Last Monday was my 24th wedding anniversary. When I went into marriage 24 years ago, it was a mystery. Twenty-four years later, I am not close to unravelling the mystery called marriage. I have gained a lot experience as a participant, a counsellor and an observer, but I remain a student. That is why I am quick to correct anyone who calls me a marriage expert. I acknowledge that I have accumulated a body of knowledge on marriage, but I remain a learner.
Marriage is not an institution where you pound your chest that you have mastered the art. It is an endless sea of water. I see marriage the way I see surfing. Your knowledge of the art and commitment are crucial, but there are other factors outside your control for its success. When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant with the child Jesus, the marriage was effectively over, but for God’s intervention. I sincerely believe in the God factor in the sustenance of marriage. But there are atheist whose marriages lasted for decades till one spouse died, how did such marriages endure? I do not know. But I know that the God factor has helped to keep my marriage alive.
Also, no single spouse can pound his/her chest for the success of his/her marriage because only one spouse cannot make a marriage work, no matter how good he/she is. I met a woman who went into marriage with a firm resolve to make it work. She did everything possible to make her marriage work, but it failed. If your spouse wants out, the marriage is as good as over. That is why everyone whose marriage is still on should stay humble. You are only one of the contributory factors; you are not all in all. You cannot look down on others whose marriages failed. Even if you are an atheist, you must acknowledge the contribution of your spouse. Without his/her continuous consent, there will be no marriage. When a 99 year old Italian man filed for divorce of his 96-year-old wife of 77 years, the marriage ended. The wife had an affair over 60 years before, but the man only stumbled on the evidence at that time. When he confronted her, she owned up to the affair. Swiftly, the man filed for divorce.
In 1998 the 38 years marriage of Frederik Willem de Klerk (last President of apartheid-era South Africa) to his wife, Marike de Klerk, collapsed due to his infidelity. But former US President, Bill Clinton, committed the same adultery, and his wife, Hilary Clinton, forgave him and the marriage lives on till date. I am just trying to drive home the point that some factors that are responsible for your continued married status are beyond you. Clinton was lucky to escape. Notwithstanding, infidelity remains a major reason for marital breakups.
Money is another major reason why marriages breakup. These days, many girls say on social media that they cannot be in a relationship with a broke man. Money is crucial in marriage, but it is not all in all. The marriage of Bill Gates and Melinda Gates broke up after 27 years together. The same thing happened to Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos after 25 years of marriage. Both men were at different times the richest men in the world. Yet money did not save their marriages. Marriage is a wonderful institution created by God. I cherish it and at the same time look at it with suspicion and trepidation. It can be so slippery. You have to be permanently on the alert. Inertia can lead to doom.
Time has flown by in the last 24 years. It makes me to ask if we have actually lived together for 24 years. Facts do not lie. My first generation of children are in their 20s. They were born after marriage, so we are 24 years old in marriage.
I see marriage as two sides of a coin. The people going into it are good, bad and ugly. They bring all these traits into marriage. A marriage where one or both spouses are totally good is utopian. Such marriages do not exist. Even if they did, I am not sure I will be interested. Conflicts and the unexpected are parts of life and by extension marriage. What is important are mechanisms to resolve conflicts and weather the storm. For me, during conflicts, do not overstep boundaries: I have seen spouses call their other half fool, idiot, agbaya, mumu, short devil and other acidic words. Somehow, they resolve their differences and life goes on. But I am not sure my marriage would endure such acidic words. My wife and I are two strongly opinionated people, so disagreements are inevitable, but knowing each other’s sensitivity, we are careful, but hurtful words, not abuses, do “leak out” sometimes. I know I have said to myself (I dare not say it out because it would make reconciliation more difficult): “wetin sef? Anywhere cloth like, make e tear (let whatever wants to happen, happen). But even as I say it inwardly, I add, “God, na joke I dey o! Forgive me o!”
I do not belong to the school that makes rules that the sun must not set or dawn meets an unresolved disagreement. I am not mechanical. I dey vex my vex complete, then I carry eraser clean am. Married people should not take critical decisions in the heat of anger. Decisions taken in the heat of anger have ended some marriages. Even when there was window to remedy the situation, pride stood in the way. Sometimes pride for spouse when don see you finish nor make sense to me.
While growing up, one of the sayings my mother used to mold us was: “you see, in this life if you look in only one direction, your neck will become stiff, so look in all directions.” This has been very useful to me in marriage and in life generally. If you remember only the good things done for you, you are “eserinone (Someone who remembers only today’s good deeds). My wife does get on my nerves and drives me up the wall sometimes (and vice versa). But I never forget that she has stuck to me through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. I read the story of a marriage which broke up recently. The woman’s only reason was that she was tired of the marriage. I went through the same health challenges as her husband and my wife was a rock all through. When I remember her steadfastness, her faith even when I lost faith and thought I would not pull through, letting go becomes easy. I am not perfect, so I expect no perfection from my wife.
But I still believe forgiveness by spouses should not be taken for granted. Do not cross the red line. That is taking your luck too far. After 24 years, we know the no go areas. They should not be crossed. But every wrongdoing cannot be sacrilege. That is why your core values should be well spelt out at the beginning and in the course of the marriage.
The last 24 years of marriage have had their share of challenges, but they have been wonderful and fulfilling years. My wife is not perfect, but she is not tradable. Happy 24th wedding anniversary, Peacock.