Parents often bring up the issue of tribe first. How can you tackle the issue of tribalism?
We are grateful that you would trust us with this question, thank you for the opportunity to be of help to you.
It’s unfortunate that we face these issues in our day. However, there are two sides to this matter and we have to consider both.
Your parents have experienced things that informed their position. The experience is either first hand or reported. So it is usually unwise to treat their alarm as something trivial. As long as it is not because they have promised you to someone else without your consent, you can find a way to resolve the situation without declaring World War III.
The point here is to sit with them and listen. Listen beyond your ears. Look beyond your eyes. The words they are using would sound as authoritative and definitive as would be expected from your parents but if you borrow their understanding for a while, you will understand that it’s not an assertion of their authority that’s the issue but a fear of something that will hurt you.
Of course, they might be incorrect but you can never get them to see that while you’re fighting them. Fighting them is wrong and when you do, they will lump your fight with your intended spouse and throw the baby, the bathwater, the bath and the bathroom out the window!
Don’t fight them, learn them. What are they really worried about? When they have finished talking, tell them what you have understood to be their concerns and thank them for looking out for you. Then take all those concerns and look at your relationship objectively, and sort out those concerns that were raised.
This sorting out doesn’t always mean that you change something in the relationship. It could just be to provide the necessary evidence to convince your parents that what they mentioned has been taken care of. It might just mean changing how your relationship is perceived by people around you, including your parents. The actual strategy would depend on your unique circumstances. But this is definitely the way to go if your parents have often counseled you soundly in the past.
A mistake many of us young people make is that all through our formative years, we didn’t cultivate our relationship with our parents by talking with them about stuff we were going though and how we handled them. Thus, they never got to see and hear us grow up. Until the point of marriage they still think of us as babies. Of course they’d feel they have to make some choices for us, it’s only natural.
Another approach could be to involve folks our parents actually respect. Again, if we were cultivating things with our parents, we would have known the people they value and we would have been building our relationships with them too so that they can know us enough to trust our judgement on some issues thereby giving them the confidence to intervene in our favour.
So much said about our parents’ side … now, our side.
Most of the reservations our parents have our actually not unique to them. Most times they are quite normal. But where it becomes a problem is that we wait until it is too late before informing them of something we suspect they would not allow. We drop a “take it or leave it” bomb on them and expect them to just take it calmly. The guy is coming to visit for his first ever visit in 2 days, that’s when you bring up that matter of his tribe or whatever the issue is? Or you don’t tell them until the guy’s in the sitting room with them?
Approach matters. You should know that negotiations by dialogue take time. You ought to have been breaking down whatever ice walls you have been noticing in your family a long time ago. If you take your time, you can use water to erode a wall but if you’re in a hurry, the temptation to just bomb everybody to kingdom come will be there and you will make things difficult for yourself.
So, start now. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, start chatting up your parents. Learn their understanding and concerns and start negotiating a compromise in case of this or that. And when you find walls, get to work. Yoruba people have a saying that any one who pours water on the ground ahead of him will step on cool/wet ground. Don’t say we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Start crossing now, and carry your parents with you too. It is slow but at least you’re all moving together.
If, however, you are already in such a relationship, it is imperative that you start chatting with them about those things right away. At least, that way, they will have the opportunity to observe to see whether you were right that this guy or girl is an exception to the rule that their experience has placed on them.
Proverbs 22:3 A prudent [man] foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.