The Man, his Mother and his Wife: A tale of Family Controversy in Nigeria (sociological Perspective) by Adekunle, D. A.

In recent time particularly in the 21st century, conflict that often lead to broken relationship, marriage and home can been attributed to the myriad of controversies that is bequeathed in the relationship of a Man, his Mother and his Wife. It has been revealed that in today`s world, ladies don’t always wish for a cordial relationship between the man and his mother –Vice versa. This is driven by the believe, that a cordial relationship between a man and his mother or between a man and his wife is hazardous, has it often influence the independence relationship a mother and his son enjoys, as well as a man and his wife hope to enjoy in their marriage or relationship.

Arguably Christianity, Islam, and traditional religion cum the growth of individualism and industrialism, posit that “the best form of family is the nuclear family (a system of family composed of a husband, a wife and dependent children who constitute a unit apart from the rest of community(Oyeneye, 1997:265). This definition implies that a man and his wife must be independent against any form of interferences and sought to manage their affairs has confidant.

However, the dynamism of African culture, particularly the preferences for extended family and the patrilineal kinship system (a kinship system where a person trace his kin from a common ancestor along the male line of fathers line) has facilitated and necessitated an unavoidable relationship between a Man, his mother and the wife. Aside, it has also been argued that a man is often the best friend of his mother. At such the question of who get what, when and how becomes predominant in the relationship of a man, his wife and his mother. This often makes the major characteristics of any family consensus and conflict.

It is observable that relationship between the wife and the groom`s mother is often strain. This strain relationship has over the time led to the untimely death of many relationships and marriages. The fear of the mother in law has often chased away many ladies from marrying to the man of their dreams. An online discussion on Nairaland, (an on-line News platform) revealed that the average Nigerian girl wish for his mother-in-law death before getting married to his fiancée (, 2014). In Nigeria today, there is hardly any family not confronted with menace of strain relationship between wife and the mother-in-law. Many broken home and marriages are attributed to conflict between the wife and the Mother-in-law. For instance, one of the famous nollywood actresses “Mercy- Aigbe” in an interview revealed that, her mother-in-law crashed her first marriage, in spite of her wealth and fame. ( 2012).

Disappointingly, this ugly situation metamorphose into the larger society, children of broken homes and marriages often constitute nuisance and lack the parental or responsible parenting needed to shape their life. Therefore, what is more important is an understanding of the root cause of this problem and finding a way forward. Thus, the question to ask, is what are the factor facilitating the strain relationship between the mother and the wife?

Factor Facilitating Strain Relationship between the Wife and the Mother
Having taken a holistic approach and from my personal experience, I have adjudged the following has factors facilitating the strain relationship between the wife and the mother.

a. Universal Egoism: Egoism is the belief that each individual is the centre of his or her own moral universe, and his thus entitled to function as a morally autonomous being (chaturvedi, 2006). This means concern for one`s own interest, welfare and selfishness. The belief that one interest is above all and comes first and must be duly protected. Egoism in the relationship of the wife and the mother-in-law is driven by the belief and claims on who owns the man. The mother, often claim ownership with the belief that she gave birth and care for the man up to the point he got married to the wife. On the other hand, the wife is of the opinion that she is married to the man, had sex with him, gave him children and multiplies his generation. At such she own the man. This battle for ownership of the man majorly facilitated the strain relationship between the wife and the mother. Thus the desire to protect their “selfish disposition” of ownership has often facilitated the strain relationship between the wife and her mother-in-law.

b. Counting the Cost/Mistakes: Another factor that often facilitates the strain relationship between the wife and her mother-in-law, is what I refer to “counting the cost or counting the mistakes”. In this case, the wife and the mother are fond of counting their mistakes, with an uncharitable mind. This creates tension and mistrust in their relationship. They are often found to be opposite to each other views and ideologies. If this situation isn’t managed properly, grievances will escalate; thereafter pandemonium becomes inevitable and unavoidable. At such relationship becomes strain.

c. Serpent Nature of women: This means the deceitful nature of women. An average woman is characterized with activities such as, gossips, hypocrisy, backbiting, envy and uneven jealousy. This often facilitated the strain relationship between the wife and the mother-in-law because as a woman they aren’t free of these activities particularly jealousy. As rightly observe in the famous Yoruba proverb that says “orisa jeen pee meji koo de inu obirin”. Women are very unhappy with rivalry. Today, the fear of rivalry often spearheads tension and strain relationship between the wife and her mother-in-law. The greediness and selfishness that bedeviled women have created upon them more harm than good. These characters are a peculiar problem of all women.

d. African Belief& Sarcasm: In Nigeria, particularly in the southwest region of the country there is an increasing growth of catabolism and antagonism against the patrilineal side of the kinship system or the male side of the family, orchestrated by wife and mothers of today. This is driven by sarcasm and false imagination that the male side of the family or his kinsmen are evil typified by witchcraft, wizard and irresolvable problem. Contemporary wife are fond of this behavior, creating numerous nightmare, tension and mistrust in the mentality, sensibility and orientations of the child. Although the mother and the wife are guilty of this behavior, but it is more pronounced by the wife. This ridiculous belief often leads to battle of who own the children between the contemporary wife and the mother-in-laws. To make the matter worst, those who the burden rest to arrest this abysmal are it promoters. Religious institution, like the church, mosques and herbalist are guilty of the holocaust against the patriarchal kinship system. There is hardly religious institution you visit today that the male side of the family won’t be attacked. The first alarm of prayer is often related to “the witches and wizard in male side of the family”. Aside from having consequence on the relationships in the family, the ridiculous attitude has left many villages underdeveloped because of the belief that our father`s home is against our success. It also account for the growth and cordiality in relationship of the child with matrilineal kin.

e. Western Education/Feminism: Another factor that has simultaneously facilitate the increasing growth of strain relationship between the wife and the mother-in-law in contemporary African family is accessibility to education and the institutionalization of women`s right. Unlike the old days were women are perceived as slaves, and subservient to the male, in the 21st century women are educated, employable. At such they finance the family and choose to be a single mother. The respect to traditional values and patriarchalism is far fading away. Girls of nowadays are not orthodox oriented. Even some homes are financed by the wife, at such, the much emphases placed on the male or the husband is now in the shadow. The consequences of this on the relationship of the wife and the mother-in-law, is that, there is a wide ideological differences between the mother-in-law and the wife. Many mother-in-law often get offended by the orientations and disregard to value exemplified by today`s wife. For instance, there is a family where the wife believe is more inclined, more westernized and more civilized than his husband and his family, at such there is often ideological clash between the wife and the rest of his husband family on matter that shouldn’t have spur a debate. Unlike before where cordial relationship in extended family is more pronounced, today it is very hard to see any wife who is comfortable having cordial relationship with her mother-in-law. This itself a cumbersome problem facilitating strain relationships between the wife and the mother-in-law.

Viewed from the aforementioned factors, it is not erroneous and perhaps misleading to aver that “strain relationship between the mother-in-law and the wife is inevitable in modern Nigeria society”. No matter how they intends to reserve cordiality, at a point nature and reality will supersede. This strain relationship between the wife and the mother-in-law transmogrify deeply with an adverse effect on the relationship/marriage. The joy and happiness in relationships and marriages will become soaring; sadness will be eminent and at times suicidal. What is more disappointing, is the fact the man bear the consequences of this intrigues and hullabaloo. As rightly observe, “When two elephant fight, the grass suffers”. The grass in the case is the Man, he becomes unhappy and double minded, his focus becomes myopic and his life becomes disarray. This often lead to depression at times death. However, before this happen, it is important that some measure must be taken to arrest the abysmal.

Managing the Strain relationships
The imperativeness of the continuous existence of the family suggests that conflictual behavior between the wife and mother-in-law, be managed in such a way that it does not lead to dissolution or extinction of relationship or marriages. Therefore, the following are recommended as probable way of managing the strain relationship between the wife and the mother in law.

a. Dignity and Respect of the Nuclear family system: This approach to managing strain relationship between the wife and the mother-in-law must be adopted by both the groom’s mother and the groom. Mothers must realize that the need to respect the independence of his son and his wife is not negotiable. Mother must realize that interferences or excess influence on his son marriage or family is a “violation of the sacrosanctities of the integrity of marriage”. At such, excessive visitations and unwarranted interferences and influences on decisions must be curbed. The man must realize his autonomy as a man and his patriarchal authority must not be a dependent variable on his mothers wish. Whatever decision he his making regarding his family well being, must be an agreement between him and his wife, unless they both agree to seek advice from his mother. Doing this, often help avoid envy, jealousy, grievances and confrontations which often lead to strain relationships between the wife and the mother.

b. Understanding “what goes around comes around”: This approach is strictly for today’s wife. Ladies of today must realize she will be a wife and a mother tomorrow. At such, whatever you do today will definitely hunt you tomorrow. If you are the one with a good heart, you will definitely reap the good fruit of life. If you are the one who wish for the untimely death of mother-in-law, your children wife’s and husbands will definitely wish for your death. This is because what goes around comes around. Young ladies of today must begin to realize that wishing for the death of their mother-in-law isn’t an option. They must realize the woman in contentions labored for the growth and development of her son and will never wish to see the death of her son. At such, ladies must realized that the mother surely have a little time to spend. Thus it is important that they develop and adopt several conflict management skills, such as avoidance, compromise, dialogue, mediating in their relationships with their mother-in-law. This is because the element of conflict is imminent in any human relationships.

c. Soft hearted: This approach to managing relationships is not only applicable to the relationship between the wife and the mother-in-law, but also all human endeavor. The need to be soft hearted is very important to being healthy and wealthy. Counting mistakes of others with the heart of vengeance do more harm than good to the body system. It is important to always allow the past pass you by, and to be lineal in forgiving and forgetting. We must be passive to other people’s mistakes and active in apologizing for our own mistakes. Trying to vilify others for their mistakes, often create more problem and issues which might even have adverse effect on one`s personal life. In any relationship we find ourselves, it is important not to expect too much, if rancor, acrimony and bitter struggle for relevance is to be avoided. Thus, it is important for the mother-in-law and the wife to be softhearted in their relationships. This enhances the wellbeing of the family, their togetherness and the longevity of marriage.

Viewed from the foregoing discussion, it arguable, that conflict behavior in the relationship of man, his mother and his wife is inevitable, but it must not lead to the dissolutions of relationship and marriages. The institutionalization of respect and being softhearted in our approach to issues is very vital to the survival of our marriage. Happy families metamorphose into happy society. Life itself is very short than bothering our mind on none issues. Therefore, wife and mother-in-laws must begin to realize that a symbiotic and cordial relationship between them is vital to the success and longevity of the life span of “The Man”.

Note: To Know more about the author you follow on twitter @thepolityngr, like our facebook: or subscribe to The write is both academia and social. It is however, is subjected to constructive criticism.

Aigbe, M (2102). “My mother in Law crashed my first marriage”. Retrieved from:
Chaturvedi, A.T. (2006) “Dictionary of Political Science”. Published by arrangement with Academic (INDIA) publisher. New Delhi. India.
Nairaland (2014). “Ladies do you intend meeting your mother-in-law Alive”. Retrieved from:
Nairaland, (2015). “Why Single Ladies Wish To See Their Mother-in-law Dead Before Marriage”. Retrieved From:
Oyeneye, O.(1997). “Marriage and Family” in Odugbemi O. O, Balogun, K. A, Adebanjo A, and Adedoyin, S.F (eds) “Essential of General Studies. Olabisi Onabanjo University. Vol (2). pp.263- 280.


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