My husband’s family attacked me spiritually for years

What is it like to navigate a marriage where you have to endure the disapproval of your spouse’s family – especially in a family-centered society like ours? This has been Ese*’s reality for the past ten years.

She talks about how she endures the hatred of her in-laws, how her previous miscarriages are related to spiritual attacks, and how she deals with her situation.

As Boluwatife told it

picture of Freepik

There is a popular saying among Nigerians: “You don’t marry the man, you marry his family.” This means that the consent of the family, especially the in-laws, is necessary for a marriage to work.

I didn’t have the approval of my husband and Yinka’s family when we got married in 2014, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Finally, Yinka* loved me and insisted that we didn’t need his family to be happy together.

Funnily enough, I knew Yinka’s family long before we got married. My mother and Yinka’s mother were friends. My mother sold women’s shoes and Yinka’s mother was her good customer. As a teacher, she was constantly buying shoes.

Whenever I came home from school, I would help my mother in her store, and sometimes that meant following her to drop off shoes to her customers. That’s how I met Yinka for the first time. I was 12 years old, he was 14 and he was my first crush. I remember drawing his name on my hand with a pen and wiping it off right after so my dad wouldn’t catch me.

But Yinka and I only became friends four years later, when I went back to study at the same university he attended. My mother had told his mother about my admission to the university and both mothers decided that he should help me find off-campus housing since he knew the area better.

I still liked him and it looked like he liked me too. We hung out regularly. We officially started dating in my third grade year. A few months after we started dating, he graduated from college, and at his graduation party his mother found out we were dating.

His mother had brought coolers of party rice—common at college graduation parties—and I ran up and down to share the rice and take photos. Of course she knew me. But she realized that my pacing meant more than just friendship. She called Yinka that evening and asked if we were together and he said yes. Her response was: “Omo Igbo? Why?” I’m not even Igbo but I guess that means we are all the same to them.

Yinka thought she was joking and laughed at it. She didn’t pursue the topic any further. I guess she thought it was just an affair. But she realized he was serious when he “officially” took me on a visit a year later in 2011. That’s where the problem began.

The fact is that Yinka is the last of five children. He is also the only boy and his father died when he was a baby. His mother had a hard time raising them, and for some reason she believed that his marriage to another tribe – particularly the Igbo – meant she would not “eat the fruits of her labor”. According to her, Igbo women only know how to devour their husband’s money, have no respect and do not let the husband’s family come near them.

Of course, I didn’t know at the time that those were her reasons. I know this now because I’ve heard it repeated several times.

During her first visit she had a cheeky frown on her face. This was the same person who used to rob me of money when I was a teenager. After Yinka and I left, she called him and asked him to end the relationship. He told me about it and I innocently thought I just needed to show her how hardworking I was.

I decided to visit her every weekend to help her with housework. On my second visit she asked me if I had nothing to do for my mother in my own house. No one had to tell me to stop walking.

His sisters also rejected all my attempts to be close to them. I called, sent birthday texts, and even stopped by to help out at big events, but it was obvious they didn’t like me. Even then, I didn’t believe the disapproval was serious. My parents liked Yinka and our mothers still talked.

In 2013, Yinka proposed.

The night of the proposal, his mother called my mother and told her that there was no way the marriage would happen. A shouting match ensued and my mother called me that same evening to return the ring. That night was so dramatic. How many women have you heard say that they cried the whole time on the day they proposed?

Yinka had to take the matter to his mother’s priest. The man spoke to her and asked us to go ahead with wedding planning. Yinka’s mother respected her pastor and remained silent. My parents were a different matter. They didn’t understand why I wanted to die there when the man’s family didn’t want me.

In the end the wedding took place because I got pregnant. Me, my mother and my husband, kept it a secret from my father because he would never have allowed the wedding.

My husband’s immediate family did not attend the traditional wedding in my village. His uncle and some people from the church were present. On the day of the white wedding, my mother-in-law brought her own live band and divided the reception hall into two parts. Our DJ was playing music on one side and their live band was playing on the other side. The DJ simply had to take the cue and stop the music. Yinka’s sisters and her mother also refused to dance with us when it was time for the man’s family to dance with the couple. Instead, they went dancing in front of the live band while their friends showered them with money.

Yinka kept telling me to calm down. They did their worst.”

I should thank my in-laws for bringing me closer to God because these people started attacking me two days after the wedding. I had a dream in which one of Yinka’s sisters hit me with a stick. I woke up with a stomach ache and miscarried three days later.

I thought it was a coincidence, but I had three more miscarriages over the next three years, and they always occurred after a dream in which I saw someone from Yinka’s family. When I noticed the pattern after the third miscarriage, I told my mother and we began visiting pastors and attending prayers. I prayed o. Almost every weekend I was at one church or another for a vigil or a deliverance meeting.

I now have two children and both times I fasted for almost the entire first three months of pregnancy. I also didn’t tell Yinka until the third month because I didn’t want him to tell his family. He didn’t even know the spiritual battle I was facing. I just told him about the first dream. His response was, “Are you saying my sister is a witch?” So I just focused on winning the battle in prayer.

I still sometimes see his family members in my dreams, but I always give them hot, hot. I’m not kidding about my prayers.

We moved to another state in 2019 and now only see her at family gatherings where she looks at me strangely and says mocking words. I only care about myself.

I don’t report them to my husband either because what’s the use if he starts arguing with his family? Won’t that prove why they hate me in the first place?

I wonder what is the reason for all the attacks and hatred. It’s not like Yinka is a millionaire. He is just an official and I contribute equally to the cost of the home. Sometimes I even convince him to send them money so it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one “eating his money.” But I suspect you can’t do anything good in the eyes of the people who are already determined to hate you.

*Names have been changed for reasons of anonymity.

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