By Francis Ewherido
y first article on this column was published in Saturday Vanguard of Nov. 17, 2013. That was 10 years ago. I say happy 10th anniversary to the Marriage and Family Column. The list of those who made this column possible and have helped to sustain it is long. I have an overwhelming urge to mention all the names, but I refrain for fear of missing out names of some vital people in the project. My eternal gratitude to you all. But let me make one exception of mentioning Mr. Mideno Bayagbon, the Publisher of the Newsguru. He was the editor of Vanguard when the column debuted and in fact approved it. I also thank all the readers without whom the column will be superfluous. I get messages from as far as Australia. When I was about to start, my elder brother Fr. Tony liked the five sample articles I sent to him for review, but he wondered if I could sustain the column over time. I had fears too, but 10 years after, the column is still very much alive.
The first article was titled WHAT DOES MARRIAGE MEAN TO YOU? In the article I adopted the definition of marriage that resounded with me: “the matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, which is ordered by its nature towards the good of spouses and the procreation and education of offspring…” (Wikipedia). Ten years on, my perception of marriage has not changed. I just want to add one word in the definition, “Covenant:” a binding agreement between spouses going into the marriage. Every marriage goes through testing times, times when you feel it is not worth it or when you feel you should just walk away. But the covenantal aspect of marriage helps to bring you back to your senses and gives you the impetus to carry on.
The above definition captures the essence of marriage, but the rate at which young marriages are collapsing is making me to wonder if intending couples should not ponder and answer this question, “what does marriage mean to you?” before going ahead. That way, both parties’ understanding of marriage will be clear and rhyme. The marriages of at least three couples with whom we are familiar have crumbled in the last couple of few weeks. The usual refrain after the announcement is for their privacy to be respected. This column is meant to promote the marriage institution, not breakups. I have no interest in promoting marriages that failed. I do not even have interest in mentioning your names. Young marriages fail everywhere.
The family is the bedrock of any society. The best way to destroy a society is to destroy the family unit. So my interest is how to promote the marriage institution and by extension the family unit and reduce the number of failed marriages.
For me, the main reason why young marriages fail is lack of proper courtship. “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 I love so much is “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. In the first definition knowing each other means knowing your core values (character), your assets and liabilities (areas where are good and areas where you have drawbacks); it means friendship (soul mates and a strong bond. It means if you take sex out of the courtship, you will continue to flow together). The truth of the matter remains that sex during courtship blurs the vision of the courting couple. They gloss over fundamental issues to which they should pay attention.
Latitude of acceptance (both parties must know what is acceptable and what is taboo to each other and stay within boundaries). You should know each other’s family. Courtship is not a hide and seek affair. You must know each other’s family as much as possible. For instance, if you visit your fiancée and you notice your mother-in-law to be is bossing her husband around, you should ask yourself if that will not be your fate later? What does your fiancée think about it? If her mother’s behaviour sits well with her, you risk marrying a woman who will boss you around. The question is, are you ready to take that until you die? If yes, no problem, but if not, you need to reevaluate the relationship.
Also, if your fiancé’s father maltreats his mother and he sees nothing wrong with it, maltreatment might be your portion if you go ahead to marry him. You need to evaluate the relationship.
Beyond knowing each other’s family, I will get involved in my children’s courtship. I have no intention of intruding in their privacy, but I intend to interact with my potential sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. From my experience, I can get a trailer-load of information to advise my children. They will take the decision, but I will be an adviser. I also intend to pursue the age-old tradition of knowing the family of your potential in-law. You might see things that your son/daughter’s immature eyes did not or cannot see.
All these measures and many more are just to increase the chances of the success of your marriage. Even if you have information that can fill a book of 1,000 pages, there are still no guarantees. Changes occur after marriage and as the marriage goes on. Some of these changes are fortuitous while others are caused by situations or outright mischief.
Pregnancy, for instance, can bring about changes. Some women suffer from morning sickness. They vomit frequently and spit per second. If you are a man who loves kissing your wife regularly to show love, that can become a challenge. Some pregnant women switch off sex. It can be challenging for some husbands. My advice is, adjust and learn to deal with it. Even animals control their urges. Going outside to satisfy your urge is insensitive and selfish. It should not be an option. You are responsible for her situation and she’s carrying your baby. Unsatisfied sexual urge does not kill. It is only momentary. To be continued.
Last week, I wrote about the widow, who was paraded naked in Agunese Afam-Mmaku Community in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu. According to GWG.NG, the victim, named Anthonia Okonkwo, narrated how she was brutalised for an offence that she did not commit. She alleged that the people who spearheaded the attack are: “Sunday, Jonathan, Obi, Chigazu and Okechukwu… Others are Chukwudike Anikene, Chukwuebuka Agu, one Maduabuchi and his father as well as a girl who videotaped her during the attack.” The report said seven people have been arrested. The matter should be thoroughly investigated and those found guilty should be punished to serve as a deterrent to others, who carry out such abominable acts. I commend Prof. Joy Ezeilo and her team who visited the widow. I urge her and her team to follow up this matter until justice is done. Creating a just society is everyone’s task.