My dear ladies,
So you’ve submitted all the paperwork. You’re waiting for the interview date and the approvals. You have a special file folder ready to receive the original and/or photocopies of the Permanent Resident card (green card), Social Security card, and all other documents related to their arrival.
Finally you are closer to starting your life together with your love.
In the meantime, you may be learning about foods and researching recipes to cook for him. Because that is the way to his heart.
Aww, that’s so cute.
But here is a reality check.
Can you speak the language? Do you know any words in the language? With all the apps and websites available there is no excuse for not at least knowing the greetings. Learn as much as you can.
Learn the culture. What do you know about where he is from? Okay, he likes jollof, palm nut, okra, egushie. He may have a interesting sounding name. However, culture is more than food and names and clothes. It is his background. His worldview. It influences how he thinks, how he sees the world and his place in it as a African man. You don’t get that on the phone or Facebook.
Your man is not a deep chocolate espresso dipped American man. His socialization process is different. We are raised in a culture of Meg Ryan romantic movies. That is not their experience. Your man may have been part of a polygamous family. Or he has seen it. West Africa is still very much a man’s world. And you need to understand how that influences his perception, just as our Western culture of Lifetime movies and the Hallmark Channel influences our expectations.
You may not see culture as a relevant issue. But once you are both under the same roof you will see exactly how Gambian/Ghanaian/Nigerian/Senegalese he is. And you will see how Western you are. Yes, all relationships involve compromise. But you both need to understand your foundations. The waiting process is *nothing*. The real deal is when he arrives.
This is the voice of a lady who has walked this path and it is supplemented by the voices of other women in relationships with West African men. This is not about hearts and flowers and cuddling up on sofas with your boo. This is a practical guide to prepare and protect yourself.
One thing you must understand is that West African culture is communal. Even if your man is the first Ethiopian/Senegalese/Nigerian/Ghanaian man in his area, in many cases there may be a group in an neighboring state or even 2 states away that can come to his aid. What trips us up way too often is acting individually and do things on our own. I repeat – Africa is a communal culture. “It Takes A Village” and all that. I will say that in many cases, not all, even if your man doesn’t have family here, he has someone. A cousin. A friend of a brother of a friend. Often networks are in place for the men Even. Before. They. Arrive. It is important to try to find out about the African community where you live. Once he arrives you might be surprised at how quickly he makes connections but again, in many, not all, but most cases, he already has established connections.
If you are sending money to your spouse, stop. If you haven’t then maintain that stand. Same with expensive gifts. Why does he need a laptop? Isn’t he a businessman? Laptops and cellphones and tablets are sold in West Africa. Hell, the first time I saw a Blackberry was in Ghana. He should be able to document what he says. Is he a shop owner? What’s the license number for the shop?
Ladies, how can he want to marry you and be your husband if he is not in a position to take care of you?
African ladies generally do not send money to men. Being the provider is at the core of being a man and husband in West Africa. If he is already being coddled and catered to and cared for by you before he even gets to you, the question is, what does he have to do for you?
Having said that, let me advise this -
Please don’t pay.
Don’t pay for the visa process.
Don’t pay for the ticket.
One assumes these are fully grown men. Penis swinging men. They managed to eat before they met you.
I stated that West Africa is a communal culture. When it’s known that the guys have a way of coming to America, people will rally and help – that is, they will hustle.
Ladies, despite the sweet words about you being an angel sent from God, the same rule applies to them as it does to men here in the US. They have to show themselves capable of sustaining a wife and family. In West Africa married people are respected. In some cases, at some gatherings only married men can speak. Marriage is responsibility. How is he showing his responsibility?
Who is courting who? You must do your due diligence. Have conversations about money and family - and have them again. Listen to what is said - and what is *not* said. Understand that money will be sent back. Remittances support the family back home. It is to be expected so have the conversation now before arrival so you can't act surprised when you discover it. Once here the topic can be revisited as he learns the system is here. On that note, I advise sending them copies of your bills. Cable. Car note. Car repair. Cell phone. Credit Cards. Electricity. Gas. Groceries. Insurance. Medical bills. Mortgage. Rent. Tuition. Convert the amounts into their currency so they get a clear picture. Discuss what bills he will *initially* be responsible for when he gets a job. Tell him the only money tree is the one you and he will grow *together*. Explain taxes and retirement plans. Let them understand that America is a bill culture and you pay for *everything* here. Have a conversation about alimony and child support. Explain how the US favors women. How the relationship model in the US is partnership. In many cases, depending on where the man is from, his family, and his own personality, that may not be his mindset, what he has been exposed to.
Talk about mental health.
How does he deal with problems and stress?
Does he run away?
Does he rage?
Does he blame others?
Does he shut down and avoid communication?
What is the mental health of his family?
How is mental health dealt with in his culture?
How did his parents relate to each other? This is especially important if your man has never traveled outside of his country, has had no exposure to the West. Understand that you are taking him out of his element and into yours, and email, Facebook, Skype, & Whatsapp cannot tell you how he will deal with the culture shock and stress. On a personal level, it will also be an indication as to his capability to handle your emotional needs. He may well have been a listening ear while was still abroad - as that is all he *can* do - but can he be a comforter, a literal shoulder to cry on, or will he find your emotions overwhelming? A person will do what they know first - meaning they will react out of their experience, their background, where their fundamental values come from.
We can not predict human behavior. So you may want to consider writing out the terms of your marriage. What is non-negotiable? What are consequences? What about children? Will you accept a second wife? How will you navigate that? You are writing this not just for him but for yourself as well.
Get them acquainted with the police system. Hell, the day they arrive, drive them past the police station. Point that shit out to them.
If you are thinking “well, a man will do what a man will do”, then also think “A woman has to do what a woman has to do”. Do not be resigned to that defeatist thinking.
A Note about Weddings –]
Much has been said about the importance of a traditional vs a court wedding. Like everything else written here, it all depends on the individual couple.
But generally, a traditional wedding is valued more than a court wedding. Across the board. When a fellow Nigerian/Ghanaian/Senegalese/Gambian asks what type of wedding you had, and they simply reply “Oh” when you say court, please understand that the general opinion is that it is a green card wedding.
Look online. Are the lavish weddings on the “I Do Gh”, and “Nigerian Wedding” Facebook pages simple court affairs? These Ghanaian and Nigerian ladies know what they are entitled to.
And they are not paying for it.
This is marriage. One of life’s important rites of passage. It may already be unfortunate that your own cannot be there on the continent with you to witness it. But you should not deny yourself the full benefit that any other countrywoman would be entitled to when joining the family. You are entitled to gifts of pots, cloth, beads, money, sewing machine, foodstuffs – all the necessary items to start a life. Because his family needs to show their gratitude to you for the new life he is about to have in “Little Heaven”, aka the US – which is being provided and furnished by you.
This is why culture is important. A traditional wedding is witnessed by the family. Blessed by the elders, and consecrated before the ancestors.
A traditional wedding means you are not hidden.
That there is no question about who you are.
That your position is recognized by the family.
That you are legitimate.
Do not let the man tell you a traditional wedding is not needed or required, or that he is not a traditional man. He knows very well what is required of him.
Again, we as Western women put romantic love as a priority, & non western culture places it further down the list.
Take from this what you want and feel is relevant. There are no guarantees. I present this guide to help women become aware of factors in their relationship. I share because there are many stories of women being broken financially and emotionally. I want, need, to see ladies be smarter about going into these relationships. Not in a cloud of love and romance but with clarity.
Best of luck, ladies. Enjoy your talks and chats and texts as you move through the process. Follow your heart. But please – keep your brain with you.
*Feel free to contact me at [email protected] as well.
A sisterly guide to your new relationship as you enter in to dating or peering in to marriage with an African man, Ms. Ife's Guide, is an outline of how to approach your newfound relationship. Ms. Ife's Guide goes in depth with information on items that you could do to protect yourself as you venture in to a relationship with an African man.