Days before I met Mensah, my pastor had prophesied to me that God had heard my cry and that my teary days were over. For me, Mensah was the light that God had sent to outshine the darkness in my life.
I met him through a friend when Mensah returned to Ghana from Ireland in 2014. The 42-year-old engineer was an example of the perfect man I had been praying to have in my life.
He is slim, muscular, with a strongly defined face, almost perfect cheekbones and a well-defined chin and nose.
He had been living in the UK for 22 years, schooling and working. He got married but was divorced at the time we met.
He told me his ex-wife left their home in Ireland with their three-year-old baby girl for Ghana after they had a heated argument one day. ‘I did everything a husband would do for a wife but she never stopped nagging. We fought sometimes but got over them but she called for a divorce after she arrived in Ghana,’ I remember very well these words from Mensah when I asked him why they divorced.
My ultimate goal as a 24-year-old woman who had just completed her apprenticeship as a hairdresser was to get the chance to travel to the USA or the UK and continue with my career. So the fact that Mensah was Ghanaian living in Ireland was a big deal.
You have no idea how honourable it was to have gone home with a ‘Borga’ (a name for people especially men who travel abroad and return to Ghana) as a boyfriend. In my mother’s family house where we live, every teen has a kid, is pregnant or has impregnated another teen from the vicinity.
My siblings and I were the only fortunate ones who grew up with our father. He had custody of us after he and my mother separated. My father had found a woman and wanted to remarry so we had to relocate. My sister was in her second year at a vocational school and I had just completed senior high school when we moved in with our mother. My brother was in junior high school.
Life was really tough because my father was no longer sending us money and the little money my mother made from selling corn dough at the market was not enough to feed us.
When I met Mensah, I had just gotten out of a relationship and had lied to myself that I needed a break from relationships after four unsuccessful ones- two of which were just my upkeep and comfort and not necessarily for love or companionship.
That was the norm at my workplace. If your boyfriend was not rich enough to take care of you, you could get an ‘ATM’ to take care of your daily needs. We had the Mr. Otua and the Mr. Odi.
About half of us at my workplace at the time I was there were practising this with the exception of one lady Efe, who did not want anything to do with men because her father abused her mother.
It was strange but I felt a real connection between two people who fell in love at first sight when I met Mensah. It was real. I liked him and I considered him when he said he liked me. I did not waste time in introducing him to my family and friends.
Mensah began supporting me in almost everything because I was unemployed at the time we met. He promised to let my dream of living and working in the UK come true and make me his wife. The smile that cracked my face as I looked into his eyes while he made these promises was one that I hadn’t had in a very long time.
Like any new romance, it was fueled by affection, care, passion, attention and what we both believed was true love. We spent a lot of time together, talking about the million things we wanted to do. We visited almost half of the tourist sites in the country.
I woke up feeling feverish a morning after one of our trips to a tourist site. My skin emitted heat like a pot on a fire; I felt really cold and my head. Gosh! It ached as if someone had given my brain a wild shake. It was very strange.
Mensah came over minutes after we spoke. He came to take me to the hospital but I insisted we went to a pharmacy. The smells of different medicines which greeted my nose upon entering the pharmacy made the situation worse. I was told I had Malaria after diagnosis and given medication.
He left my place after I ate and took the medicines I was given. I coiled up under a huge blanket to sleep. I heard my sister calling me in my sleep.
“Emefa! Emefa!, wake up. Are you feeling better now? Josh is here to see you so put on something and come out,” she said in a local language, Twi, and went into the kitchen.
‘Oh no Eva tell him I’m not at home, please I cannot see him now,’ I replied.
‘Sorry, I already told him you are in and not feeling well. He insisted on seeing you so just put on clothes and do so,’ she said from the kitchen.
Josh is my ex-boyfriend. In fact, one of those I dated for financial help. I didn’t love him but I enjoyed his company and spending his money.
‘But what could he be doing here? The last time I spoke to him on the phone was some two months ago,’ I said to myself as I struggled to get off the bed.
I went out to see him and just before he could state the reason why he came by, Mensah walked in.
His face unusually dropped when he entered the house and saw me sitting under a tree in the house with Josh. He fixed his hard stare on Josh as he approached us.
My first statement was ‘Mensah meet Josh. Josh, Mensah,’ as I sensed he was not in the mood for anything other than the introduction.
Mensah walked straight into my room and banged the door behind him so I did not waste any more time out there talking to Josh. I told him I would call him later to hear whatever he had to tell me. He agreed but left disappointed.
“Who was that guy?” Mensah stopped pacing around in the room and asked when I entered.
Before I could say anything he added “So you have been seeing other men? I caught you red-handed.”
His comments left me slack-jawed. I just could not fathom why he would conclude I am seeing other men just by meeting a man in my house.
He walked out when my sister entered and asked what the matter was. The whole thing was like a dream. Where is this coming from? Has someone told him anything about Josh? There were just too many questions on my mind and I was totally confused.
He came the following day to apologize for his actions and said he made those allegations out of anger. I accepted and we moved on. I realised from this day that Mensah was a very jealous partner. In fact, in his books, the saying that ‘one who plants grapes by the road side, and one who marries a pretty woman, share the same problem’ does not exist. Once you are his, no other man can come an inch close.
He took me to his hometown to meet his family a week after this. He lost his mother at a very tender age so I met his father, his twin sisters and an auntie who raised him and his sisters. His elder brother, Paddy, lives in the USA with his wife and kids.
Imagining myself as part of this family felt really good, for the mere fact that there were some of them living outside the country. I could not wait to be called Mrs. Anderson.
We had our traditional marriage before Mensah went back to Ireland. It was really hard to watch him go but he had to go and prepare documents so I could join him there. He got a friend who was a businesswoman to employ me as her assistant before he left.
He phoned the following day that he had arrived safely. ‘I miss you already, Emefa, and I hope the paperwork works out quickly so you can come over soon,’ he said in his fruity voice over the phone.
We communicated often via Viber, Imo, Skype sometimes and Whatsapp at the least chance we got. He could call me like a hundred times in a day. He followed me on Twitter, Instagram and added me on Facebook.
My husband joined all the social media platforms that I was on and I felt he was driven by the feelings he had for me to create all the accounts so did not really bother to pay attention.
He proposed we exchange passwords at some point but I jovially protested. His persisted so I gave up. It wasn’t bad for a husband and wife to do that after all.
My family benefitted most from the money he sent to me for my upkeep regularly. We began working on the paperwork for my travel soon after he left.
One Saturday, I began preparations for a friend’s graduation that I had informed Mensah about. At about 11:00am, he phoned and as I reminded him about the graduation ceremony and told him I was preparing to attend.
“Going where? Have I approved it? Did I not tell you I would think about it…why are you preparing when I’m still thinking about it?” he boomed from the other side of the call.
“But I told you about it…,” I responded.
“Oh shut up! You don’t talk when I am talking. Haven’t I warned you about this before?” Mensah added and I went mute on the phone.
After about three minutes of ranting, he said he would call me back later and hanged up.
Anytime he shouted at me or talked to me in a disrespectful manner, I took it as though he really did not mean to do it on purpose as he would always come back and apologise.
One other day he lost it again because I missed his phone call. He sent a message damning me and calling me all sorts of names.
I cried my eyes out and, as usual, I forgave him when he phoned to say sorry and sent me a huge sum of money the following day. Out of it I opened a new hairdressing shop, quit the job he found for me, and started working while I waited for my travel plans to go through. He asked me to stop wearing jeans trousers, shorts, fixing weaves and wearing tight-fitting dresses. He recommended flare or skirts, long dresses and blouses that covered my cleavage every time.
I thought he did that to help me preserve myself but it got frustrating when he began complaining of almost everything I wore.
Sometimes his quick temper got frustrating but I have always thought he would change.
Another reason why I could not leave him was because of my mother. With the goodies and all, I wasn’t sure she was ready to go back to those days when she sometimes had to borrow money to cook for us. She always advised that I stay in the relationship despite her knowledge about the awful treatment from Mensah sometimes.
The last time we talked about it, she said, “listen, love is like a baby: it needs to be treated tenderly… I believe he is a great man and a good husband. See how well he caters for us He will change. You women of today are quick to leave one marriage and jump into another. That is not the best…sometimes you have to endure certain things.”
“Endurance is when you stay with a man through thick and thin – as in when he is in difficult time and not when he is abusing you,” I said but she rubbished my point.
“Has he ever laid hands on you?” she asked.
“Must I wait until he does?” I quizzed back and the conversation ended inconclusively.
For over a year and a half now, I have not been using my photographs as display pictures on Whatsapp, Facebook, and my other social media accounts. Why? He banned me from doing so, from wearing jeans, using two phone numbers and from staying out after 8pm.
In his most recent rant, my husband verbally assaulted me and in fact my whole family. And the thing is each time he does that, I am unable to use similar words on him so I just keep quiet and listen. Dare I hang up on him? He would call my sister or my mother and tell them the thousand bad things I have done, ask them to speak to me and continue.
I joined him in Ireland much later. My mother had a hard talk with him about his temper before I left. I was the happiest woman on earth, married to a borga and going to live in the UK – that was a dream come true!
I expected him to but he did not really change. In fact, he got worse by the day. He smacked me in the face sometimes, and beat me up even when I was pregnant. Our White neighbours who had witnessed the abuse frequently called the police but I lied each time they came.
At times, he would beat me and throw my things out of the house. He did it one winter, a neighbour took me in but Mensah came begging the next day and as usual, I forgave and let go.
Maybe what happened on the day Josh visited me was enough sign to back out but of course I was blinded by a lot of things. It has been six years already and we have two children but nothing has changed.
Divorce is not an option judging from what my mother went through as a single mother when my father found a new wife, I do not think I am ready to break my marriage. My children do not have to go through what I went through. Many women who took similar decisions ended up dead as my sister would say but I do not think I will end up the same way. For the love of my children, I will stay.
This is the true story, albeit with slight modifications, of a young Ghanaian lady. The writer is Akosua Asiedua Akuffo of Myjoyonline.com.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Patricia.email@example.com