By Francis Ewherido
Perhaps 50 years ago, it would have been awkward and superfluous to ask this question. In the late 60s through the 70s and earlier part of the 80s, marriage was seen as what a man and a woman go into for the rest of their lives; it was very odd to hear of separation and divorce.
In fact, it was normal for a woman to be unmarried than to be a divorcee. But I must also add that troubled marriages were all around as I grew up.
In those days too the only meaning of gay I knew was happiness. I cannot recall gay being associated with homosexuality as a synonym. Today homosexuality comes tops when searching for synonyms of gay. These and other factors prompted me to pose this question today; what does marriage mean to you? I am sure if everybody is to answer there will be varied answers as there are varied human beings and personalities.
So I am just going to answer the question from my perspective What is marriage? Marriage to me is”the matrimonial covenant between a man and a woman for life, (which) by its nature (is) ordered towards the good of spouses and the procreation and education of offspring…”( The Catechism of the Catholic Church).
Marriage is a partnership for life… “And God said, ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. Man must not separate then what God has joined together.” (Mathew 19:5-6). It is not easy to separate what has been merged. I was actively involved in the merger of Fidelity Bank, FSB International Bank and Manny Bank. Today the initial blurred dividing lines between those three banks have evaporated. All we know today is Fidelity bank. If those three banks were to revert to their pre-merger status, I do not even want to contemplate the mess and chaos it will create.
Marriage is also a covenant. A covenant is a binding agreement between or among the parties going into it. Marriage as a covenant binds the spouses forever; it is an irrevocable commitment only death can annul. This covenant is likened to the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church as St. Paul teaches the early Christian community at Ephesus in the First Century (Ephesians 5:21-33). In addition, because marriage as a covenant it involves sacrifice, and sacrifice involves death. Death in this case is death to self (putting the other person and his/her interests before yours or subsuming your interests …). Sacrifice requires you to give up something, hence King David said: “I will not offer sacrifice to the Lord, my God which will cost me nothing.”(1 Chronicle 21:24; 2Samuel 24:24).
Marriage cannot be successful if you go into it with your whole self without putting to death some aspects that might be unhealthy… and invariably endanger its success.
A person who goes into marriage with whole self is selfish, and selfishness does not cohabit with successful marriages. Making sacrifice is not about your spouse only; it also includes your children; that is if you want them to turn out well.
You think it is convenient for Barrack Obama to leave his busy schedule to attend his daughter’s school game? In the mid-90s I accompanied my boss to his children’s school’s end-of-year activities. There I met so many movers and shakers of corporate Nigeria, men you normally see regularly only in the media. Was their presence convenient for them? I guess not; they had to make sacrifices to be there for their children.
Marriage and family are delicate and tricky issues. Like Rome there are many ways to a fulfilling marriage and happy family life. I do not claim to know all or have all the answers. Every marriage is a work in progress.
That is why the marriage institution has not produced a single graduate since its establishment in the Garden of Eden. You enter and exit a student. It is one institution where you cannot be too relaxed or take things for granted lest you fail. Sometime ago, a 99-year old Italian man filed for divorce of his 97 years old wife of 77 years. Reason: The wife had an affair over 60 years ago, but the man just stumbled on the evidence (letters from the lover boy).
Only God knows why she was still keeping those letters! When he confronted her, she owned up to the affair. Swiftly, the man filed for divorce. By the time the divorce is through, they will enter the Guinness book of records as the oldest couple to divorce and probably the oldest marriage to fall apart. Some record, you would say, but it brings to fore the delicate nature of marriage.
Al Gore’s (former Us Vice President under Bill Clinton) and his wife, Tipper Gore, separated after 40 years of marriage! 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 the former’s infidelity. Marriage reminds me of St. Paul’s admonition: whoever thinks he is standing firm had better be careful that he does not fall. (I Corinthians 10:12).
No happy or successful marriage happens by accident; it is the product of hardwork and conscious efforts.