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So last week we had another very special guest on TAMAR’SPOUCH HANGOUT hosted on facebook.

We talked about Inter-tribal marriages and here is what our guest, Modupe Ehirim had to say.

After 30+ years in marriage, I decided to use my experience and the lessons I learnt along the way to guide other people in their marriage journey. 

Today, I'm the Founder of The Right Fit Marriage Academy.

Many marriages are in crises largely due to a lack of awareness of the principles that make marriage work. I'm passionate about helping married people to understand these principles and apply them to their own unique and personal situations. I'm convinced that marital intimacy and harmony is closer to you than you realise. 

In a sense I'm like a traffic warden who brings order into a chaotic traffic situation at a 4-way traffic junction. If you're currently experiencing chaos in your marriage, I can help you get back that sense of order, harmony and intimacy.

I am from Ogbomoso in Oyo State while my husband, Boniface, who I fondly call my Chairman is from Atta in Imo State.

Prior to meeting and marrying my husband, I had met and interacted with Igbo people in school. I didn't really know much about them. In fact you can say that I was blissfully unware of and ignorant about Igbo people, their culture and tradition and way of life

My parents were very open minded.I also went to secondary schools that promoted unity and living with people of other tribes. So you could say that I am detribalised.

What is an inter-tribal marriage?

I would say that an inter-tribal marriage is a marriage between two people who have their origin in different tribes or ethnic groups.

An ethnic group is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, society, culture or nation. Ethnicity is often an inherited status based on the society in which one lives. Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art, and physical appearance.

So I’m a Yoruba person because my parents are Yoruba and their own parents are Yoruba.
In the same way, my Chairman is Igbo because his parents are Igbo and their own parents too were Igbo.
What this means is that prior to our getting married, we were nurtured in different backgrounds.

Now every man and woman that gets married encounter the challenge of marrying someone from a different background. When two of you are from the same ethnic group, you have some commonality in your upbringing. You individual family traditions may differ but you have some practices, beliefs and experiences in common.

Where you come from different ethnic origins, you bring with you to that relationships, all the myths, suspicions, positive and negative beliefs and experiences that your ethnic groups have.

Read: The Identity rule

For example, my husband’s parents didn’t want their son to marry me-a Yoruba girl. Their apprehensions were not about me as a person. Their apprehensions were based on two pillars:

1. Their perception that Yorubas don’t take marriage vows seriously based on some Yoruba marriages they observed while they lived in Lagos.

2. Their experience of the Nigerian Civil War which made them want to stay within the familiar zone of their ethnic group.

Much of the challenges that inter-ethnic relationships and marriage face arise from the ignorance of the beliefs, values, traditions and practices of other ethnic groups apart from yours.
The challenges are further fuelled by suspicions and negative perceptions that you and your family and ethnic group have about other ethnic groups.

Igbo parents have a lot of history. As a nation we have never addressed the wounds of the Civil War.

Read: 5 Soulmate Myth that ruins your chance at love 

In reality, inter-ethnic marriages are not significantly different from marriages between two people from the same tribe.

This is because today, the environment in which we do marriage has altered significantly. 
For example: I grew up in a nuclear family (father, mother, children) with the closest relatives living very far away. I was encouraged to aspire to great educational and career heights. I grew up in cosmopolitan city and went to Federal Government Colleges where I was detribalised. Then I became a Christian who takes the Bible seriously and lives by the doctrine espoused in it.

A young man who wants to marry a Yoruba girl sees me and decides I'm suitable wife material. His family may insist that he should marry from within their tribe.

Read: 10 Relationship Realities for men

Am I truly a Yoruba woman in the sense that he wants? We cannot immediately say until we know what his actual expectations are.

Read: 7 Relationship Realities for women

On the contrary, 40, 50 years ago, if a Yoruba man wanted to marry a Yoruba woman their context was mutually understood by both of them. This is because, they grew up in the same environment, shared communal experiences and exposure.

So approaching marriage without adequate understanding of and preparations to meet the basic requirements for long term relationships is perhaps the reason inter-ethnic marriages have problems.

Some questions that intending and even already married couples in ALL marriages should ask are:

1. Is our definition and understanding of marriage aligned?
2. Do we know and understand each other's expectations in marriage? Have we discussed and harmonised those expectations?
3. Where our expectations vary, what are we doing about them?
4. What paradigms have we brought to marriage from our backgrounds, life experiences and exposure? Are these paradigms beneficial to a marital relationship?

Read: Single at 25: What you should know 

Couples considering inter-ethnic marriages or those already in them should ask themselves these additional questions:
1. What are some of the traits of your partner’s ethnic group that you are apprehensive about and have difficulty adjusting to?

2. What are some of the interactions between your ethnic groups that have had negative impact on the psyche of your partner’s ethnic group? How have your individual families internalised and/or dealt with those negative impacts?

3. How will you respond to and cope with the stress that accompanies moving out of the comfort zone of your ethnic group and adjusting to the ethnic group of your spouse? Both men and women need to think hard about this because, even though the woman moves to join her husband in his ethnic group, the man also has to relate with his wife’s people who will continue to live in their own ethnic space.

4. What will be the attributes of culture of the new family that you and your partner will build?

No matter how well adjusted partners are, the reality is prior to the time they get married they have lived largely different lives. Conflict is inevitable because of this.

Their understanding of this and preparation to handle it may well be the deciding factor in whether the marriage succeeds or ends in divorce.

 Actually conflict is not a bad thing. Rather it is a signal that a couple think dfferently on an issue that is very important to the two of them. 

Having good conflict resolution skills and communication skills is what couples need.

Having laid this foundation, I will look at the pros and cons of inter-ethnic marriages.

In practice as I explained earlier, inter-ethnic marriages are not significantly different from marriages where the couple are from the same ethnic group. This is 
because today, by the time a person gets married, they have lived in and experienced a number of differing cultures which greatly impacts their worldviews and perspectives about life

Pros of Inter-Ethnic Marriages

1. The most significant pro for inter-ethnic marriages is that it often strengthens the resolve of the couple to make their marriage work. Usually in order to overcome the objections that their family and friends raise, 
they address the issues that can cause stress and adopt a united front. They also don’t want the naysayers to say “We told you so.” if their marriage should fail.

2. Couples who succeed in inter-ethnic marriages grow as individuals and support each other.

3. Couples are more open minded about things that they are not familiar and are willing to explore

Cons of Inter-Ethnic Marriages

1. Both husband and wife have to accept new realities of doing things in ways different from their relatives and friends.

2. One or both partners may discover that they don’t really want to shift from the paradigms mindse
ts and experiences that they are familiar and uncomfortable with.

3. Couples may have to live with the fact that their relatives refuse to accept the ethnic group of their partner.

I have been in an inter-ethnic marriage now for 32 years. My marriage to my husband cannot be said to be Igbo or Yoruba. There are many attributes of the Igbo culture in our relationship and in our home. There are also attributes of Yoruba culture. We also have attributes of the English culture because my husband studied and lived in England for quite a number of years.

At the same time, we have agreed, that our children are of Igbo origin, because both Igbo and Yoruba cultures are paternalistic.

People outside our marriage do not always agree with how we have chosen to model our family. Some Igbo people think my husband is liberal in allowing somethings. Some Yoruba people think that I have allowed myself to be subsumed by Igbo culture. My Chairman and I constantly remind ourselves that it is our marriage not theirs.

WE participate in both cultures because we love our families and kindred. WE also are helping our children to understand their unique origin of having parents from different ethnic groups. Our families and kindred show respect for our diffrent ethnic groups now.

 Daily we have experiences that make us re-think and redefine our family culture and practices. But our family values remain the same year in year out. Interestingly our family values were derived from our (my husband and I) parents’ values which they passed on to us. And even though we came from different ethnic groups, the values that our parents held as important and taught us are similar.

So I’ll conclude with this. 

Inter-ethnic marriages are not significantly different from marriages of two people within the same ethnic group..
What is important is how knowledgeable are you about the principles that make marriage to work.

Question: So, how does one persuade the family to eventually agree despite their negative experiences or bias?

Modupe: This is a good question you have asked. First you must seek to understand them before trying to get them to understand you. Ask them questions. Dig deeper to understand their fears and apprehensions. Engage them to look at the individual. Point out to them the individual people from that ethnic group who they have had positive interactions with. Be patient, very patient with them.

About speaker:

Modupe Ehirim, is the founder of The Right FitMarriage Academy and a Family Life Practitioner. She works with young engaged and married couples to lay a foundation for and build a happy and lifelong marriage. She is a Family Systems Engineering Practitioner and a Certified SYMBIS (Save Your Marriage Before It Starts) Facilitator. The SYMBIS Assessment gives you a personalized road map to making your marriage everything it was meant to be.

A 1980 First Class graduate of Chemical Engineering from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), she also bagged an M.Sc. (Process Analysis) from University of Aston-in-Birmingham in UK in 1982. In 2008, she obtained the Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management under the Goldman Sachs 10000 Women Initiative which provided business and management education for women entrepreneurs at the Pan African University, Lagos.

She is a member of NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW). She is also a member of the Management Committee for Lady Ibiam Girls’ Secondary School, Enugu.

Modupe is an avid reader who mentors young people, aiding them to chart their lives’ paths. She is happily married to Boniface, her husband of over 30 years, who hails from Imo State. Together, they have together four children.

She is popularly known as MUMMY MO!

Go here to participate


  1. Thanks for sharing the info, keep up the good work going.... I really enjoyed exploring your site. good resource...

    1. Hi Peggy! thank you. it is such an honour to read from you. I hopped on to your site and I love what yo do.
      Keep up the good work ma!


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