3 years! 36 Months! 1,095 days! 26,280 hours! 1,576,800 minutes! 94,608,000 seconds.
That’s how long I stayed unhappy, lonely in my marriage to Tade.
But 365 days later, I am living in a self contained apartment in Gbagada and working tirelessly at a media house. Making just enough money to cover my rent, feeding, transportation, send home to my daughter and still buy myself nice things.
My blood pressure has dropped. The pain in my chest is gone, my anxiety has disappeared. I am glowing, I am finding jokes funny – laughing from my heart this time, no more charades.
There is no dreading going home, and there is no dreading who is coming home, I am happy, I had honestly forgotten what that felt like….
4 years back, I was walking down the aisle to meet Tade, dashing gleeful smiles at friends and family who sat on opposite pews of the church, gazing as I walked past.
I had on one of those fish-shaped wedding dresses, full lace with a beaded crystal sweep train and it just moved majestically with me as I made sure to step in tune with the beautiful singing of the choir, boy was I in my element!
I was the belle of the day, all eyes were on me but none of those supportive gazes could be compared to that of Tade’s who was waiting at the podium, arms locked together, besides the Priest. That was my man! had been for six months and now he was becoming my husband.
It was a dream come true.
We were going to spend our lives loving each other, building, standing together as a team – against the rest of the world.
He would be my best friend, the one who would share in my joys and sorrows, and I would be his woman, cooking his meals, supporting him, massaging his ego, and I would be enough.
The dream was very vivid even as I closed in on him to seal our fate. When the Priest asked me if I would take Tade to be my lawfully wedded husband, I resounded a loud, “I do!”
The church roared in cheers and we just stood there chuckling-hands held, eyes staring mushily into each other’s.
He recited his vows with a streak of tear running down his cheek and I just thought to myself, “what did I ever do right to deserve this man?”
At the end of the ceremony, we danced our way out of the church with our friends and well-wishers surrounding us, dancing along and jubilating.
Photographs were taken outside the church building.
We arrived at the reception hall and another dancing ensued. My bridesmaid’s and Tade’s groomsmen got everyone cachinnating and jumping. And then Tade and I made our entrance, cameras went berserk! Lightening everywhere! I danced like I had never done before, and why wouldn’t I? I was twenty-five and had just gotten married to my best friend.
Our wedding trended, but I wasn’t surprised, I mean it was a big event with a beautiful scenery and expensive everything!
I wished that day wouldn’t come to an end, but it did. By 6: pm, Tade and I retired to our hotel room, knackered.
The first Year of our marriage was like most new marriages – happy, peaceful, and exhilarating. I even got pregnant the very next month. It seemed like the odds were in our favor and heaven was in agreement with our union.
Tade was happy. His mother was happy, and I was ecstatic!
Baby arrived nine months later, safe and sound. My family came, his family was there. There were presents, there was love, there was support and there was money. I was living my best life and nobody could tell me otherwise!.
I made sure to resume my conjugal duties to Tade as soon as my blood stopped flowing, a decision he was very happy about. But that just wasn’t the only thing Tade was happy about, he seemed to be enjoying the union as much as I was. Although working in Port Harcourt and visiting I and the baby only on weekends in Abuja, we were doing just fine. Our phone conversations and face time never wavered so it was almost as if he wasn’t even away.
We were happy, which was why exactly 14 months after our union when I decided to go through Tade’s phone, my skin almost jumped off my bones.
He was home for the weekend. We made passionate love that morning and he stepped into the bathroom to take a shower. Something I still cannot explain prompted me to pick up his phone. I don’t usually do that, I never had a reason to, we didn’t even have passwords on our phones.
My body shuddered as I continued to stare down at his phone.
There was a message, a reply from a girl he was texting with. They were talking about how they enjoyed their last sexcapade and could not wait to get together again. He promised her that hers would be his first stop the moment he left Abuja. He told her he loved her and that was what she was replying to – she wrote that she loved him too.
I stood there shaking, more from confusion than shock. How could my loving devoted husband be cheating on me? How?! Was that even possible? How did I miss it? What did I do wrong? I thought we were happy. I was happy, wasn’t he?
As I stood there with these questions sifting through my mind, frozen to the spot, fingers juddering, heart pounding in my ears, I heard him call my name.
Next thing I felt was him snatching the phone from my hands. “Why are you going through my phone” he queried, hastily scrolling through the messages I had been reading.
I looked at him with tears gathering in the corners of my eyes. “Tade. Tade, you are cheating on me?” It was a whisper, a question begging to be refuted.
“I-I-I don’t know what you are talking about” he stammered, avoiding my eyes “why are you even going through my phone, ehn?” He was looking at me now, his forehead creased in a frown. “What is wrong with you? When did all that one start no tell me, when? Is that what you want to be doing now? Do I go through your phone? Answer me!”
I was gazing at him dumbfounded, wondering how he could be standing there, and turning this whole thing on me.
“I’m asking you na, because I need to know. When you drop your phone, do I go and start touching it?” he was demanding, eyes glaring.
“No” I swallowed.
“So why were you touching my own? You are looking for things that will give you bp abi?”
My baby started to cry. She had been sleeping but now, at this crucial moment when I was in a state of disbelief, too shook to do anything but gape at my husband, she decided to cry.
I stubbed at the tears on my cheeks and turned towards the bed to pick her up. I dandled her in my arms before sitting down in my nursing chair to let her suck at my breast. I was rocking back and forth as she sucked, tears streaming down my face, lips locked, eyes shooting daggers at Tade who was still standing there.
“W-w-well if you must know,” he continued. “This whole text is just a rehearsal.” His body waggled. “We have a play coming up at a seminar and we were just ehnm, simply rehearing our roles”
I don’t know which was worse – to be taken for a complete idiot or to find out that a man whom I had believed without a doubt to be faithful was in fact unfaithful.
“I-I am sorry, I will tell her not to text again” and with that, he walked out of our bedroom.
I sat there, breastfeeding my daughter in a complete state of stupefaction.
I was broken.
He left for Port Harcourt the next morning before I was even out of bed, but I knew when he woke up, when he had his shower and when he kissed our daughter goodbye, then me. I had barely slept that night, my heart was hurting, replaying different scenarios.
He sent a very depressed me messages from Port Harcourt, tons of messages, apologizing without admitting to what he did.
He still insisted it was a rehearsal for a play, so much so that I began to entertain its possibility.
To hurt is one thing, to be unable to talk about it is another. He was away from me and denying the act so I couldn’t even express myself fully, and the day I could have vented, I was too shocked to.
I couldn’t tell my friends either, I was too embarrassed to. I didn’t want anyone thinking my marriage was not as rosy as our photos and videos portrayed it to be on social media. So I concealed it to my chest and lived in torment, crying almost every day, wondering if he was still with her.
“Shola my daughter, all men cheat, it is a normal thing” my mother said to me when I couldn’t keep the hurt to myself anymore and called her to unburden my heart. “Even your father cheated on me”
“Mummy, how can you say that?” I sniffed.
“Ah!” I could hear her slap the back of her hand against her thigh. “Shola my daughter, that is man for you o, ehn? The most important thing is that he is providing for you. Is he not providing for you?”
“He is” I murmured.
“Is there anything you need? Money no plenty for your account? Is he beating you?”
“He is not beating me..”
“Mummy he is providing, he is giving us everything but…”
“Ah! my daughter comot eye o. Your own is even good, some men will cheat and still not provide, some will even beat the woman on top. Your husband is even telling you sorry”
“Hah Mummy!!” I let out fresh sobs.
This wasn’t how I had envisaged my marriage to be. How was cheating even considered normal?.
I kept my posts up, now mostly of my self and the baby since he wasn’t even around.
Married women are meant to portray a happy front, you are prepped not to share your problems with anyone as the friend you choose to tell it to may have it worse than you, be jealous of you thus fill you up with bad advice or in other cases, use it as a point of reference to mock you, so I carried my pain – smiling in public, photos and videos yet crying myself to sleep.
It was hard for me to accept that this was normal – living this way, everything my mum had said, yet I found myself waking up each day in the same reality.
Tade came home the next weekend and I made sure to sulk so he would understand how unhappy I was.
“Baby I’m sorry” he apologized that afternoon as I spoon fed our baby in the siting room. “You need to let this thing go”
“Let this thing go you say? Would it have been that easy if you were in my shoes?”
“Ah!” he threw his head back on the couch.
“Fourteen months Tade, fourteen months. How can I ever recover? You’ve ruined everything”
“Shola you are taking this thing too far. I already told you I didn’t do anything with that girl, I can swear on anything”
I gazed at him and my heart just bled.
He stood up from the couch and strolled to sit on the arm of my chair. The baby was now sleeping in my thighs but I still had the spoon and plate in my hand.
Tade crossed his arm over my shoulder and pulled me closer to his side. “I’m sorry my love. It will never happen again”
“I’m I not enough for you?” I asked quietly, lifting up my gaze to meet his eyes.
“Of course you are, you are more than enough. It was just a lapse in judgment but it won’t happen again, I promise”
“You’re sure?” I wanted to believe him.
He half smiled. “100 percent.”
He lowered his head down to my lips and I let him kiss me. He took me by the hand, and I followed him into our bedroom. I carefully laid my daughter in her cot and allowed him to make love to me, he was after all, still my husband.
That month went by uneventful. I willed myself to be happy, to try to forgive him and just move on with our lives. After all, he insisted it was just a script so maybe it probably was and I was the one over thinking things. I refused any thoughts that would remind me of the incidence, shoving it away from my mind.
He took a month’s leave and came home that period so it helped. We bonded and got to do things as a family. By the time he went back to Port Harcourt, I was in a good place again. I was smiling, feeling better.
He didn’t come home after that for two months and when he did, his phone was locked. I knew because I tried to check again, just to know what he had been up to those two months he was away. It was late at night and he was sleeping. I had just finished feeding and changing my baby’s diaper when I picked the phone up to find out that it was locked, to my utmost dismay. I almost woke him up to ask for the password but I didn’t.
Instead, I waited till morning.
I served him breakfast and sat with him on the dining table as he ate. My baby was lying face down across my knees, and I was gently patting her back.
As soon as he dropped his spoon and swallowed his last gulp of water, I began. “Tade, why did you look your phone?”
“Ah ahn! Phone again?! Shola what’s all this na?”
“I didn’t know we are now locking phones, because mine is still unlocked”
“Shola please I want peace, I don’t want to argue again. So let my phone stay locked if that is what would bring peace”
“So there is something inside that will make me angry..”
“Oh my god!” He leaned back into the chair, dropped his head backward and let out a laboured sigh.
“Tade I don’t want us to be locking our phones, we are married, if we can share our bodies, why can’t we share our phones too?”
“I just want my privacy Shola” His head was still dropped backward, eyes roaming up at the ceiling.
“Is there anything more private than our naked bodies? Yet don’t we share that?”
He pushed the chair backwards, jumped up to his feet and started taking fast strides towards the sitting room.
I watched him, fuming.
I spent the next days trying to figure out his password. I tried everything, our daughter’s name, birthday, his birthday, mine, his mother’s name, everything I knew had value to him, still there was nothing.
It drove me crazy!
I was creaming my body in front of the mirror the next day and Tade was lying in bed, watching me. It wasn’t a lustful or even an appreciative stare, it was one of … irritation.
“What?” I was forced to ask, looking back at him through the mirror.
“These your stretch marks, can’t you clear them?”
“What?’’ I whispered, more to myself.
“Look at them na, there are on your tummy even your thighs”
“I’ve had them since after our baby Tade” I explained quietly.
“They are worse now” his voice was impatient. “..all these Instagram people, meet them to help you, even your breast”
I instinctively dropped my head down to stare at my bare breast and stretched skin and in that moment, it looked uglier than I had thought it to be. I wrapped my arms across my chest to hide myself from him, then reached out for my towel and quickly covered my nakedness
I felt embarrassed, hurt and I felt ugly.
No wonder he hadn’t made love to me since he got back.
I didn’t understand Tade, the reason for this new behavior. We were almost two years in our marriage and I had a self esteem way lower than what I had come in with.
I felt like I wasn’t good enough, like I was ugly, I couldn’t even stand naked before him anymore.
I found those Instagram cream sellers and Tade bought them for me, that’s the one thing about him that never changed – he was always providing.
The cream said I would see results in two weeks but instead, I noticed the stretch marks getting worse, the cream even brought out new ones that weren’t there before.
“What is this!” Tade hurled at me as he came into the bathroom that morning while I was just stepping into the shower. “I thought you ordered for the cream”
I looked back at him feeling sorry for myself and knowing that the disgust that shone in his eyes was a look that I could never forget.
“Shola this wasn’t a part of the plan. Just look at you, you’ve changed!”
“Because I gave you a child” I said, shocked that I was standing up for myself. It had become hard to talk to him with this new behavior.
“One child Shola” he held up a finger “common one and all these, what will happen if you now birth another, or even a third one. Or are you the only woman with a child? Can’t you see other women? My mother had four children, four but she doesn’t have this body”
Hot tears ran down my eyes. “Tade what is going on? How did we get here?” I said admidst the choke in my throat. “Do you have to be this mean?”
“Shola I told you while we were dating, appearance matters to me, it’s the reason I choose you, you were beautiful, skinny with small breast, I thought you would maintain it for the most part at least. I love you, God knows but I don’t like all these. You lost it completely. I don’t know how we can have another baby if you don’t fix this honestly. I just don’t”.
I became a shadow of myself. I didn’t feel good about who I was and I kept buying creams that weren’t working.
My mother said I should pray, she said maybe another woman had his attention but that was something I could not confirm or deny since I had no access to his phone and he came home only for the weekends.
The marriage wasn’t going as hoped anymore. And for some reason I can’t even explain, I started to save. Whatever money he gave me for anything, which was usually in large amounts, I made sure to save something reasonable out of it.
He got transferred back to Abuja. I was glad on one part that our daughter who was now two would have ample time to spend with him but I was uneasy on the other hand as our relationship had deteriorated over the years.
We didn’t talk anymore, not like couples should. He put me down with his words, found faults in almost everything I did, still won’t make love to me – for two years he didn’t touch me because I couldn’t get rid of my stretch marks.
I was so lonely. If he is in the sitting room and I came in, he would go to the bedroom. If he was in the bedroom and I went in, he would leave for the sitting room.
We were there together, same house but I was excruciatingly lonely. He won’t let me work either. He insisted that I should stay home and care for our daughter after all he said, I didn’t lack anything.
I was tired, I was depressed.
My blood pressure was sky rocketing and I would hurt so much, I felt the pain in my chest.
My mother kept saying I should pray that God will change him and I did pray but when our marriage clocked 3 full years, I knew that if I didn’t leave, I would die of depression. He was going out every other day, having a good time with his friends and whoever while I was home with no adult to talk to, zero social life and sex starved.
I told Tade I wanted to leave the marriage and to my disappointment, he didn’t object.
I moved out of the house back to my parent’s house. My father called his people , they came and Tade and I repeated our decision to part ways.
He returned the bride price and even initiated the formal dissolution.
I left my daughter with my parents and moved to Lagos to start my life afresh.
Tongues wagged. I got many calls and texts from people trying to ascertain the rumors, some even made mockery of my situation.
Many blamed me for leaving, especially his family. All they wanted to know was if he beat me or if he stopped providing for me to which I always answered no, so it didn’t make sense to them why I would leave such a union ‘only because of talk and sex’ like they usually put it.
They didn’t understand that emotional abuse is sometimes worse than physical violence.
Now in my own apartment, with a job and new friends, I’m slowly becoming the Shola I used to be before I took that walk down the aisle. I am undergoing therapy to help regain all the confidence I lost. I am learning to love myself again and I am accepting my body for all of it’s imperfections.
WRITTEN BY OGBUGOH TERUNDU JOY.