘careful with his money’ than I. I put all my energy in raising my son and began the long hard road toward getting a nursing degree. This would be my passport to financial independence.