Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Marriage & Money Matters

A young woman met me after our fellowship time. She said, "I want to see you."

I said, "Here I am." Obviously she meant in private, so we moved away from the crowd a little.

She said, "The bank has the wrong phone number for me. They always send a text to my husband's phone every time you deposit money in my account for my work."

"Well, you two are married. You don't have any secrets from each other do you?"

"I just don't want him to know when I have money because then he always wants to use it for the house he's building."

"Oh, are you building a house? When did you buy the property and whose name is on the property?"

The husband purchased the property shortly after their wedding a few years ago. He used the money the couple was given to make the purchase. Amazingly, the wife's name is not on the property. I was dumbfounded when she told me her husband put his own name and his brother's name on the land.

I'm a firm believer in joint accounts and open discussions about money matters in marriage, but that's far from the norm here. Generally a couple comes to an agreement about who will buy food and pay school fees in a family. But beyond that, they do what they want with their money. Women are horrified at the thought of dumping their salary into a joint account. Sometimes they are afraid that there will not be enough money to feed the children for the month if they do that.

The property issue: this is a sad, but very common case. The husband is not necessarily trying to get his wife out of the picture any time soon. It just means that in the long run, if anything happens to him, the house will go to his brother.

I've never been able to understand how a brother is closer than a wife. It's extremely common for a man to name his brother as his next-of-kin instead of his wife. In some tribes, if a husband dies, leaving his wife a widow, his brother often takes possession of the house and property. There are some Nigerian tribes who do not follow this line of thought, especially if the marriage has produced children who will inherit the property.

My husband and I have joint accounts and joint property ownership. It would never occur to us to do any differently. To us, it's even a symbol of our marriage.

1 comment:

The Black Family said...

It is such a different outlook than ours. I remember making the mistake of giving someone's salary to their husband and he spent it all unbeknownst to his wife. Thanks for sharing another part of Nigerian life with your readers - you do a fantastic job!