Few days before this article, a tweet had gone viral in which a man expresses the dilemma of being married for seven years to someone whom his mum – his only surviving parent – does not approve of. So I reached out to the owner of the tweet, Seun Kentebe, an actor and scriptwriter, to hear more about living this experience.
What was going through your mind when you tweeted that? Had something happened to trigger you?
No. I just tweeted randomly like I’d normally do. Usually, I don’t get a lot of responses when I tweet. At most 20 retweets and that’d be the end. But you know, I dropped this one and my phone caught fire and I was like, ‘ah what have I done?
Is your wife on Twitter? Did she see that?
She is. But she is not so active but her friends sent her screenshots when the blogs put it up.
And her reaction?
She initially wasn’t cool with it, but she came around.
So take me back. Was this thing with your mum an issue before you guys married?
Not at all oh. When I introduced my wife to my mum when we were still dating, she welcomed her and was pretty nice and OK with her. But then when things got serious and I told my mum that this was the person I wanted to marry, I started noticing the change. It suddenly became an issue and my mum became hostile. You know, it suddenly became a thing of ‘no no no, I don’t like her.’ Bruh, I was confused. I was like ‘you liked this woman before. What changed? Did you see her with someone? What is it?’
And what did she say?
She didn’t say anything. And you know, at first I thought maybe it was the usual [protectiveness some mothers have towards their first sons.] My mum and I are quite close. My father died when I was 7 –
Are you the only son?
Nah. I have two siblings from my mum – a sister and brother. I have other siblings who are older than me. Polygamous family and all.
Oh. So you were saying you lost your pops at 7
Yeah. And when this whole thing became an issue, some people alluded to the fact that my mum could be seeing her as someone who was taking her ‘husband’ and stuff. Be We tried to pacify her before the wedding, nothing happened. And we kept doing that over the years. My wife also tried her best, did as much as she could to interact but I guess my mum is who she is and we’ve accepted that now. You know, at some point, we brought in family members to intervene and she said she had accepted and would change but the status quo remained.
Yeah. At that stage, I just concluded that ‘see, you don’t have to like her but at least it is established that this is my wife and there has to be a level of respect.’
Does this still bother you lowkey?
It used to, at the initial stage. If everyone in the family had an issue with her, it’d have been a different thing and I’d have been extremely bothered. But my siblings are cool with her. She goes over there to spend the weekend, do hangouts and all that and that’s fine with me. But as a child, you’d want your parent’s approval and blessings. She has blessed us sha because thankfully she was at the wedding. But what I longed for back then was for her to take my wife as her daughter by extension and relate with her as such. But I guess it is what it is.
Did this affect your relationship with your mum though?
Yeah. There was that initial strain because I was begging at first and then I went from begging to fighting and it was still my wife who intervened and called me to order. But we’re cool now sha, my mum and I. She’s on one side of the spectrum, my wife is on the other.
And how has it been dealing with all of this and managing the situation?
When I call her and she asks after my wife, I say she’s fine. When I go to visit her, I sometimes get stuff and present them to her in my wife’s name. And when my wife goes with me to visit her and things start getting awkward after a while, I know that’s our cue to leave.
So the relationship between them is…
Peripheral, really. Just there on the surface. Greetings, courtesy and all.
Have your siblings mediated in all this?
Well, my siblings have been supportive. My big brother stepped in at the height, when things were very heated. He acts as my dad actually. You know, he was like ‘this is who your son says he wants to marry and you have to just accept it.’ My big sister as well. Had they had not done that, I don’t think the marriage would have happened.
Your brother, is he married?
How’s the relationship between his wife and your mum?
Well, he got lucky. His wife and mumcy are on pretty good terms. First borns are the proverbial sacrificial lambs, so…
Could this be… a tribe thing?
No! [Laughs] My mum is actually liberal. My wife is half Igbo, half Seychellois but I don’t think that is the issue. I dated women from several regions of the country and those posed no issues. I am half Yoruba, half Ijaw myself so tribe definitely does not seem to be the issue as far as I’m concerned.