The Insight by Lateef Adewole
In recent times, I have had cause to intervene in the marriages of a few friends. It happened that there had been some issues brewing underneath for so long but they had tried to manage it. The incidents prompted my resolve to write this as a personal opinion, from which few lessons might be learnt by people who are currently married or many who are planning to do so or go into it in the future.
By the way, I am also married to a lovely woman who many of my readers should know name by now (lol). Queen Latifah is my heartthrob. She has been a great wife in our many years of marriage. I might say she is the one who has made the union more solid for her patience with me and my inadequacies, and for her sacrifices. Thank you, My Love!
Many will wonder if I could eulogise my wife like this in my marriage, it must have been all bliss. Why then will I choose the kind of “unpleasant” title for this article about marriage when I could have chosen from many other beautiful ones? This is simply what many called “tradition of brutality in expressing my opinion”. I have been challenged many times on the reason why I am always too “frank” in my commentaries on issues, especially as they affect human life.
The truth is that, I don’t believe in “papering the cracks”. In my opinion, applying diplomacy is good in many human endeavours but it’s often a disguise for “not telling the real truth”. And this is what many prefer. We, as humans, do not like truths which are usually bitter, especially when we are at the receiving end. Unfortunately, I am not one to; “fi eko tanna fun eniyan” (deceive others when I am supposed to tell them the truth, even if it hurts). By that, we can all be set free!
Marriage is a very important institution. It is one that defines many people. It can either make or mar them. It also has great bearing on all other endeavours that someone in marriage is involved. If there is one undertaking that could completely alter the course of someone’s life’s path, it’s marriage. We have seen numerous people who were seen in a particular light, whether positive or negative, before they got married, but drastically changed in the reversed after. Likewise, many could get better or worse in their previous ways before marriage. It’s a life-defining institution.
According to the dictionary, marriage can be defined as “the legally or formally recognised union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman)”. With all kinds of union being referred to as marriages nowadays, this article is considering the one between male and female who are mature and fit for marriage.
There is this saying that “the tiniest cuff is the “marriage-vow ring” used as representative of the commitment between a man and the woman. This symbolism is peculiar to “some” christian marriages, though, many muslims now copy that tradition as well. That is non-existent in our traditional marriages. An “handcuff” is a metal restraining device designed to secure an individual’s wrists in proximity to each other” (Wikipedia). It is used on people to prevent them from “escaping”, like imprisonment.
Why then will I compare such a beautiful institution like marriage to an “imprisonment”? The truth is, I used the word metaphorically. Readers will get to understand later in the article.
Marriage is the only school where people get their certificates before entering the institution. In there, it is only the “matriculation” (wedding) day that exists, there is no “graduation” day. Marriage partners continue in their schooling and education, undertake countless assignments as individuals and as a couple, have numerous tests and examinations, pass many, fail in others, make corrections and the cycle continues, till death do them part. Ceteris paribus (all other things being equal).
In my personal assessment, not scientifically backed, I found out that if there are no constraints, conditions, and other inconveniences like religious obligations, if many married people are asked anonymously if they will like to exit the marriages they are currently in, over 80 percent (to be conservative) will opt for the option of exit. This is a very bitter truth that we all wouldn’t like to hear, acknowledge or accept.
However in the heart of heart of many, they know it’s the truth but would rather disagree “openly” for fear of retribution. Why then is it so if it’s true? It’s because, marriage is a seriously burdensome endless project. It demands so much from individuals involved, many of what we wouldn’t ordinarily want to do. It’s a lifetime of unending sacrifices. Once you are in and want it to work out, you will have to accept the “lifelong imprisonment”. Meaning, lack of personal freedom to do as one wishes without care.
Many times we hear or see couples who celebrate decades of their marriages. In the light of what I described above, one can wonder how such couples survived that long? Yes, it’s serious work and they will have too many stories to tell. It’s not all gloom being in marriage. It’s in fact, the best thing that could happen to anyone if gotten right. This then is the desire of many existing or would-be couples. How then can one make this happen?
Like a house to be built, the first most critical part is the foundation. On what foundation should prospective couples build their marriages? For religious people, what they will consider is God. Based on their faith, they believe anything entrusted with God can never go wrong. However, this doesn’t end at that since ‘faith without work is dead.’ After trusting God, humans must work hard to make their marriages work.
In many cultures, going into marriage involves many processes and sometimes could be complicated. There are some where girls are married off or boys married for, without their consent. The couple will be complete strangers to each other, not to talk of any existing affinity and love. How can any marriage survive such? This is a common practice in Africa, Asia and Arabian countries. One might think this will only be rampant among the uneducated or poor people. That’s incorrect. In fact, it is a common practice among many rich families where children are sent into marriages to cement long existing relationship between two friends (fathers or mothers), or between families. It’s often seen as a way to strengthen their bonds for greater power, wealth or influence. Unfortunately, this could be detrimental to the “forced” couple. This has led to numerous divorces and deaths.
It’s critical for people who intend to go into marriage to do so, based solely on their interest in the other person. The children should be allowed to make their choices of partners by themselves. Being in marriage is enough work, not to add “lovelessness” to it. Prospective couples should get to know each other to a large extent, as far as permissible. They should establish “friendship” before “love-ship” (my coinage). This is important as it buttresses what the Yorubas say that “sunmoni laa mo se eni” (it’s in closeness that we get to know others’ characters). This is made possible during courtship. They should try and find out as much as possible about each other to be sure that’s who they want.
However, it should be noted that it’s almost impossible to know all the characters of another person until they are fully in marriage and have lived together for a long time. It’s something that unfolds on daily basis. As people go into marriage, they should acknowledge the fact that, human beings are unique and imperfect. No one should expect perfection from another human being. That’s impossible. Creating such psychological buffer will make it easier to accept the warts of the other person for the sake of making the marriage to work.
That is why no one should allow themselves to be rushed or pressured into marriage. Our society, especially in Africa, now see marriage as an achievement, especially for women, a notion I largely disagree with. By this, many young people are taken to be “unfit” for some positions if they are unmarried. Marriage is used to gauge people’s success. How could that be? While I understand that anyone who could manage their marriage effectively could manage many things successfully too, it cannot be singled out as the only most important criteria. So, people should never go into marriage because of any pressure.
There is also the; “following the Jones” syndrome. Like the above, people want to get married just because all their mates are married or getting married. They could become desperate due to this and end up with the wrong partner. No one should do this. Society should also give unmarried persons some breathers. Marriage is not the sole purpose of being alive.
To make a marriage work, couples should brace themselves for many things. One, it should be built on faithfulness and trust. Like mentioned earlier, no one is perfect and no one should expect perfection from the other person. Nothing destroys marriage more than suspicion. And women are more guilty of this. Many wives continually suspect their husbands of unfaithfulness. They become “monitoring spirits”, watching their husbands like hawks. Some men do the same to their wives too.
They search their phones, pockets, bags, monitor their movements, what they do, who they talk to, their social media accounts like Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, all in a bid to “catch them red-handed” (lol). I am not saying this is entirely bad or wrong but wisdom should prevail. What I am saying is that such actions could breed mistrust and drive the other partner to actually do what he or she is suspected of doing, even when that has not been the case all along.
They could be stepping out of line one way not another. Where such “misadventures” happen, the offended partner needs to be patient. Starting a “war” with the other person will not automatically make him or her stop. Sincerely, men are more guilty in this regards. With patience from the other party, the straying person could be pulled back. Fighting dirty could push the guilty party further away.
Patience remains a vital ingredient to sustain a marriage. Tolerating the other person’s excesses requires huge patience. Women are more guilty in this case. It is far easier for a man to be satisfied but an herculean task to meet a woman’s needs. They will always exhibits these traits that will make the husband feel like the wife has become a “stranger” to him. Statements like “this is not the woman I married” becomes a sing-song for the husband.
I often admonish that in such circumstance, men must be extremely patient with their wives. It’s usually a phase, ephemeral. It will not last before they go back to “factory settings”, except of course, there are external forces driving her actions. I want to believe that no woman will deliberately punish the husband she married because she loves him. Same as men too.
This brings me to the point that couples should not allow third parties in their marriages. Someone might ask if this is possible. Well, in our culture, like many others, marriages happen between families, not just the man and woman. However, once the couple are joined in matrimony, family members should allow them to be. Undue interference from friends and family members should cease, be avoided and not be invited by the couple themselves. The cases of mothers-in-law interfering in their son’s or daughter’s marriage remains the commonest. Sincerely, it’s the most intricate to handle by the couple and should be delicately treated as such.
No marriage could give everything one desires, dreamed or fantasized about. But with contentment, “ohun ti ko to, o n bowa seku” (what is inadequate will eventually become surplus). Responsibility and authority are twin issues that can shake a marriage to its roots. Men have the responsibility to cater for their wives. They must satisfy them in all aspects, including sex, to the best of their ability. Women should accept the leadership of their husbands. There can’t be two captains in a ship.
Communication, just like in all human endeavours, tops the factors for a successful marriage. This (Communication) is defined as; “imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium” (Oxford dictionary). Many marriages crumble or embroidered with crisis due to poor communication, miscommunication or complete lack of it. There are two kinds of communication; verbal and non-verbal (popularly called “body language”).
Most men are open and expressive by nature. They speak out what they want from their wives. On the contrary, most women use non-verbal communications (body languages). It is then the duty of the men to learn how to decipher such signs by studying their wives intently and mastering the art of reading their minds. Why won’t marriage be called a school with all these in play? A very difficult school indeed.
It is advisable, especially to women, to be open with their needs from their husbands. It might be the nature of many women to be more conservative but that should not restrain them from talking to their husbands regarding their concerns and worries. Men are not “wizards” to always know what they are thinking. Men also should be patient, attentive and accommodating to the demands of their wives, no matter how “unreasonable” they may look like or they think of them. They should encourage and support their wives to be open and speak their minds. This will make it easier for them to help them.
No marriage could be perfect. This is a fact that couples should accept, but must continually work towards perfection. It takes perseverance to do so. Where children are involved, the couple should be mindful of abandoning their marriage by focusing all their attentions on the child(ren). The couple’s relationship with each other is far more important than with their kids. Women are more guilty in this case. Many could unconsciously transfer their love to their children, especially in the case of first child, while neglecting their husband’s needs.
One of the most daunting challenges in marriage is childlessness. When a couple faces such challenge, it takes strong bond, patience, and sacrifices to remain unwavering, especially on the part of the man, considering that it’s the woman who is “unfairly and erroneously” blamed most of the time. Usually, the husband’s family members put pressure on their daughter-in-law, even when there is no medical justification to substantiate such actions. I pray that the Almighty God will bless the union of such couples with great children.
Discussing marriage is not something that could be exhausted in one piece like this. It’s a life-long evolution. There are no two identical marriages since no two human beings can be the same. Human behaviour is unique to individuals, continuously evolving and so is marriage. No one should compare their marriage to other peoples’ marriages, especially in this era of social media where people flaunt only the good side of their lives but would never reveal the challenges they face. So many scenarios flooded my mind as I wrote this piece but I wouldn’t mention any. We all can recollect those we have seen either in real-life or on the social media.
May God continue to guide us aright, the people currently in marriages and those hoping to go into it. It’s not all a bed of roses, but a beautiful experience when it works and gotten right.
Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator. He can be reached by email [email protected] or via WhatsApp +2348020989095 and @lateef_adewole on Twitter, Lateef Adewole on Facebook