I remember what my father used to tell me about women and marriage.
“My son,” he would begin. “One of the greatest mistakes a man can make is to make another man’s wife your own. Such a man will never find peace until he lets go of such woman and go find his own woman wherever she’s,” he’d said.
“But how, Papa?” I couldn’t understand him. “How would someone make another man’s wife his own in the first place,”
The old man had laughed. “Let me explain to you. If a man marries a woman that does not love and respect him, a woman who’s always fighting him, that woman is not his own. She must tolerate her or severely tame her. That’s who she should be married to.”
Frankly, back then, even after all the explanation. Papa still didn’t make much sense to me. It was several years later when I met and married my wife, sorry when I met and married someone’s else’s wife that I realized what my father was talking about. When I started dating Stephanie, there was nothing about her that suggested that I was with the wrong woman. She seemed like an angel, quiet and beautiful in her own way.
Our first major quarrel occurred about four months after our wedding. We had had an argument that morning before I left for work but the pile of job that day helped me keep my mind off the troubles at home as usual. As the day drew to an end, I found myself wishing I could spend the night outside my home, but in the end, my responsible nature won me over and I found myself heading home.
My wife sat on the couch lazily as I let myself in and did not even utter a word of greeting. Not that it mattered. Of course, it would not be the first time she would be acting funny.
“Hi honey,” I said as I bounded up the stairs.
“And where are you coming from by this time of the night, “Mr Man,” she asked rudely.
I knew Stephanie was out to pick another quarrel and I was determined not to allow it, so I played cool.
“I had to stay a little longer in the office.”
“Oh I see, “ she said. “Maybe you should go back there and spend the night, I guess.”
I didn’t understand the impact of what she had said until I got to the bedroom door upstairs to find it locked. I swallowed my instant fury and went back to meet her downstairs.
“Stephanie, the bedroom door is locked.”
“So,” she said dryly.
“Can I have the keys please,” I asked.
“I have told you what to do, go back to where you are coming from.”
I could feel my patients reaching to end. When did I become a slave in my own house?” I scanned the living room for any possible place the keys could be but found none. At last, I decided to try one more time.
“Steph, please let me have these keys, I am really tired and I have no time for fighting this night.”
She smiled. Your getting those keys is over my dead body, go back to where you’re coming from.”
In an instant, I pulled her up and beat her black and blue until she passed out. In the end, I had to rush her to the hospital and it was there we discovered that she was already two months pregnant.
“You have to take it easy with her, Mr. Layi, she’s lucky she didn’t lose the baby,” the doctor had told me. I had wept so much in private on that day, wondering what on earth I had got myself into. I had also hoped my wife would have a change of heart and we would live happily, especially with the realization that we were expecting a baby. I was totally mistaken. Stephanie grew from bad to worse and knowing that I would never do a thing to hurt her considering her situation, she made life a living hell for me. The months flew by and she had a baby boy, Julius. Two years later, his brother, Damola came. Our marriage never got better but I consoled myself in the fact that I now had two sons that I could always turn to whenever my wife got on my nerves.
The boys grew fast and I did all I could to be the perfect father to my kids and the perfect husband to my wife but somehow neither seemed to work out. Stephanie was totally determined to ruin everything and all my efforts at making our marriage work out were sidelined by her negative actions. At a point, I knew she had even begun to pitch the kids against me.
“Julius, here I bought you a pack of chocolates,” I would say.
“Thank you Daddy,” my six-year old boy would say as he came to collect the gift but before he reached me, his mum ordered him to disobey me.
“Julius get back here,” and to my greatest shock, the boy returned to his mother. All my efforts, threats and cajoling to get the boy to come to me would proved abortive. It was the same way with Damola, his younger brother.
Soon, I felt my kids drawing far from me and the thought almost sent me berserk. At last, I decided on a divorce and I called on my lawyer and friend, Barrister George Ekpo.
“George, I need to be free from this woman before I lose my mind or before I kill her.” I told him. That was in 1985, about seven years after we got married. My lawyer understands me. Many times, I had explained my ordeals to him and he had always encouraged me to get a divorce. But I had thought somehow our marriage would eventually work out.