The Igbo have one proverb that is associated with marriage: “Ogo akpahu aku ya kpara olu oma,” meaning, “If an in-law is not financially buoyant, let him at least be polite in his approach.” I am convinced that this adage was triggered by an action of a son-in-law somewhere, which might not have been recorded in our generation. As deep and rich as the proverb is, it is still very apt and useful in today’s relationships.

Now, it is not all sons-in-law that this proverb applies to, but a majority of them in the society who show disrespect and are abusive to the parents of their wives. They should hear it regularly either as a corrective piece or to straighten things out. There are sons-in-law who after prostrating to take a wife find it so difficult to accord their wives’ parents the necessary respect, which is wrong. Parents of wives deserve the respect of a son in-law no matter the situation. Most often, there are usually disagreements along the way when marital relations are in the process of being formed. Some are resolved amicably while some nurse unending grudge till thy kingdom come. Herbert, a photojournalist met and married Lilian, whose family did not wholeheartedly accept him because he was a photographer, and at that time had an old model camera. Lilian’s mother felt she should have raised her bar in her marriage choice after graduating with Second Class Honours degree. That acrimony was buried in her mother’s mind even as the marriage produced three daughters. Now, Herbert has made it big as a photojournalist who travels for various sports competitions within and outside the country. That thought and feeling which Lilian’s mother bore against her son-in-law never allowed the centre to hold. At one instance, Herbert got back to her as he could not tolerate his mother-in-law’s attitude anymore. He threw caution to the winds and rained abuses on her and then stopped her from coming to his house.

Then there is the story of John Michael, who is from the South-South and his mother-in-law. John and Bola met at the orientation camp during their national youth service years. They walked and worked close and fell in love. As young people, before they knew it pregnancy followed immediately. John did not deny the fact that he was responsible for the pregnancy, he came out boldly as a ‘cashless’ corps member to claim responsibility and pleaded with his would-be mother-in-law to give him time to sort out himself before marriage rites would commence. Bola’s mother abused the tiny looking young corps member and regretted ever sending her daughter to school. She remembered all the party uniforms also known as aso-ebi in local parlance she bought from other colleagues whose children also got married. She remembered with nostalgia how their parties bubbled, and how John had denied her a lifetime expectation of witnessing Bola’s marriage rites both traditional and white wedding. John and Bola’s family could not reach a gentleman’s agreement while the pregnancy was progressing. In no time, Bola delivered a bouncing baby boy and John was ecstatic. When Bola’s mother heard the news, she came to see the new mother and child. John blocked her and never gave her right of entry. He said: “She never rejoiced with our union, she was after the ceremony and not our happiness.” He showed a lot of disrespect to the woman.

In another account, an accomplished son-in-law broke the heart of his in-laws by putting his wives’ junior sister in the family way. Chris was a successful businessman, when he came to seek the hand of Josephine; both families endorsed the intention. After the celebrations, Joe-Joe took her younger sister along to her new home. Four years into the union, conception was a bit far for the young couple. Christopher and his young sister-in-law began to steal the forbidden fruit without his wife’s knowledge. Pregnancy occurred and the world almost crumbled. Chris did not deny the pregnancy, but owned up in these words: “Since my wife cannot give me a child and his sister can, it is the same thing.” Josephine played cool and smartly out-did her sister. She had requested her younger sister to follow her to the hospital to see a doctor not knowing there was a conspiracy to rush her in and abort the pregnancy. It was done and both sisters became sworn enemies while the marriage nose-dived. What brother Chris did was very wrong. He should not have done such a thing to his in-laws even though the wife’s younger sister was clearly irresponsible. Chris became a dog that ate the bone kept under his watch.

Again, a terrible fraudster in the Eastern zone married a pretty young lady, whose family was struggling with poverty. He became a helping hand to the family by supporting them financially. However, he later became a pain in the neck. Being a very base person, he made sure he had the carnal knowledge of his wives’ younger sisters without them knowing.  He employed his girlfriend’s father as a security guard in his office. Now and then, he would drive his girl into the office knowing her father would open the gate for them. The man could not stand the sight; he walked away from the insulting job and opened the son-in-law’s can of worms. It led to the crash of the marriage.

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Another instance was Patience, a new mother, who cried out her heart when her husband said: “Your mother has finished the meat in the pot of the stew.” She felt so low by the way her husband embarrassed her mother who was in their home to take care of her and the new baby because of a mild argument. Her husband asked Mama to cook her food separately while they cooked theirs as husband and wife. Patience did not understand it and threatened to quit but church members intervened and felt it was not enough reason to quit her marriage and cautioned her husband to be more responsible in his attitude towards his in-laws.

Interestingly, not all sons-in-law have broken their in-laws’ hearts. I commend all sons-in-law who have stood in the gap and have almost become biological sons to their in-laws.  Accounts of men have been recorded who married daughters and stood by them as they take the oath.  I salute the courage of men who train their wives’ siblings. When the last of his sisters-in-law was getting married, his father-in-law gave him the honour to walk the bride to the aisle, hand her over to her husband on behalf of the family because he had proved to be a worthy and illustrious son-in-law. I thank sons-in-laws who come in to wipe tears of their new wife’s family. Those who come in to cause tears should repent.

There have been accounts of sons-in-law who have built business empires and state-of-the-art houses for the parents of their wives.  Some sons-in-law could be confided in while others are not fit for such honour and privilege.  There is no wife who is sure that her husband respects her family, especially her parents, whose heart will not leap for joy.

Dear sons-in-law, know that you will also become fathers of daughters that will attract sons-in-law to you one day. Bear in mind that what you sow is what you reap. How you want your daughter to be treated is how you should treat your wife. All these are about human relationships. Take care of your in-laws the best you can no matter the situation. Some things are done because of God, Who gave life free. A stronger father-in-law can also support and build his young daughter’s husband. It takes two to tango.