By Francis Ewherido
Ruth is in a rude shock. She is bemoaning the fortune that came to them and “tore” her and her husband apart. Ruth, her husband, Gerald and four children, two boys and two girls, “were living happily in a three-bedroom flat where we cramped ourselves. Male visitors stayed in the boys’ room while female guests stayed with my daughters.”
“Then my husband got promoted to the top management cadre and that came with many goodies, including a mortgage and enough money to build our own house. Naturally the family was happy. When I saw the plan for the new house, a five-bedroom, I just felt the house was meant to match our new status, or maybe I was carried away by the presence of a swimming pool. I did not pay attention to, or ask questions about, who the extra room upstairs was meant for.
“The real shocker was to come when we moved in and my husband told me that we were now to sleep in separate rooms. That there is a connecting door between our rooms is not enough consolation. We have been in our new house for some time now and I yearn for our former three-bedroom flat where I could snuggle up to my husband without travelling to his room.”
Anger and pain are your initial feelings when you hear Ruth’s story, but as you know, you can never do a thorough job in counseling and adjudication until you hear all sides of the story. Hear Gerald: “I was a very happy husband before the advent of GSM. I had my wife all to myself. But since about 2003, I have been sharing my wife with her phone. The arrival of iPad, iPhone and other gadgets worsened my situation. My wife brings these gadgets to bed. She can be on the phone till midnight, doing meaningless talk with her siblings or friends. She can play games into the next day. I complained and complained, but it fell on deaf ears.
“If I cannot have my wife, let me at least have my sleep so that I can be fresh for next day’s work, but my wife did not care; she was too addicted to her gadgets. I conceded defeat to her gadgets. But when the opportunity to build a house came, I made it five bedrooms so that she can have peace with her second husband, (or is it first husband self?) while I have my own peace. There is an interconnecting door to our rooms and it’s open all the time. The only proviso is that she should not bring her other husband to my room.”
Ruth accepted that she brings gadgets to bed and Gerald had consistently expressed his displeasure about this. I told her point blank she is the one destroying her marriage. When you vowed to “forsake all others” during your exchange of marital vows, you were not referring to men or women alone. It means anything that comes between you and your spouse; anything that takes the place of your spouse in your life, including work and habits, as in Ruth’s case.
It is a pretty straight matter
really. Gerald has thrown down the gauntlet: “Choose between me and your gadgets.” Ruth must get her priorities right. Gerald is at work much of the day and Ruth can fiddle with her gadgets all that time, if she has nothing better to do with her life, but she must now learn to keep those gadgets away once Gerald gets back, especially now that all the children are in school and they are home alone except during holidays.
Come to think of it, there are many couples who have separate rooms, but have happy marriages. When both or any spouse wants his/her space, he/she gets it. When they need to be together, they do just that. Whether or not a couple should share a room or have separate rooms is like whether couples should have joint or separate accounts. As long as there is openness and accessibility, whether they have common or separate rooms is inconsequential. There is a couple who has separate rooms, but the wife virtually lives in the husband’s room. Her room has become a huge wardrobe for her extensive collection of clothes, shoes and accessories.
My other problem with Ruth is her addiction to phones and gadgets. I generally have issues with unproductive addictions. Yes, there are productive and unproductive addictions; not that I am encouraging any form of addiction, but the truth is that there is a difference between bad and worse. I think Ruth should also ask herself whether this good life that she is now enjoying is sustainable if suddenly Gerald is out of the scene.
Nobody prays for widowhood, but it does happen. I think it is a possibility every married woman should think about once in a while. Every active person should be engaged in economic activity. I am against women being fulltime housewives, especially when it is permanent. But I am okay with taking some time off to sort out the home front, especially in the early stages of the children’s lives.
Finally, there are some circumstances in marriage that courtship does not prepare you for. We normally encourage courtships to enable would-be couples know themselves better. But no matter how long the courtship lasts, even if you decide to put your cart before your horse by being live-in partners, there are things you will never know about your spouse prior to marriage. In the case of Gerald, they got married in the 90s when there were no mobile phones, iPhone and the other gadgets. So he could not have anticipated this addiction.
Unfortunately these post-wedding manifestations are the killers of many marriages. Many spouses just do not know how to handle them. Those with open minds (small security prison inmates) adjust, but uptight and closed minds (maximum security prison inmates) struggle. Empathic communication, openness to change, accommodation, patience and love do help. After all, they say love conquers all. Just remember at all times to act in love.