SHE SHE SHE: Marriage: the promise and fail syndrome - who do we blame?

Thursday, November 05, 2015
Often we hear people, both males and females, talking about this, some arguing bitterly over it; while others blame the other party for breaking up - what they call “promise and fail”.

Men blame women and women blame men. When we hear both sexes talking about this, most of the time they are referring to marriage.

A man will promise thousands of ladies that he will marry them, but out of that thousand he ends up marrying the one he meets within an hour.

A woman will drained the pockets of thousands of men, agreeing to their marriage proposals, but will end up marrying one that hardly feels it when his pocket is being drained.

Now there the argument lies. The question many ask is what is the main cause of the break-ups that we are seeing today? Who are the main players in the “promise and fail” syndrome?

Well, there was a heated argument at The Point last week between my senior men. According to some of them, if a man knows that he will not marry a particular lady he is dating for quite a long period; and knows that he is not going to marry her, instead of depriving her from being with another man, he should at least be honourable enough to let her go.

The excuse one of them gave was that he later found out that the girl belongs to the slave cast, and he cannot marry someone from that caste.

This may surprise you in the 21st century, but this is indeed happening in some tribes existing in The Gambia.

This is the story of two young people who recently broke the caste system but pleaded for anonymity.

I am a Mandinka, and when I was 15 years old I started dating a man from the same village with me who is now my husband.

We started dating around 2005 when we met at a ceremony that was held at our village.

We were both residing in New-Jeshwang. Our relationship is not hidden from both his family in New-Jeshwang and mine, because he was given to his step-father while he was studying at Tallinding Arabic School.

After completing his studies, he ventured into business selling and buying second-hand clothing. We visit each other often, and he will visit me at my home and I will visit him too.

There was a time a family friend from our village told me that I am wasting my time waiting for him, because his mother at the village will not let me marry her son.

They told me his mother has already brought up a girl she wants his son to marry.

I then called the attention of one of her step sisters to tell her about it, but the sister gave me her word that her brother is going to marry me.

She told me that her biological mother has no say in her son’s marriage, because the boy was given to his step-father since he was a child. So it is the step-father who has the right to look for a wife for him. I believed her and stay in the relationship.

The step-father passed away, and time was not on my side as a lady growing older each year. Then he approached me and said he will go to the village and talk to his mother that she wants to marry me.

When she approached his mother and identify me as the one she wants to marry, his mother said that is not possible; because in the village my family is their slave, meaning we belong to the slave caste and they are the nobles, “foros”.

There is nothing more hurting and painful for me than to hear someone calling me a slave. I never knew I belong to the slave caste until that very day.

Everybody tried including his family in New-Jeshwang for her mother to let me marry her son, but she refused.

So my husband then damned the tradition and sought for a religious man to be his messenger, since his mother’s people did not want to take part; and that was how we got married. I thought if a slave marries a noble person, one of them will die or be cursed, but we are still alive and happily married.

From her story, it is clear that the society and our families have a role in all this promise and fail syndrome, when it comes to marriage, which can be fatal in some circumstances.

It is suicidal to me, if a man I have been in love with and longing to marry, at the last hour tells me it is not him, but his family which does not want me as his wife.

Another anonymous lady told me that she was betrothed to a man based, on their consent and that of both families.

She said they are responsible adults and are as well successful in their various fields of study. However, the man recently got married to a girl less than 20 years old, to the surprise of both families, and there is nothing she could do about it.

A man in his 40s told me that she met a young girl in her 20s and loves her, let his feelings known to her family and agreed to finance her education at the university so that when she graduates they can get married.

“I do not force her to love me, but I know she loves me. So I cared for her, took care of her and everything was nice at the beginning. Then the people around her started telling her I am too old for her, and then she let go of me after taking a good chunk out of my pocket,” he said.

We have seen a mere promise between boyfriend and girlfriend, where even their relationship is not known by their family members. In such a case, can we justify that as part of the “promise and fail syndrome”.

We have seen men play with thousands of girls and then, when it is time for marriage, they run to the village to marry what they refer to as “virtuous” girls.

If that is the case, then women or ladies should be careful with their choice of men when it comes to relationships, particularly in the urban areas.

In this 21st century, we as a society should be thinking of ways and means of surviving, rather than continuing with the caste system that deprives two young people who love and long so much for each other, and stops them from getting married.

We have also seen women or ladies eating men’s money, on the condition of getting married to them, and then ditching them at the last hour. Some men are forgiving and they move on, but other men can destroy you for what you did to them.

Maybe we should go back to the ways of our ancestors. An old woman, a neighbour told me that then there was nothing like dating. She told me that dating is new to them.

Then even if a woman and a man are dating it stops at the bantaba, where they meet to chat, but there was nothing like secret visits or for a man and woman to be alone in a house.

Then when they are ready to tie the knot, the parents will take it up from there.

Do we blame the younger generation for the promise and fail syndrome, or the parents for sticking to tradition?

Author: Halimatou Ceesay