Partners, Not Rivals: Fostering Healthy Respect among African Couples

Uduak Asuquo
2 min readOct 31, 2023

In many traditional African relationships, respect between partners is considered paramount. However, this focus on respect can sometimes take a more troubling turn, wherein men feel entitled to their partner’s respect no matter their own behavior. This distorted view of respect leads some men to try to incapacitate their partners financially and prevent them from becoming successful, out of fear that an empowered woman would be disrespectful.

When a man feels the need to limit his partner’s financial and personal autonomy out of fear she may become “disrespectful,” he is projecting his own insecurities and lack of self-worth. A strong sense of self-respect would allow him to take pride in his partner’s accomplishments, and not feel threatened by them. He should reflect on why her independence provokes such anxiety instead of jumping to restrain her agency.

There are many tales of men actively hindering their partner’s professional and financial growth. Some men adamantly oppose the idea of women having thriving careers, businesses, or financial independence. They argue that if a woman becomes more successful than her partner, she will inevitably become arrogant and disrespectful. However, this seems to be a fallacy propagated by insecure men to justify controlling their partner’s access to income and autonomy.

In truth, these men appear to be afraid that if empowered, their partners would treat them the same callous way they have treated their partners. The archetypal misogynist who fears his wife’s success is often a hypocrite — favoring polygamy for himself while denying his wife the same freedoms. As the saying goes, “The man who beheads is always wary of people with machetes behind him.”

This double standard is clear when you consider society’s expectations around infidelity. Women are expected to forgive and normalize cheating, yet men are expected to never ignore it. For this reason, women who cheat are judged far more harshly than cheating men.

For a fair and equitable society, men need to understand accountability. If it’s acceptable for you to disrespect your partner, be prepared for her to return the disrespect. No one should subject their partner to treatment they themselves are unwilling to endure.

Partners should strive to lift each other up, not tear each other down out of insecurity and fear. Trying to undermine your partner’s success to maintain power is a pyrrhic victory. Equitable relationships are built on mutual trust, respect, and empowerment.

Men who hope to have healthy relationships must reflect on their motivations around their partner’s independence. True respect is not demanded or controlled — it is earned through consistent care, support, and integrity. A good partner finds joy in their beloved’s happiness and success, not envy and apprehension. With open communication, compassion, and commitment to growth, traditional notions of gender roles can evolve into relationships of mutual honor and understanding.

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Uduak Asuquo

Freelance Creative Writer. Avid Reader. Closet Introvert. I want to tell stories that ruin your day in a good way.