By Francis Ewherido
We live at a time and in a country where time-honoured clichés and sayings are being partly or totally debunked. For example, “the patient dog eats the fattest bone,” but many a time in Nigeria the patient dog meets an empty plate. At a seminar in a foremost hotel in Abuja, lunch was a buffet and participants were going table by table. My table was among the last and when I saw some people from my table shunting, I was disappointed, but by the time we got there, I understood why.
There was no fish, chicken or meat left to eat the rice and ogbono, the only soup left, had no fish or meat. Those of us who were very hungry ate “without,” while the angry ones stormed out. The people who got there first ate more than their due.
We have also heard times without number that marriage is not a bed of roses, meaning marriage is not like a hot knife going through butter; it comes with hiccups, sometimes hurricanes and earthquakes. The only people whose marriages are “all-rosy” are hypocrites.
Even those with “God-given” spouses sometimes wonder or doubt like Hosea did about his serially-adulteress wife, Gomer, whom God personally instructed him to marry; the fact that it was a metaphor for the Israelites infidelity to God notwithstanding( Hosea 1: 2-3). Some price to pay by an individual for a nation’s sins.
But going by the nature of rose, I feel that marriage is actually a bed of roses. Try making a bed with roses and you will find that it is as comfortable as it is uncomfortable, depending on your dexterity. That is because the sweet-smelling and sensuous rose also has prickles long and big enough to inflict maximum damage.
Unfortunately, in marriage a bed of roses is not even an entirely as-you-make-your-bed-so-you-lie-on-it affair. That is because you are not the only one making the bed, your spouse is a co-bed maker. So the “you” in the as-you-make-your-bed-so-you-lie-on-it refers to the “you” in the second person plural, not singular. That brings us to one of the major challenges of marriage:
No matter how good you are, you alone cannot make your marriage work, there must be input from your spouse, no matter how negligible. Even many of the one-sided marriages with very tough spouses towering over the marital space have inputs from their cowered spouses. If not, how come they produce children? Certainly, the toughies are not raping their spouses.
When I remember what one professor said, I even doubt the toughness of men, particularly, where women are concerned, once they retire into the inner recesses of their homes. Prof said once a man gets an erection, his brain goes on recess. Looking at the very foolish and naïve acts of great and ordinary men over time and across all aspects of life, I agree with prof.
So both spouses must come to some kind of agreement on how to make their bed. A successful marriage is therefore using roses to make your bed and arranging them in such a way that the bed is comfortable, but with the occasional inevitable prickling. That is what we try to teach participants in preparatory marriage classes. But even before getting to the stage of jointly making a bed, each party should be physically, psychologically and emotionally mature. Each party should also be self-assured and comfortable with himself/herself.
In other words, there should be self-mastery and victory over self, because as Stephen Covey rightly observed, “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 (immature and insecure) people went into an interdependent relationship that a marriage is.
When you deal with an insecure spouse, an immature spouse, a hypocritical spouse, a spouse who does not see beyond his/her nose and cannot see the big picture, yours is a prickly bed of roses and you have got work on your hands. That seems to be the lot of one of my readers right now. Sometime ago, I wrote that in marriage, expect change from only one party and that party is you.
This is because change comes from within, so you can only change yourself; you change to cope with your spouse. Fred (not his real name) is older than his wife by a decade. He says his wife wants them to do things the way he did them 10 years ago. He has made his mistakes and learnt from them and he is not about to be put in reverse gear. What should he do, since I said only he should change.
Let us stand on the assumption that his story is true; my statement then did not mean you should change and become a “lesser” being. A husband is a leader and one great leadership quality is that you must leave your followers (spouse, in this case) better than when you met them. The wife is only acting her age and needs time and patience to upgrade.
People follow a real leader not out of compulsion but because they buy into his vision and appropriate it as theirs. Fred has not adequately sold his “superior thinking” to his wife. That is my assumption. So, change must first come from him before his wife and I am sure that as long as the wife is a regular human being, it will come to pass.
“A rose is a woody perennial flowering plant …that are often armed with sharp prickles” (Wikipedia). A rose is “any of the wild or cultivated, usually prickly-stemmed, pinnate-leaved, showy-flowered shrubs of the genus Rosa (Dictionary).” Many definitions of rose you come across have “prickles” or “Prickly.” For me, marriage is a bed of roses, sweet, sensuous and alluring, but the prickles are never far away and can easily become the dominant paradigm. Warri-ly speaking, marriage na bed of roses, shukushuku plenty. The NOT in “marriage is not a bed of roses” is therefore superfluous.