The meaning of wife

The meaning of wife

I am one of those who believe that marriage has become one institution so difficult to run that divine intervention is needed, and fast!

Imagine my joy when I read about this lady, who had dedicated her life to coaching marriages – we don’t have enough marriage counselors, methinks. My enthusiasm dwindled off though when I realized that she ran a school for brides & wives.  Why ‘Brides and Wives’? The men don’t need these lessons?

Once again, the woman is shortchanged. She is bombarded with lessons on how to get better for the man while the man is not bothered.  I’ve known so many women who tried so hard to be terrific wives, great mothers and still found themselves abused, or divorced. That is why I have never believed that a smiling, curtsying, and subservient wife makes a perfect marriage.

During the 19th Century, there was a system in America called “The cult of True Womanhood” which established ‘proper’ codes of conduct that every respectable woman should follow. One of its major components was the Cult of Domesticity which stipulated that a woman’s place was in the home where her nurturing capabilities were most needed, and nowhere else. Piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity were defining qualities of true womanhood. Woman’s perfection was believed to be discovered in her role as wife and mother. She was therefore expected to find her fulfilment and contribution to society strictly in the home through, birthing, cooking, cleaning, making beds, needlework, tending flowers, you know,  the ‘bare-foot and pregnant’ yada yada

Closer home, the story was the same with our African forefathers. A wife was subsumed within a husband’s legal standing and control, quite literally – an existence not far from slavery. The husband provided for the family and he single-handedly made decisions affecting the home. Men had the final word, the only word. There were very clearly defined roles and expectations of a wife for which a woman was taught from her childhood. Career options for women did not exist like today.

But so much has happened since the 19th century, won’t you agree? With the onslaught of civilization things changed. Women sought education and they expanded their responsibilities to go beyond that of taking care of the home. Lo and behold! A career woman could still tend to the home and be a ‘wife’, of sorts.

Women today are told “You can have it all” while back then they were told “This is all you get”. While the woman changed, the definition of a wife remained the same; that of domestication. Then the rain started beating us when society was reluctant to rid itself of those same roles ergo, marriages couldn’t find the middle ground.

Men’s perception on the roles of a wife, is still skewed like it was centuries ago, while the woman’s perception changed with her. Most married women feel trapped when they are expected to conduct themselves like the 19th Century woman and yet she has a 21st Century mindset. She is educated. She already knows too much. She already found her voice. The damage, so to speak, has already been done. We’re not that far from the day when women were nothing but property and yet no woman wants the traditional house wife role. How do we reconcile the two?

Men on their part, feel shortchanged. They saw their fathers in their marriage glory and they admired the reverence they commanded; he would talk, and their mothers would listen. She would tend to his every need without once complaining or even arguing with him. Their fathers would have more than one wife, and their mothers learned to live with it; they handled it like a wife should! So they ask themselves; why can’t their wives be like their mothers? Why won’t’ they revere him? Why isn’t his word law?

The world of today has no wives to offer our poor men; at least none to sit pretty and wait to be told what to do. The world of today holds confused women who are educated but expected to act as if they have nothing between their ears. These women hold degrees from Ivy League colleges where they are encouraged to compete head to head with men because ‘a woman can do anything that a man can’, they are told. They Stomp law firm corridors in high heels and perform surgery with their manicured hands. The same women want to raise families but they cannot bring themselves to be good wives. Not if being a wife means to be timid and tolerant while they have been encouraged to be bold and assertive.

Women of the 21st Century act just like men – think of them as men with lady parts. You want to be respected; she too expects the same from you. If you can drink like a fish, she can do that too while puffing away at a cigarette, for good measure. If you can jump in bed with a stranger for a one-night stand, she can do so too and take the ‘walk of shame’ in the morning, with her head held high. For every sin you commit against your matrimonial bed, expecting your wife to be the epitome of domesticity; docile and permissive like the women of yore, is delusional. So, how do we deal?

The wife needs to be appeased. While this happens something will be sacrificed; a goat, a cow, OR (here’s an idea!) a man’s inflated ego! This does not mean we want to see men with their offspring strapped to their backs, nothing that drastic -wouldn’t that be a spectacle though (hehe). It means that men should change their archaic expectations and stop fantasizing about a wife as the ‘angel’ assigned to slave for him and make his life comfortable while he is his usual obnoxious self because it is a woman’s wifely duty to endure without complaining.

Women have been going the whole nine yards to hold together (hopeless) relationships. It wouldn’t hurt if men took a small step too.

The concept of being a wife, both socially and legally, has undergone considerable examination and change. Think about it; if being a wife is strictly synonymous to four-letter words like tend, cook, wash, dust, wipe, iron while being a husband is synonymous to pompous words like control, dominate, respect, in this day of modern feminism, who really wants to be a wife? Ah! There’s the rub, innit?


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