The Nigerian and African cultures have made it in such a way that we live a communal kind of life. It is generally believed that when a woman agrees to marry a man, she is saying yes, not just to the man but to his family in entirety, both nuclear and extended. This happens to form part of the advice every good mother gives to her daughter as she goes to her husband’s house.

I have had cause to counsel women on their relationship with in-laws, especially sister-in-laws. I know it is always a very tough one. So many in-laws will go any length to make you regret getting married to their brother. It is a cross for every African woman to bear.

We cannot separate this and our culture. The man that is getting married to you expects you to love and accept his own family just like your own. I know there are families where the woman puts in so much for peace to reign and still gets frustrated and hated by the in-laws who believe she is a devil.

So many ladies who are the real devils are smart enough to make their in-laws believe they are the best. The good ones are being maltreated because they cannot defend themselves while the smart evil ones are doing their best to cover up their evil. I encourage you to go on doing the good you are doing. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your good character. Don’t change because they don’t appreciate your good deeds. I have realised something about life; human beings don’t appreciate what they have until they lose it.

I have seen women go out of their way, use their salary or part of the money given to them by their husband for housekeeping. They go through so much inconvenience just to make their mother-in-law feel loved. What do they get at the end of the day, rebuke and unpleasant words? Some of them will accuse you of wasting their son’s money while some will tell you thank you for remembering them while you eat their money.

A woman is made to feel she has no right over the man’s assets but at the same time she is part of the family. That is the cross every African woman is born to carry. The cross comes in different weights and ways.

What I have always told women is this; when you relate with your in-laws, let whatever you do for them be out of LOVE. We have so many wonderful and loving in-laws, but if you are unfortunate to get one of those terrible ones, live a life of love. Don’t wait for them to appreciate you. Don’t expect anything back from them when you give. The Holy Scriptures — Koran and Bible — admonish us to walk in love.

A lady came to me some weeks back, weeping over the ill treatment from her mother-in-law who went to the point of tearing her clothes the day she walked into her husband’s shop in Balogun market. She also lamented about the brother-in-law, going to the kitchen after she is done cooking, to serve himself. Honestly, I felt so much for this young mother of two that I wept with her.

But I thank God that when she got home and put my advice into use, she called me three days later to say ‘thank you’. I told her to get her mind off those little offences, forgive the mother-in-law, and pray for her. I also told her to always allow the bother-in-law have his way and if after eating, he drops his plate carelessly, she should pick her plate and wash without uttering a word. She later called to say that just with few days of practising it; the boys came, knelt down and apologized.

I am one person who does not believe in the doctrine of an eye for an eye. I have always lived my life in such a way that I don’t fight people back. I let go of things for the sake of God, some people see it as weakness as they believe I should fight for what is rightfully mine. But I disagree.

I know that is your home. I also know your in-laws shouldn’t trample on you in that home. But are you going to get yourself injured or create enemies just to prove a point? Why not learn to hand them over to the creator and see what He does?

I have heard young girls who are not yet married swear never to allow their in-laws come into their house. A cousin of mine had his wife leave the house because according to her, she can’t stand the sight of her father and mother-in-law in their house. She also told me she can only cook for her husband and not for in-laws. Girls, this is Africa.

If you don’t want in-laws around you, please go get a white man when it comes to marriage. I once read about an actress who was dumped by her long time boyfriend for a more cultured girl. When the press interviewed the members of the family, they confirmed he left her because she sees herself as a celebrity who shouldn’t have anything to do with the guy’s family members. She lost out.

Go ahead with your big girl attitude. Go ahead with all the eating out and partying. But please, once you decide to settle down with a Nigerian man, please drop the big girl mentality. You should be able to cook both for your mother-in-law and husband. You should try to find out what their favourites are and girl, you give it to them.

If you make up your mind to marry a Yoruba man, learn to cook amala and ewedu. If you want to marry a man from my state, Anambra, you must learn how to cook onugbu (bitter leaf), and ofe –akwu (banga soup). A former beauty queen once told us during an interview that she is not ready to pound yam and cook for any man. I was surprised when I read her last interview with City People where she said she regularly makes amala and ewedu for her husband.

You cannot claim to love your husband when you don’t want your mother-in-law around your house. The poor old woman is dumped in the village to rot. That fake prophet has told you she is the person behind your inability to have a child right on time. It is a pity we have allowed those wolves to destroy our homes.

You accepted that when the hungry prophet said it, but when your brother’s wife insinuates your mother is a witch, you leave Lagos to the village to fight her. If you love your husband, your love for his mother will be double. I never allowed my mother-in-law cry for anything. I can only keep quiet when I can’t afford it. Let us learn to respect old age if at all we want to see it.

I have seen women who use Christmas to tell their mother-in-law how much they dislike her. Your husband gives you money for Hollandis and original voile lace both for your mother and his. But when you get to the market you get all the good things for your own mother while you get Nigerian wax for the poor woman. Everybody knows I treated my mother-in-law better than my own mother. That is the easiest way to make your husband feel accepted and loved.

One of the things that make you a good Muslim or Christian is your ability to do things without sentiments. How do you serve your in-laws food when they come visiting? I once heard of a woman who will always tell her in-laws when they come visiting that they didn’t include them in the budget for the month. I have also seen women who will be using peak evaporated milk for breakfast but once their mother-in-law comes, they resort to any other cheaper and watery brand. What a reproach?

Your mother-in-law may not be as bad as you think she is. She could have done one or two things you didn’t like. But why not see her with the eye of a daughter, forgive her and treat her with all love and respect.

For how long are you going to allow that false prophet deceive you? Why is it that almost all mothers-in-law in our generation are witches? Are they not our mothers? When your mother comes to the house you give her the best ride at home to take her for sightseeing. Why can’t you do the same for your mother-in-law? You send your own niece to a private school but your niece-in-law goes to a public school.

If you have a contrary opinion and want to go on treating the woman wrongly, go ahead. But don’t push her to the point where she opens her mouth to cry to God against you. Remember you will grow old someday and whatever you so now, you will reap in the future. If you make yourself a wonderful daughter-in-law now, you will be honoured someday by your own daughters-in-law. That has always been my prayer. This is the reason I am extremely careful when I have anything to do with those aged ones because I know I will someday get old and I want to feel loved and pampered at old age.

You have a good reason for treating her badly. She could have kicked against her son getting married to you. She could have gone to a native doctor to tie your womb. She could have poured away the food you took time to cook and serve her. But you know what? You must forgive. Some of them did it out of ignorance. That old woman needs your love now. Please make yourself the vessel God will use to make her happy for the remaining days of her life.