Emotional Impact of Societal Views Towards Unmarried Adults, Divorcees, Widows and Couples with Infertility

AGNES: A 41 year old brilliant and successful engineer, she graduated with a first class degree, and holds a prestigious position in an Oil and Gas Company. However, her mother, family and circle of friends including some colleagues at work have not allowed her know any peace because she is unmarried. Several attempts at match-making had been attempted, which she went along with, despite her initial reservations, in order not to appear stubborn and unreasonable.

However, she simply wants a partner who can engage her intelligently, is not intimidated by her analytical mind or job, and will treat her with respect and dignity. She did’nt think she was asking for too much and was not ready to compromise on these basic principles.

She had come to the painful realization that some of the men who were introduced to her, came with either a chip on their shoulder – akin to doing her a favour by offering marriage; or they suffered some inferiority complex and wanted to be sure that she was willing to be a floormat, so they can be reassured, that she is not arrogant because of her accomplishments.

Thus, she had not been able to see any of the arranged relationships blossom into marriage, which was the outcome that her mother and everyone else for that matter, simply wanted to see. In her mind, she had resolved to live a happy life, do all the good she can, and give her all to her job and to her family.

She was considering adopting a child or two from an orphanage so she could care for them and see them through school but her mother will not hear of it. ‘Over my dead body’, she insisted. ‘You must get married and have your own children. You must stop being arrogant and overlook some things so you can get married’. Her mother would conclude.

Agnes has grown weary of the arguments over time, and had no fight left in her. But she was determined not to just marry anyone, against her best judgement, simply to make her mother and others happy. Having waited this long, it would be criminal to intentionally get into a relationship of misery.

BUKOLA: She is a 35-year-old lawyer whose husband had died in a car accident 3 years earlier. Thus, she became a widow at the age of 32 years, with 3 children aged 7, 5 and 2 years old to fend for. She has had a few offers at remarriage to be a second or third wife but she was neither interested nor ready to start dating again.

She still hurt emotionally and was just gradually recovering from the shock of his sudden and traumatic demise. He had bid her farewell that morning as he left for a business trip – never to return again. She was comfortable enough to pay for the children’s education.

But the worst humiliation she suffered, was at the hands of her late husband’s family. They wanted her and the children to move out of their “brother’s house” and to take possession of his business and his two cars.

They reiterated that she didn’t have a male child for their late brother and so could not lay claim to his wealth and assets. However, she was having none if it and the law firm where she worked, were ready to interface with them, as they had resorted to threatening her.

CHIOMA: As a 37-year-old Lecturer at a College of Education, and mother of 2 children, she was a survivor of a miserable marriage where her husband consistently humiliated and verbally assailed her self-esteem on a daily basis.

She became so worried that at some point, she questioned her own sanity and started second guessing her own actions and inactions. She became depressed and needed to see a therapist. She tried her best to make allowances and bend over backwards, but where he was concerned, she was simply not good enough.

So she eventually took the painful decision to get a divorce, and protect her emotional wellbeing. And that’s when all hell broke loose, and everyone suddenly had an opinion. “A responsible woman endures and is patient:” “afterall he provides money”, “but you said he is not beating you”… she was lectured. She stood her ground after mediation efforts over the years had failed. She needed and valued her peace of mind and emotional stability.

HADIZA: Had been married for 5 years now but is yet to achieve conception. She is now 30 years old and her life has become hell from her husband and his family, as well as from her own mother and family as well. She often cried herself to sleep most nights, yet all the tests have been normal and there was no evidence that anything was wrong with her. She had stopped attending social gatherings too because of the mocking comments and snide remarks. What was she expected to do?


It is not an accident, that all the examples above are females, as they are more likely to be the recipients of stigmatizing behaviour when they are unmarried, divorced, widowed or having challenges with fertility. However, males also do suffer from societal pressure, but to a much lesser degree.

Unfortunately, such insensitive and outrightly cruel comments/behaviours are more likely to push them into developing emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. Thus, they suffer a lot of misery and endure feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and hostility – for situations that are more often than not, completely outside their control.

These unhelpful attitudes should stop, and everyone should be allowed to enjoy optimal emotional wellbeing, and to live happy and fulfilling lives, regardless of their marital status, or whether or not they have children.

Written By:

Dr Jibril Abdulmalik

Psychiatrist and Founder, Asido Foundation
Website: www.asidofoundation.com

Managing Partner, Asivuri Consulting
Website: www.asivuri.com

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