Today is my wedding anniversary. It was at this time 22 years ago that my wife and I exchanged marital vows in church before the priests and people of God. We had done our civil and traditional ceremonies earlier.
Twenty two years later, what have I learnt about marriage as a husband, counsellor and just observing other people’s marriages? One, I still believe that the greatest gift a spouse can give his/her other half is peace of mind. Proverbs 21:9 – “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Proverbs 21:19 – “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” Substitute “wife” in the quotes with spouse because it can either be the wife or husband. When you meet people in hellish marriages, you thank God and your spouse for the peace you enjoy in yours. A hellish marriage breeds instability in the life of the spouse in addition to disorientation, health challenges and ultimately premature death.
Two, you have heard that marriage is the only school where you never graduate. That is very true. No matter how much you know, no matter how much you have learnt, no matter how much you apply what you know and learn, there is still so much to learn, so much you still do not know.
Three, you alone cannot make your marriage work. That is why you need to carry your spouse along. You require at least two fingers to remove lice from your hair. That is marriage for you. The home cannot truly be happy if one spouse is miserable. But each spouse must also strive to find happiness and contentment within and manifest it in the marriage. Stephen Covey preached that there should be self-mastery and victory over self, because ‘private victories must precede public victories’ and only independent people should go into marriage because ‘interdependence is a decision only independent people can make.’ The trouble with many marriages today is that dependent people go into the interdependent relationship that a marriage is. Such dependent spouses are a drawback on marriages. They feel that their happiness solely depends on their spouses and that is a big problem.
Four, we have all heard over and over the importance of communication in marriage and it has become a cliché, something we gloss over. Please do not take communication in marriage for granted. As long as couples talk and talk sensibly, there is no problem they cannot surmount in the marriage.
Five, do not look at marriage like an unmotivated employee who is fixated on the office clock every day. He is waiting for five o’clock, so that he can close and go home. Marriage is meant to be enjoyed not endured. Your m arriage has a life of its own, nourish it, but do not be fixated on it, and it will just run on its own. I have been with my wife since January 1998, courtship inclusive, but time has flown by without my realizing it. Some marriages look like a burden, marriage is a gift from God (at least that is God’s intention), not a burden.
Six, marriage is like surfing. Every married person has to be a good surfer, if not you will sink. Marriage has different times and seasons, you need to master the skills for all seasons, just as surfers need different surfing skills for different situations.
Seven, marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. If you do not already know, study how marathoners run their race: the timing, sequencing, mental strength and enduring spirit
Eight, there is nothing wrong with disagreement or even occasional quarrels in marriage. But be in firm control of your tongue; it has the power of life and death. There is nothing wrong in being angry, but do not allow your anger to lead to sin. Also, do not stay angry all day (Ephesians 4:26). If disagreement and quarrels are well handled, the marriage comes out better and stronger. Stick to issues and resolve them. Do not import past incidents into the issue at hand. No abusive language. In our twenty two years together, not once have we abused each other.
Disagreements and quarrels, yes, but no abuses. Some spouses avoid quarrels and disagreements and end up being frustrated. Some marriages have died in the process. Disagreements and quarrels do not scare me. I only choose my battles carefully based on my core values. I told my wife long ago that “the day I stop talking when I need to, two things will happen: either the marriage will die or I will die of frustration. So, let me talk.” Some couples quarrel over every issue. You cannot throw stones at every dog that barks at you, lest you lose focus and derail. I stick to only fundamental issues and ignore inconsequential issues.
Nine, there are moments of madness in virtually every marriage; that point when both spouses lose their heads and say, “wetin sef, anywhere cloth like, make e tear.” This moment should be rare and not last long before it becomes status of the marriage. A couple lived separate lives for over a decade under the same roof. They did not talk to each other. They stayed in different bedrooms, the wife never cooked for the husband. But when the man was on his deathbed, the wife was by his bedside until he gave up the ghost. Now the wife and the children are enjoying the man’s money. You be the judge.
Ten, everyone is familiar with the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation, patience and tolerance. No long story here, just put them to practice. We spoke about cage wrestling mentality to marriage last week, nothing to add today. We also talked about being in your spouse’s life. This has helped my marriage. Try it if you have not been doing that.
Eleven, you need to know and understand your spouse thoroughly. Knowledge is power. If you know and understand your spouse, it helps in living more harmoniously. You might not agree with what he/she is doing or saying, but you understand why he/she is doing it and it helps you to deal with it. You know where she is coming from, you understand her point of view, even though you do not agree with it. Ignorance is a disease. Rid your relationship with your spouse of ignorance.
After over 22 years together, what is my impression of marriage? Marriage is beautiful. I have peace of mind. My love for my wife remains not only intact, but has in fact grown. I remain committed and devoted to her. I am still working to understand her more. I have changed to accommodate her and make the marriage smoother. I look forward to a happier future with her. Happy wedding anniversary, my peacock. Like me, you are also imperfect, but “my soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my saviour” for giving you to me.