I was on a Television talk show - Feminine Catalogue hosted by Miesia Temeye Bob-manuel that focus on Contemporary Women Issues to look into “How healthy Live-In Lovers Syndrome Is”. This is a very trendy issue and an age long issue that most people indulge in – women and men and boys and girls who feel they are in love but are not properly married co-habits under the same roof. It was a call-in programme, and there were so many contributors calling in to air their opinion.
Such relationship in Africa and Nigeria mostly is frowned at and brings about personal and family ridicule and mockery. We looked at the causes of why people decides to be live-in lovers without wedlock and issues like high cost of traditional rites and wedding ceremonies; poverty; age; deceits on the part of men and personal decisions.
In some traditions there are some very expensive rites like the “Iyaa” – meaning tying of wrapper, and KO – celebration of womanhood; Okwurukaka – celebration of womanhood in the Niger Delta. Some others are Iru Mgbede – keeping a woman in fattening room without the girl going out or doing any domestic work for 6 – 9 weeks before marriage and the man will have to provide for all the things she will need in that fattening room. In the rites mentioned above(Iyaa, Okwurukaka & KO) the man will buy a big box full of different types of expensive wrappers which will be inspected one by one by elderly women to confirm the authenticity before it is accepted by the bride as part of marriage rites. Some other place you court a girl for 3 years within which the would-be suitor will take care of her in those years / fattening room paraphernalia. These rites are expensive and the long list of relatives to visit with presents. Some family have huge extended families and those presents cost so much. In all of this, the bride price is not included. The bride price is quite different. Some tribes have their different bride prices – some are small and some are huge.
Based on the above, some people felt that any man without means may not be able to get married properly to his love so they go ahead and co-habit and start having children. Others said that some parents who do not agree that the 2 people in love should get married will push them into living together without being properly married. Some also think that when a girl is getting old without any eligible man approaching her for marriage may force herself into any guy or any one that makes mistake of talking to her for relationship and end up as live-in lover. There are still some that thought that some men are just deceitful. They are not ready to marry the said lady but will allow her live with him doing all the services a wife do sometimes to the extent of having children, only to ditch her when he feels he has had enough of her and go ahead to marry a new girl or lady.
There are so many derogatory names attached to women who live with their lovers without proper marriage in native and custom or in any religious or Registry to formalise and legalise such marriages. Some of the names are hire purchase; mistress, concubine etc.
So many girls have run away from their homes without completing their education and end up in one boy’s house as live-in lover. Consequences of such relationships were also critically looked at. One of the consequences is Domestic Violence and Abuse of the girl. The men treats them like dirt and because of most of them are ashamed of going back home or have been disowned by parents and relatives they remain in such relationships even to the point of death.
Girls have been brought from the rural areas by relatives and will run away from home because their guardians and caregivers do not give them freedom to mingle with the opposite sex to go and live with any of the boys or men that tells them he is in love. One caller maintained that on a street of about 20 houses, only one or two couples are properly married. Even those that have managed to live upto 20 to 30 years with grown up children and may have also become financially stable will sometime forget that they are not properly married until the woman or the man dies. If the man dies first, the woman may end up losing everything she has worked so hard alongside with her lover to build over the years. She is thrown out with her children by her lover’s family and every property confiscated and taken away from her. This type of treatment also can be meted out to fully married women if the husband’s family is greedy and wicked.
The attraction between the opposite sexes is natural and very beautiful but we also have to be very careful of the evil that are abound in our world today. Parents must bring up their children properly and teach them all they are supposed to know. The boys must be taught to be good husbands, do domestic chores and how to take care of himself and his family while girls are being taught the general domestic chores, career guidance and respect for her husband and neighbours.
All in all, majority of our contributors condemned live-lover syndrome and maintained that some kind of law should be put in place to criminalise it. But some also maintained that some of these relationships have been very successful but not devoid of ups and downs. Given that, we cannot say it is bad or good. Everyone is left to his or her perception on this particular issue.
We live in a complimentary world where both genders matter. Please keep spreading the good news that stereotypes are suffocating while complementary roles are invigorating and gives joy, happiness and fulfillment.