By Francis Ewherido
Divorce, which is an official dissolution of a marriage, is one of the blights of the marital institution. Very few people go into marriage with the intention to get divorced at some point. That is why people take the vow of “till death do us part” at wedding. Divorce is a sensitive issue and out of respect for those who are divorced, especially those who are close to me, I have stayed away from that topic in the past seven years since this column debuted. This is especially so since I am aware of the circumstances that led to some of these divorces. I share in their pains. But when I came across a story of a couple, who went for a “celebratory lunch” after they were officially divorced, I decided to write about it, but still without prejudice to divorced family members and friends I deeply care for.
What is this couple celebrating? What are they trying to prove? Who are they trying to impress. Are they trying to show that they are mature? If they were mature, they should have channeled their maturity to make their marriage work. Or are they trying to prove that they are not bitter? There are people who are divorced and have moved on without a show. I know a divorced couple, who are professionals in the same field and own a practice together. They are still business partners and run their business together. They did not go for a “celebratory lunch” to tell the world that there is no bitterness when they got divorced.
Anyway, the other things that caught my attention in their story were the pieces of advice they offered married and dating couples. Apparently, their marriage was built of a defective foundation ab initio because their courtship was also defective. Their first advice was, “take the time to REALLY get to know yourself, your purpose, your vision, your priorities, and your core values before committing yourself to someone else for life. Get clear on your non-negotiables and on your deal breakers before saying “I Do”. Otherwise, your newfound vision can create division if it’s not in alignment.” This brings us to the definition of courtship and I am going to take excerpts from my book, Life Lessons From Mudipapa:
“Dating can be described as a form of courtship and may include social activities undertaken by two persons (male and female) with the aim of assessing the other’s suitability as a life partner, while courtship is that traditional period before engagement and marriage when couples date to get to know each other and decide if they should go ahead with the relationship. Another definition by the Institute in Basic Life Principles…refers to courtship as: ‘a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other.’”
On core values, which they also mentioned, I wrote: “What are your core values and what are your partner’s? Core values are principles and qualities that guide your internal conduct and determine how you relate with the external world. Your core values define who you are; they go to the root of your existence. They are sacred to you and non-negotiable a lot of the time. They might be ethical, religious, intellectual, social, appearance-related, etc. It is important that you share common core values with your potential spouse. If you don’t, then it is not advisable for you to continue the courtship. But if you do only in some and not all aspects, you need to check how acceptable or unacceptable what is lacking is to both of you. Are they things you can live with or without? Sometimes it is not the level of compatibility that holds the marriage together; it is the ability of couples to manage their inevitable differences.” My question is, what were they doing before they decided to get married. I guess every other thing, except ask for the face of God, ask critical questions and do critical analysis.
Their second advice is, “even if you believe you heard from God, there’s no need to rush to the altar. Take your time and enjoy the process of courtship, or you’ll find yourself getting to know each other after you’re already married.” First, let me quickly say that you cannot fully know your spouse during courtship. The “knowing” continues after marriage. In addition, I will refer you to two bible passages. The first is 1 John 4:1 – “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” When it comes to testing the spirit as regards marriage, my favorite biblical passage is Genesis 24: the marriage of Isaac to Rebecca, God’s unseen hand, Abraham’s uncompromising stance and the extraordinary faith and faithfulness of Abraham’s servant.
I will break their last piece of advice into pieces and deal with it one issue after another. “Don’t underestimate the amount of work that it takes to build a strong marriage…” True. Making a marriage work is a full time occupation. As I said some time ago, like your body, it needs daily nourishment, if not it will deteriorate. Like a bank account, you have to make deposits regularly because you make withdrawals knowingly and unknowingly. Unless you consciously make deposits, your account (marriage) can easily go into deficit.
They also said, “…Go to marriage seminars together before getting married, learn what it really takes, and make sure you’re both willing to put in the work together.” Thankfully, religious and government organisations have realized the importance of pre-marriage seminars and have designed topics for people preparing for marriage. Marriage is a higher institution like universities and polytechnics and every potential entrant should prepare for it. If you fail to prepare for marriage, you are already preparing for failure. Finally, they said “…If you don’t grow together you’re gonna grow apart” (Go to https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/08/marital-intellectual-disequilibrium/ and read more on this).
In school, we were taught that oddity is news. That is why this couple’s story was in the news because it is odd for a newly-divorced couple to go out together for a “celebratory lunch.” But what are they celebrating? A failed marriage? Do people celebrate failure? I have seen one party in a divorce case “celebrate” after divorce for varying reasons. If you personally know the story of some of these people, you will empathise with them, your firm belief in the indissolubility of marriage notwithstanding. For some, it has become a case of stay in the marriage and die or get out and be alive.
Get me right, there is nothing wrong with divorced parties meeting or having lunch together occasionally. They do meet to discuss the welfare of the children, go for lunch or dinner occasionally with the children and also get together with the children at Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving (America, Canada, etc). But a lunch by divorced parties to “celebrate” their divorce is meaningless and pointless; it is an aberration. I know that sometimes, people enjoy being in the limelight, but it is also important that we point it out that this former couple was in the news for the wrong reasons, so that those coming behind will not be misled.