Relationships in Flux (Part 4): Somali Stories
This is part four of a series about true stories of Somalis living in the U.S. and their relationships. The series is part of a book the author is working on titled,“Courtship and Marriage: The Somali Experience in America.” The author has interviewed three dozen people whose names and locations have been changed for privacy reasons. I will let each tell his or her own story.
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A forsaken marriage
Ours is a marriage replete with dysfunction and frustration. We are in our forties, have been married for a decade with no kids, and are gainfully employed. By all measures, our union has run out of steam and we live a humdrum existence.
We come home from work, eat, clean the dishes, relax, and play with our toys — our smart phones and laptops. We can spend hours and hours in the living room surfing the Internet without exchanging a word. Close to midnight, we go to bed, tired and exhausted. Oddly, we do not even say “goodnight” to each other anymore.
Intimacy has been absent for over a year — snuggling is very rare, and sharing an activity is an oddity. Simply put, we stopped communicating as a couple some time ago. I have pleaded with my wife that we resolve our issues and seek professional help, but to no avail. She scoffs at me for being “naïve” and a “dreamer.”
“What will an imam or a therapist do for you that you can’t do yourself?” she sneers.
One day, I decided to go to Kenya to visit my relatives. I renewed my passport and purchased a ticket. Then a calamity befell me. Two days before my trip, I was arrested for an alleged instance of domestic violence. Before my arrest, my wife confronted me: “You are going abroad to marry a young woman in Nairobi. I know you, loser!” Then she snatched my travel documents and shredded them. Subsequently, she contacted the authorities. Poised and sounding rehearsed, she told the police her story: “My husband hit me and shoved me.”
I spent 21 days in jail waiting for my case to be heard. It was a traumatizing, soul-crushing experience. When my case finally came to trial, my wife suddenly had a change of heart — she told the court that she had lied about the whole thing. “I was jealous and afraid my husband would marry in Africa, like many Somali men do,” she explained. She cried profusely and asked for forgiveness. “My husband never hit me,” she added. I was exonerated, but at a huge price. I lost my job, was humiliated, and my reputation in the community was blemished. Most of all, I became resentful toward my wife because she had driven a wedge dangerously deep.
What used to be a dysfunctional home suddenly became full of hostility. Now I always have one eye on the door. In my mind, my wife has become the personification of all that has gone wrong in our marriage: a vapid lifestyle, vengefulness, and viciousness. But I am equally responsible for the failure of our marriage because I have become uninterested in the union. My wife accuses me of being involved in “qutbi-sireed” (a secret marriage). When your needs are not met, you do what you have to do. You can call me a cheater and fraud, and I can live with that. However, I have ruled out any reconciliation between us; my departure is our only salvation.
Hassan M. Abukar is a freelance writer, Sahan Journal contributor, and the author of Mogadishu Memoir. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.