As an African girl, we are taught, from the day we are born, how to be a wife. With all that preparation, you would think its easy but marriage is quite the opposite. The first and most difficult step in the complication is choosing a partner. Some of us don’t realize how complicated this step is especially in relation to tribalism. For many Africans, tribe plays a vital role in selecting a partner. In fact many of us grow up hearing who we should never consider marrying because they are “no good” for marriage.
Why do we care what country or tribe our partners come from?
Africans hold marriage in very high esteem and we try to “do it right” and part of that means marrying someone who’s culture/tribe is not a problem for us.
After many heated arguments, I have concluded that there are two main reasons why tribalism is an issue in many relationships.
First, STEREOTYPES! Growing up as a Nigerian girl, I always heard “Yoruba women are wicked to their husbands”, “Igbo families maltreat wives who don’t produce male children”, “Calabar people eat humans” etc. All these ridiculous stereotypes form the foundation on which a lot of people make their decision not to marry people from certain countries or tribes. This is not to say that these statements are (not) true in some cases, but it should not be the basis for which you exclude a whole group of people. Situations should be judged on an individual basis. In addition, the silent tension of the Biafran war still lingers between the Igbos and the Hausas.
Second, FAMILIARITY A lot of times I hear people say “How can I marry someone that doesn’t understand my language?” Humans like to be around what they are comfortable with and understand. The fear of not knowing or compromising for someone’s culture drives us to want only partners that are like us. This is perfectly understandable because, hey, who wants to go through the stress of language barrier or eye rolls from other family members?
How can all these reasons still be an issue for millennials, don’t they know better?
With our exposure to the Western world, it become harder to keep our culture because we are not as in touch with our people compared to our parent’s generation. For millennials a lot of the decisions we make are still highly dependent on the things our parents have taught us. So if your parents think marriage should only be between people of similar cultures then, there is a possibility that you also think that too.
A typical African marriage does not involve a man and woman, rather, it’s the union of the man’s village and the woman’s village. So if the family is not willing to accept you or your culture, that’s a red flag. Your future will either consist of losing the love of your life or unending quarrels between both families. Although, it is harder the former is common out of respect for our parents.
At the end of the day, we all want someone to love us for who we are. Doesn’t matter if I am Angolan and he is South African. Or Congolese and Benin. I know life is never really black or white, but choosing a partner should be based on love and who they are as a person and not on where they come from. Let’s not limit our pool of patterns. The world is full of love, you just never know.