Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Take it or leave it – Batswana women give their partners marriage ultimatums

In Botswana, the battle of the sexes just got nastier. Women’s marriage fixation and millennial men’s commitment phobia has set a stage for a grueling confrontation unlike anything ever seen in previous generations.

The persistent state of tension between Batswana males and females has escalated from banishing boyfriends to the sofa to “If we’re not engaged or married by X date, we are done”, ultimatums.

The new millennium has gifted Botswana with a lot of things, among them female gender benders who just cut to the chase and propose to their commitment-shy boyfriends. And them there are the no-nonsense straight shooters who tell their men to take it or leave it.

Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana says, “I think there are women who still give ultimatums. Some women go into relationships with the goal of getting married and will do anything to get that goal achieved, some don’t really care and some don’t want marriage at all. The possible outcomes in each ultimatum situation are that your spouse gets it and this forces him/her to confront their bad behavior and make changes. Another outcome is that the eventuality many fear may come to pass. The spouse refuses to acknowledge the ultimatum and this causes destruction to the relationship. For a lot of women peer pressure pushes them into issuing ultimatums, they see their friends getting married and having babies and decide to get the same by manipulating/persuading their spouse.”

While women as home makers have to worry about their ticking biological clocks, men as providers on the other hand want more time to advance their careers and secure their future before settling down.

There is a huge societal pressure piled on women to get hitched. They have to deal with dreaded questions from family, friends, relatives and society. It can all add up to a lot of pressure.  Most women in long term relationships are ready to get married before their partners even have thoughts about proposing. Starting married life off with an ultimatum means that one person feels hostage to the other. For men, casual cohabitation, the long process of career building and saving for a mortgage, has pushed the proposal further down the list of priorities but for women who are very aware of their biological clock, the race to have it all – man, job, home, marriage while still on the right side of 35 has never felt more pressing. Although ultimatums get the job done for some people, they are actually destructive to relationships. For starters, an ultimatum is a demand, which is expressed as a deal breaker. An ultimatum is usually drastic, it is all or nothing. Ultimatums are detrimental because they make the other partner feel pressured and trapped, it forces them to take action which won’t be genuine, and leads to resentment. 

Many women give these ultimatums consciously and subconsciously for the sake of securing a companion. They see others around them getting engaged or married and they feel they’ve reached a phase in life where it’s time to settle down. And while a number of women believe that they are simply trying to move things along, they are placing more pressure on themselves than on their mates when it’s not necessary. For many men, the uncertainty may not be about their partner. It could be that they see their married friends having a tough time, or perhaps their parents’ marriage didn’t go so well. The biological clock is very real and often times it drives women to make bad choices.

Kgomotso Jongman of Jo Speaks in Gaborone says “some people have very real fears of failure about their own experiences – for example, coming from a divorced home and the fear of ending up the same way. Your partner might not feel ready to take the next step, as they don’t feel they are financially stable or might not want to start a marriage with piles of debt, people have different reasons. Most people are afraid to discuss marriage earlier on into the relationship. Some offer an ultimatum because they believe their relationship needs need to be met, while some might do it because they require a deeper sense of commitment. The person who made the ultimatum will always wonder whether they made the right decision. The person who was offered the ultimatum might always question whether the decision to marry was genuine and might even feel trapped.”


Read this week's paper