How to quarrel with your Igbo husband
There is no marriage without argument and no love without quarrel. If you are in doubt of that, then you have either never been married or you have never been married. And as crazy as it may sound, knowing hot wo quarrel is just as important as knowing how to love in a relationship.
While there are many books and studies on how to best quarrel with your partner, I think there are some additional things to consider when it comes to intercultural marriages. Of course, there is no one-solution-fits-all, but I would like to share what I have learned from being married to an Igbo man:
The common stuff:
#1 Say no to generalizations
As much as it may feel like you are telling the truth when accusing your partner of "never" closing the toothpaste or "always" dropping his dirty laundry on the floor, such accusations most probably do not reflect the reality. Even if they are accurate 99 out of 100 times, accusing your partner of ALWAYS doing it wrong does not give value to the ONE time that it was done the "correct" way and will therefore trigger a defensive reaction.
So rather than denigrating your partner with untrue accusations, you may phrase your complaint in a more factual way. Here are some suggestions:
Rather than ALWAYS, say MANY TIMES or OFTEN
Rather than NEVER, say HARDLY, LITTLE, FEW
Rather than ALL, say MANY, MOST
Rather than NONE, say FEW, LITTLE
This way, your partner has a chance to actually listen to your complaint rather than having to defend himself.
#2 The right perspective
If you want to make an accusation more "digestible," I suggest you formulate it from your own perspective:
Rather than "YOU hardly HAVE time for me," you could say, "I FEEL THAT you hardly have time for me."
Rather than "YOU ARE so stressed out lately," say, "I NOTICED THAT you are stressed out lately."
This type of wording acknowledges that your partner may have another perception of the matter and leaves room for him to present his own point of view rather than having to react to an accusation.
#3 Timing matters
There are two things to consider when it comes to timing. It may sound simple, but the importance of these points is often underestimated.
Is the timing right for you?
Criticizing your partner when full of anger may feel like a release to you but will most probably not lead to a positive outcome. The best thing to do is to relax and wait until you are in a more solution-oriented mindset, even if it means sleeping on it for a night.
Is the timing right for your partner?
Starting an argument when your partner is on the phone or eating dinner is probably not the best idea. I suggest you wait for a time when he is actually able to listen to what you have to say. And if you are unsure, ask him when it is a good time to sit down and talk.
Specifics in the Igbo culture
#4 Say it in private
I was taught to address things that bother me immediately and never keep anger to myself. So, in the beginning, anytime Ezenwa made me angry, I used to feel the urge to argue it out right away - whether we were in public or not. But over the years, I learned that this strategy does not work with an Igbo man.
Hollering at your husband in public is not only seen as a massive lack of respect in the Igbo culture but also aggravates a problem instead of solving it. Your partner will feel hurt and unable to listen to the content of your accusations.
But don't get me wrong, I am not saying you have to accept everything your husband does or that you are not allowed to criticize him. All I am saying is that you should avoid doing it publicly. And this has nothing to do with being submissive; it's simply being solution-oriented.
#5 Tonality is essentiality
In the western world, shouting at your husband, calling him names, or slamming a door is not uncommon and can usually be forgiven. To an Igbo man, however, such actions of disrespect leave long-lasting scars.
If you struggle to control your emotions, I recommend you argue only when sitting down. The chances that your temper raises while you are standing are much higher. And if you can no longer sit still during an argument, you can take that as a sign to postpone the discussion to when you are more relaxed (see timing).
#6 Mine oh mine
In Igbo culture, husband and wife share everything together. Even if one buys something "with his/her own money," it is unfit to claim it for oneself. This is even more true when quarreling. Sentences that include "MY children," "MY car," or "MY house" (even if factual) will hurt your Igbo partner. So even if you disagree with the concept, try to avoid subjective possessive pronouns as much as possible.
#7 You are not alone
If ever a disagreement escalates to the point that you feel unable to resolve it yourself, it is quite common in Igbo culture to involve family or close friends for support. I recommend you ask your partner in advance whom he would trust with such matters so that you know whom to go to if necessary.
A meal to settle the deal
Before I close, I have one final story to share with you. It proves that non-verbal communication in a multicultural relationship does not always work:
Some years ago, Ezenwa wanted to show me his anger by refusing to eat the food that I cooked. Unfortunately for him, I did not understand his "signs," as in my culture, having a husband who refuses to eat is not a big deal. I just assumed he was not hungry or did not like the food, and Ezenwa went to bed hungry in vain :-) When I later learned that refusing your wife's food was a sign of showing anger, I used it to my advantage. Whenever I want to know if a quarrel is settled, I cook Ezenwa's favorite food. If he eats it, I know that we are good; if not, I know that we still have more talking to do :-)
Share your own tips and experiences in the comment sections!
Last but not least
I decided always to end my blog posts with an Igbo proverb or quote and a song (not necessarily Igbo) that speaks to my heart. Feel free to share your favorite proverbs or a song you are currently listening to!
Igbo quote of the week: "Nwaanyi muta ite ofe mmiri mmiri, di ya amuta ipi utara aka were suru ofe" - If a woman decides to make the soup watery, the husband will learn to dent the foofoo before dipping it into the soup.
My song this week: Victor Uwaifor - No Palaver
Pictures by Keria Burton