Problems With ‘Living-Apart-Together – Michael West

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BY MICHAEL WEST

_Living-apart-together is an easier way to walk away from your marriage. It is a breeding ground for infidelity while it offers a tenable excuse to live adulterous life. No matter how reasonable arguments for this idea are, it is not a healthy arrangement.

The idea of couples mutually agreeing to live apart in quest for economic comfort is now widely embraced, tolerated and encouraged in our society. Not minding the unwholesome consequence of the arrangement on the survival of family life, the practice is a silent but effective way of “putting asunder” what “God has joined together.”

Living-apart-together is an arrangement where, on the excuse of the family’s needy condition as occasioned by the poor economic climate of the country where job opportunities become rare, the couple decide to allow one of them to relocate overseas in search of greener pastures. In most cases, men are usually the ones to weather the ash climate to work for the comfort of his family back home.

Often, they do agree on the number of years to spend; either he will apply for his family members to join him much later after he must have found his footing or he will return home finally to his family. Only a fraction of Nigerian spouses do keep faith with their partners on this arrangement. In the long run, they end up not living together again as husbands and wives.

Recent surveys suggest that people living apart together (LATs) account for around 10% of the adult population in much of Western Europe, North America and Australasia, although precise estimates vary according to the findings and the survey group British data suggest that up to a quarter of supposedly ‘single’ adults who are not cohabiting with partners (either married or unmarried) in fact, have partners living elsewhere.

Many years ago in Nigeria, whenever a man was going on a transfer or he’s relocating to seek better opportunities elsewhere, he will go with his family members: his wife and children. Employees of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), NIPOST (P & T as it used to be), banks, UAC, UTC, federal civil service, military, the Police and some corporate personnel were those experiencing frequent transfers across the country. That’s why many of our parents, uncles and retired workers end up becoming multilingual of major Nigerian languages. This also inspired marriages across regional, tribal and ethnic lines. It also evolved cross-cultural mix, interactions and integration.

Nevertheless, choosing to go abroad to work for one’s family’s sustenance, to me, is a sacrificial venture and an exercise in the right direction provided it doesn’t lead to the breakup of the home eventually. However, this idea is fast turning to a curse rather than a blessing in many Nigerian homes. Gory tales of abandonment, hunger and break-up are fast becoming recurring decimals in many homes where this arrangement is in practice. Staying abroad for more than two years without a feasible timeline of reuniting with your spouse offers an unhealthy ground for your ‘lonely’ partner to despair or compromise.

A former colleague went on a transfer abroad with the promise of coming back to pick his wife and two children. In the first two years, his wife was very faithful, praying and hoping things would work out as planned. They were in constant touch almost every hour for the first one year. By the end of the second year, the woman already knew the game plan had changed from his end. In summary, as at now, I’m not aware he has visited Nigeria since 1995.

A man left for Europe when his last daughter was barely three years. Leaving three children behind for his wife in anticipation of an early return to buoy the economic fortunes of his family; now his daughter is an undergraduate, yet, he is yet to return. He is hale and hearty where he is because he still communicates with his family periodically. He’s not sending money because he’s still roaming the streets for help. He won’t like to return to Nigeria because of shame!

A woman relocated overseas to take care of her children schooling in Europe. In the fifth year of her stay abroad, I saw her husband, a good Christian, faithful man and caring father; he had emaciated so much. Apart from working in Nigeria to sustain his family abroad, nobody cared about his wellbeing. I discovered during our discussion that he had not “touched” a woman since his wife travelled. She returned in the eighth year critically ill but unfortunately she couldn’t survive it.

A banker resigned from her job and relocated abroad in pursuit of better opportunities. She left three young children with her husband in anticipation that her family would join her within a year. It is four years now, she’s yet to return while her husband and children are still hoping. As at now, her in-laws are asking her to return or he will be encouraged to “move on.”

I could go on citing numerous examples. I’m sure you, too, can cite some cases you know about to buttress this line of thought. If the spouses left in the lurch back home begin to desire affection elsewhere, will you blame them? Some people are quick to judge others. There are women who claim they can stay for 10 years without the touch of a man. Bravo! But remember we are not equally wired emotionally and sexually. Even the Word says those who can’t hold their urges for long should marry. Therefore, long absence from your spouse is like deliberately pushing him/her to sin! Eve got seduced while Adam was away.

The essence of marriage is companionship and not children. Children are a blessing of sexual intimacy in marriage. A situation where a woman no longer misses the presence of her husband is evident that all is not well in that home. Living-apart-together is an easier way to walk away from your marriage. It is a breeding ground for infidelity while it offers a tenable excuse to live adulterous life. No matter how reasonable arguments for this idea are, it is not a healthy arrangement.

Dr. Akin-Bola John, a counselor and Bible scholar, in an interview in The Nation newspaper a few years ago said, couples living apart for more than one year under whatever guise have practically dissolved their marriages. This is because marriage, like I stated earlier, is mainly about companionship.

I salute those who are still keeping faith despite the obvious signs that their partners had ‘improvised alternatives’ in the foreign lands. The reasons for the ‘alternatives’ are often predicated on their inability to endure the chilling, freezing weather and as a ploy to get residency papers. This is a classic case of self-deceit and conjugal sacrilege.

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