From the start of the pandemic, I’ve been having panick attacks whenever I imagine living through COVID-19 and the lockdowns in the same household as my ex-husband. During these moments, I feel myself choke as my blood pressure rises and threatens to overwhelm me. Then I force myself to remember that I left him, I am safe on my own terms, and I do not have to live through this particular nightmare. Trauma is one hell of a drug.
Why? My ex has zero understanding of infection prevention and is blightfully unaware. For example, In spite of treating personal hygiene like a Martian tale, his immune system has built up resistance, and so he never gets violent food poisoning. Thus he can throw all caution to the wind, and be exasperated that I won’t do the same. When we started dating, I suggested we get tested for STIs before getting sexually involved. He rejected the idea stating he was sure he was ‘clean’ (without any proof) but if I insisted, I should do the tests alone as that would cover the both of us. (What!?!) When it came to birth control, I pointed out that since we were not financially ready to start having children, we would need to take birth control seriously especially as getting married and moving in together would mean more frequent sex. All of a sudden, he was Catholic (and did not approve of birth control). He also insisted the probability of pregnancy didn’t change in spite of the more frequent sex (face palm). The list of utterly ludicrous arguments goes on. Yes it was pure chaos right from day one. Hence the PTSD.
Over half of the heterosexual relationships I’ve been privy to usually have women who are risk averse, with a general grasp of the logic that one plus one equals two (1 + 1 = 2), and all the consequences therein. The men on the other hand usually seem to have a bigger risk appetite, and get a rush at the prospect of completely ignoring logic and consequence because it doesn’t apply to them, OR trying to get 1 + 1 = 225. This applies to everything from healthy eating to infidelity (I’m being overly simplistic and there is of course more nuance, but you get the gist). Mix this with the heavy societal pressure on women to bend no matter what, and women are usually at the mercy of whatever bad decisions their partners make, regardless of their own best efforts to the contrary. For instance, I was constantly in fear of getting an STI either from his poor hygiene or his societally permitted promiscuity. Unfortunately, I am not the only woman that has such issues, far from it.
Here are 3 stories that got my blood boiling:
Couple A – after the wife got an incurable STI from her husband and confronted him, without apology, he instructed her to go to the pharmacy and buy a drug of his prescription. When she decided instead to go to the hospital and run a battery of tests, he kicked up a huge fuss that she was wasting his money. Which tells us he knew he had the infection, but hates his wife more. Knowing she was obligated to sleep with him on demand and without insisting on a test, he abused his power over her.
Couple B – Husband works outside Nigeria and had been away throughout 2020 due to COVID restrictions. Wife single-handedly navigates 2020 with the kids; following a strict COVID protocol based on her own risk tolerance. Husband arrives in 2021, determined to give everyone a good time on his own terms, and so insists that the kids have playdates with his family friends’ kids because staying at home is unnecessary, and everyone needs to live a little. After 4 play dates, his family friend’s wife informs him that they have now all been exposed to COVID through her job. So the husband hurriedly packs his children home but tells his wife nothing. Upon his mandatory COVID-19 test when returning to his job, he gets his whole family tested too and breathes a sigh of relief when they are all negative. He never once told his wife that he put them at risk – citing that she would have worried. (Awọn 007). He is a man after all, and he is invincible. He got 1 + 1 = 773 didn’t he? He knew everything would be fine.
Couple C – Pregnant (and thus immununo-compromised) woman’s husband went to a tightly packed indoor wedding in the middle of Nigeria’s COVID-19 second wave AND confirmed presence of mutated, more virulent strains. I don’t need to say much else. Clearly 1 + 1 = 2 does not apply to him either.
So often women really do present as prisoners to abusive and unsupervised prison wardens (I mean husbands); sitting ducks, barely able to prevent whatever tsunamis their husband creates that threaten the stability they critically need. It doesn’t matter that you’re a human being, educated and know exactly what you want for yourself. Your wants are second to your husbands ego even when it makes no sense. The chorus of gross disregard for women’s lives and risk tolerance because husbands want to ‘live a little’ is a sobering reminder of how much we hate women. COVID-19 has exacerbated this issue but unfortunately it is not new. Every year, thousands of women get STIs from their husbands and die; HIV-AIDS and cervical cancer being some of the biggest, but most silent culprits.
Based on my experience and observations, the men are flying by the seat of their pants and are oblivious to the grace from their partners’ furious efforts to be safe. When their luck runs out, they drag in their exponentially explosive X-factor and ‘bla-scatta’ their wives worlds; all the while daring their wives to smile and ‘take it’ because they know the public outcry will usually be against the non-submissive wife. The women experience the first and second hand effects of their partners bad choices. Most of the women after being gaslit and told to stop ‘living in fear’ consequently learn to disregard their own needs. They ‘let go and hope for the best’ as a coping mechanism. It’s easier to not be ‘difficult’ and choose temporary peace now, over indeterminate future life threatening illness especially when you live with the person/are financially dependent on them/your children are watching, or all of the above. The ones that rightfully make a fuss are met with thinly veiled misogyny pitting them as “nagging women”, and/or further emotional/physical/financial abuse as punishment for complaining about being regarded as less than a dog.
These days, my ex sends me videos of himself attending 1,000+ person indoor events maskless, (invoking the word ‘social distancing’ but clearly doing none), and subsequently refusing to wear a mask when in my house even though in fact, double masking is increasingly the global standard. He (like most men I’ve observed) is not safe, but insists that regardless of the cost to me and others, I must accept his lower personal risk threshold because he is the man, and he has the backing of decades of men getting away with such bad behavior. 1+1 = 5,666 and he is sticking to it. Fortunately, I can breathe through the panic attack and remember that I am unshackled from such bondage of risky obligation. I no longer owe anyone the privilege of putting my life in danger. Unfortunately, many women still do because 1 + 1 also equals 1 in marriage. I dialed into a wedding where a bride wore a face shield (inadequate) while her husband went bare faced through their wedding reception and I thought…”What’s the point? You’re going home with him anyways”.
By Tishe Akindele