Is the number 6 or 9? Do not rush to answer the question. There are some variables involved. From where are you looking at the number? What is your mind-set? These will determine whether it is 6 or 9. Even if from your position you see 6, you must also realise that if you were looking at the figure from the opposite direction, it would be 9. This ability is called empathy, seeing things from the point of view of others, even if you do not agree with them. It is the absence of empathy that is tearing many marriages to shreds today.
On Wednesday, I saw a video of a popular couple arguing in the bathroom (what is a camera doing in the bathroom of a married couple?). I am not sure if it is real or a stunt to get publicity and trend. They are actors, so anything is possible. But the issues in the video are common in many marriages, so that is our interest today. The husband said the wife made a mistake but refused to own up to her mistake. The wife, on the other hand, could not see any mistake she had made that she should own up to. The argument degenerated into threats that we shall come to shortly. But I can see two scenarios. One, the man was seeing 6 from his position, while the woman was seeing 9 from her position. If you are dealing with facts, it is easy to adjudicate on such arguments. White is white and black is black; no arguments.
But when the argument is based on opinions and perspectives, it is difficult. Long ago, I was in the UK for my youngest brother’s graduation. After the graduation, there was a get-together. In the course of the interaction, his school mate, a young lady told me: “Francis, don’t be silly.” From the corner of my eyes, I saw my brother recoil in shock. In the family, where we grew up, you cannot tell an older person “don’t be silly.” But I understood these were oyibo children and simply took it in my strides. Imagine that we were in a marriage where the only perspective I understood was, you must show maximum respect to your husband, I would have considered her utterance disrespectful and there could have been mayhem. But what happened here? I empathised. I understood that in her culture, it is not out of place to say, “don’t be silly, dad.” In one sentence, I saw 6, but also empathised to know that she was seeing 9.
However, I also know that some spouses would rather die or tell lies than accept the fact that they are wrong. How can white be called black? But this is not unusual in some marriages. The other spouse just has to see it as one of the crosses he/she must bear and live with it? Or do you want to make your home a war zone or end your marriage? There are husbands and wives who would never accept that they are wrong and never apologise. It is very irritating, but that is what it is. May be they would turn a new leaf someday, which would be wonderful, but do not bank on it. Long ago, I said in an article on this column: in marriage that only one spouse changes. That spouse is you. It is within your power to change, but you cannot change your spouse. It is his/her decision to make. If in doubt, ask those who have been married for 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years.
I also heard the husband telling the wife that this was not the plan at the beginning. In other words, the wife shifted the goalpost after the football match had started. He did not disclose the plan they had. It suffices to say that shifting the goalpost is one of the reasons for problems and collapse of many marriages. My wife and I were sponsors of Mr. and Mrs. Onoriode Barovbe when they got married last Saturday. During the exchange of wedding vows, I listened carefully as if I was the one exchanging the vows: “So that you may assume the duties of marriage in mutual and lasting fidelity.” “Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?” “I promise to be true to you in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, I will love you and honour you all the days of my life.” “What God has joined, men must not divide.” Now compare the vows and what obtains in marriages. Why will marriages not be troubled or breakup when the goalpost is shifted with impunity?
The other thing I noticed was the man threatening his wife. I do not know why spouses issue threats in marriage. It is not advisable. To a large extent, spouses, especially those who have been together for long, know each other so much that one spouse can bring down the other or they can bring down each other. Many years ago, a banker had a flourishing career. By age 30, he was already a senior manager. He had issues with the estranged wife and they could not reconcile their differences. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” She spilled the beans on him at his bank. He was sacked and a very promising career came crashing down like a pack of cards. Even if you decide to part ways as a couple, part in peace not pieces.
Finally, the husband threatened retaliation because the wife was doing a video that she intended to post online. True to her threat, the wife posted the video (the one in question) in retaliation for the video the husband posted earlier on the wife without her approval. So when will this retaliation end? Whether it is stage managed or real, my impression is that these people might be adults, but they are immature. They also do not understand the institution called matrimony.
I know that having a large followership on social media is now big business, but you cannot live your married life on social media. You better look for other contents to feed your followers. Marriage is a private matter and too many cooks certainly spoil the broth. Now followers are going to express varying opinions. Even unmarried people would want to give us lectures on marriage. I said it some time ago, but some unmarried people did not like it: I reiterate, marriage is not theory, it is practical.
Once, they brought a menu card to me in London. I was happy to see jollof rice in the menu and I ordered it. Just one spoonful and I abandoned it. This was not a case of Nigerian jollof or Ghana jollof competition. It tasted anything but jollof rice. I later found out it was prepared by a Caribbean chef. Have you not eaten meals that tasted blank but when they were being prepared, the aroma filled everywhere. That a meal smells fine does not mean it will also taste fine. You have to eat it to know. That is why marriage is a lived experience.