You score twenty marks if, as a wife, you can sew on buttons and darn socks regularly.
A husband scores highly if he gives his wife ample allowances and compliments her cooking and homemaking skills.
This was from a 1930’s marital rate card.
It scored or deducted marks depending on the merits and demerits exhibited by spouses. Most of the scoring metrics were ridiculous and wasn’t I glad that I am not a 1930’s wife!
For example, I lost twenty marks because it was a serious demerit for a wife to walk around the house in ragged dresses and aprons.
I wear deras or tights and baggy shirts around the house, thank you.
Wearing red nail polish, and showing up to bed when your husband is almost asleep was a serious indicator of a terrible wife. The husband's scorecard admonishes a husband who reads a newspaper at the dining table and one who does not promptly show up for a meal when the table is set.
I searched for a modern marital rate card and found nothing. Most of what popped up were endless rules for couples to live by.
One article gave tongue-in-cheek pointers of a good woman, a wife material kind of woman. A good cook, submissive, wears long dresses, does not nag, cleans and scrubs. Should add boring.
Reading it reminded me of Ihuoma, the main character in Elechi Amadi’s, The Concubine. Ihuoma is not only virtuous and beautiful, but she is also perfect in every way.
The expectation of living up to perfection is a heavy burden on her. She is not allowed by society to come short in any way. She cannot make a mistake, which is exactly what the good girl mantra is about.
Rules and perfectionism
Sadly, these rules do not promise a good marriage and in fact have contributed to immense pressure, putting up of appearances and even led to depression.
For example, how does a wife sleeping soundly while dirty dishes are in the sink affect her marriage? If anything, slaving away in the kitchen while the husband lounges will only make a wife resentful, more so, if she has spent the day working just as hard as him. When I learnt that there were no brownie points, I stopped caring about dirty dishes.
If I have the energy, I will clean them. If not, I will soak them in a big sufuria and enjoy a beautiful night of deep sleep. If anyone is bothered, let them clean, wipe and arrange them. Another rule that has led a family down the dark pit of financial strain is that of a husband is a provider.
It has seen many a man slave in a difficult economy while a perfectly capable woman sat back waiting for provision when they could have both hustled. Joint financial efforts lead a couple to economic freedom. A problem shared is a problem halved or solved.
Are you, as a couple bold enough to break the rules and live a little, as a couple, as friends, companions in the journey of life, together? That should be a premium rating on the marital metrics. Watch a movie together or take an out-of-town trip and visit Isiolo.
Just for the sake of creating memories and living life. Play a card game, go watch a play, and start a business together. Hang out more and do stuff together. Surely, did you get married just to fit within the boxes and boundaries of roles and obligations as defined by society?
No wonder we are always in each other’s faces, squabbling over mundanity. What should the fun and affection that should be demonstrated in marriage go if you do not express it towards each other?
Create your marital rate card that has no ancient rules and biases about the other.
As we all get busy putting together the 2023 roadmaps of our companies and businesses, can we include the roadmaps for our relationship? Remember, anything that does not change dies.
We cannot continue in the same mediocrity of yesteryears. We must never normalise the decline of love and romance or the trivializing of the same unless we want ours to join the graveyards of dead marriages.
Karimi is a wife who believes in marriage. [email protected]