I’d yearned for the ideal marriage for as long as I could remember – that kind where I’d find that one person to stick with through thick and thin. But now that I’ve actually found a partner who ticks off every box, I’m starting to have second thoughts about the whole marriage idea. All of this introspection came about after a frenzied experience of living next door to a newlywed couple. Living next door to a newlywed couple was an experience I dare not forget. If I had to sum it up in one word, it would be nothing short of torture.
It all began with the couple’s constant hand-holding scene that soon became a regular occurrence in my daily life. Their hands always seemed permanently fused, especially when they strolled around the compound as though silently nudging me to hurry up and get married. It was hard not to feel the weight of their commitment against my own solitary existence.
In an attempt to be a good neighbour, I exchanged numbers with them. Little did I know that it would lead to a flood of envy-inducing photos on my WhatsApp status. Their pictures were constant reminders of their happiness which only amplified my loneliness.
Of course, living within the thin walls of Lagos didn’t help matters. I became an unwitting audience to the passionate moans of pleasure echoing from their bedroom. I’m not going to lie, it got awkward, fast. So awkward, in fact, that I had to resort to a rather unconventional solution: a vibrating dildo I endearingly named Mary. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?
But the real challenge came when they invited me over. I could almost hear their voices, a mix of pity and concern, saying, “She must be really sad, let’s help her and invite her over.” I’ll admit, I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about accepting. However, I didn’t want to earn the reputation of being the solitary, unsociable neighbour. And, if I’m being truthful, the idea of enjoying some free food played a part.
As it turned out, their intentions were far from what I expected. They sought a willing ear for their tales of love and I, quite unwillingly, became that audience. It felt strangely reminiscent of one of those “1000 Ways to Die” scenarios — Death By Love Stories.
I had hoped these challenges would finally ease up with the arrival of their newborn baby. I was pretty eager for that moment. I’d heard countless tales about how marriage could turn tricky once kids enter the scene. From dealing with endless bills to making decisions about child-rearing and school choices. Yet, contrary to my expectations, my struggles didn’t lessen. Instead, they seemed to renew themselves, like a software update on my Samsung phone.
Predictably, the initial enchantment faded into history. But this time, luck was on my side as the agony was shared between me and the couple, although not quite evenly. On the surface, their world seemed all sunshine and rainbows, thanks to the bundle of joy that arrived. But beneath the surface, they grappled with the sudden transformation and secretly yearned for their pre-baby days. Every now and then, they catch fleeting moments of happiness, but it’s just that – fleeting.
So, it didn’t come as a shock when I overheard my newlywed neighbours yelling at each other, “If you’ve got any guts, step out of this house,” the husband said.
“Ahh, you are not a real man. You only try to act like an Alpha male when dealing with me, but with others, you shrink like a timid lizard,” the wife spat out with a mix of frustration and anger. “You’re nothing but a two-faced coward, always putting on a show to fit in,” she continued. It felt like one of those classic exchanges straight out of a Nollywood blockbuster on African Magic.
Oh, believe me, I caught every word of it. What choice did I have? My sleep had been abruptly interrupted by my friend who crashed at my place for the night and had an insatiable craving for Akara and Rolled Oats.
This has been their ninth heated argument in the last three months. And it has been chiefly around one issue: the baby. It wasn’t merely about love and incompatibility; there seemed to be deeper complexities at play. You know how some couples are head over heels for each other and seem perfectly matched, yet are at each other’s throats all the time? I also dismissed financial struggles as a cause, especially as they just splurged on a new car.
It dawned on me that perhaps the arrival of a baby truly does trigger a monumental shift, as I ponder the insights my married cousin shared. “Don’t be surprised when all those sweet, sugary, lovey-dovey words go MIA. If you are envisioning ‘happily ever after,’ do yourself a favour and toss those idealistic fantasies out the window. You won’t need them, and you certainly won’t be using them.”
“More than a few times, you’d entertain random thoughts on whether your little one has got some kind of secret agenda because they magically wake up, wail, or need your attention exactly when you’re ready for a nap, stepping out, or having an intimate time with your partner. Don’t even talk about trying to orchestrate spontaneous sex; it’s like they’ve gone extinct. Poof, vanished into thin air.”
“And those “aww” inducing photos that make your ovaries do a little dance? Well, those are like works of art, masterfully edited to give you the illusion of perfection. Behind those Instagram-worthy photos are kids darting around like they’re on a sugar rush, and a nanny doing a one-person relay race to keep up. Amidst the shrieks and sniffles, dresses get ruined, and you’re bombarded with a chorus of commands: “Smile for the camera,” “Stop eating your dress,” and “Leave your sister alone.” Remember, no relationship – parental or otherwise – exists in a constant state of bliss.”
“School fees in Nigeria, especially those upscale schools in Lagos, could easily serve as an unconventional family planning tactic. When you add that alongside the glaring imperfections of your partner, it’s enough to make you question your capacity to communicate, stay patient, and forgive – the supposed holy trinity of a successful marriage. Even if you’re loaded with patience and some serious communication skills, you still find yourself taken aback by how marriage moves the goalposts to an entirely unreachable level.”
Those words hit me hard. You see, my cousin’s marriage hit the rocks only two years in, so I couldn’t help but be cautious about her advice. But they still injected a good dose of fear into my thoughts about having kids. Well, besides the fear of pregnancy and labour. Whenever I dare to voice this fear or mention my openness to an unconventional marriage arrangement with potential partners, I’m met with those judgmental stares that scream, “Are you crazy?” or, worse, I’m ghosted out of nowhere. Maybe it’s time to broaden my horizons and consider other cultures beyond African men. They have quite a rigid and narrow stance on marriage and child-rearing, and perhaps even other aspects.
And then, of course, there’s my traditional mother, who’s not exactly subtle about her desire for me to bring home a man. I admit I’ve been dodging her calls. It’s not that I lack the willpower, it’s just that I don’t have the energy for those conversations anymore; they somehow bring me down in ways I can’t fully grasp. After talking to her, I end up feeling vulnerable and sad. Yet, avoiding her calls burdens me with guilt because a ‘good’ daughter wouldn’t do that.
But then there is Tola, my recent boyfriend. Thankfully, we’d moved past the exhausting talking phase, which honestly sapped my energy too. I managed to convey to him why having kids isn’t something we necessarily need, and I’m relieved that he didn’t dismiss me as crazy or suddenly disappear as others did. Despite this, I haven’t yet mustered the courage to broach the topic of an open marriage with him. For now, I’ll focus on counting my blessings – his acceptance and understanding – and reserve the discussion for a different time.
As for my newlywed neighbour, the wife, left home following a recent altercation with her husband. She showed up at my place and pleaded for a ride to her aunt’s. She was avoiding going to her parent’s house because, that would be admitting failure – a type of failure she wasn’t willing to embrace. Surprisingly, just two days later, she returned. They had agreed to seek counselling. It made me happier than I cared to admit. It was a glimmer of hope. I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel on marriage and kids just yet. I yearned for a happily ever after, even if it was just a tiny, fleeting part of it. So, I held on to that one thing she said that gave me hope – counselling.