By Francis Ewherido
We live in a free world, but virtually everybody is in one form of prison or the other. We are prisoners of nature and nurture. Nature refers to all of the genes and hereditary factors that influence who we are, while nurture refers to all the environmental factors that influence who we are. Nature is inherited from our parents, while nurture is environmental.
Everybody is a combination of nature and nurture; in fact every living thing is a combination of nature and nature. Scientists are still not in agreement on which is dominant in humans between nature and nurture. But we know for a fact, for instance, that nature is dominant in cobras.
That is why the first assignment of a newly-hatched cobra is to kill and eat. It is all natural and has nothing to do with nurture. That is also why it is risky having cobras as pets.
There are many types of prisons, but we shall make do with three: small security prison, medium security prison and maximum security prison, so named because of the level of security and the kind of inmates they keep there.
In our so called free world, people in small security prisons are those who though influenced by nature embrace environmental influences and are ready to see and accommodate the views of others around them; they are open-minded. In other words, they are welcoming of nurture and change. Those in medium security prisons are also pliable, but not as open-minded and receptive to change as those in small security prisons.
Those in maximum security prisons are in a world of their own. The security is tight and their prison walls are so high they only see the immediate world around them. They are close-minded and scarcely see beyond their noses. Here nature reigns high and only compliant nurture sees the light of the day. They are always inward-looking and resistant to change. Somehow, we fit into one of these categories.
Many marriages are troubled today or have broken down because the couples are “inmates” of different prisons and are unable to resolve the emanating contradictions. For instance, the small security prison wife might find the maximum security husband myopic, overbearing, restrictive and self-centred.
There is nothing wrong with marrying somebody from another prison. Sometimes, the contrast actually helps both spouses in complementing each other’s strengths and making up for each other’s weaknesses. But it is important that you understand the mindset and characteristics of inmates from that prison.
It helps in having a happier marriage. It is like an Igbo woman who married an Urhobo man and became so fluent in not just the Urhobo language, but her husband’s dialect. I never knew the woman was Igbo until I met her siblings. If we accept language as a form of prison, you can see that the woman, though from another prison, has learnt to behave like inmates from her husband’s prison.
Courtship, it is generally agreed, is a necessity for would-be couples. It is a time to know your potential spouse and assess his/her suitability as a spouse. It is a time to ask tough questions and know more about his/her beliefs, core values, health status, family background, dreams and aspirations. It is also a time to know your potential spouse’s prison. If your prisons are different, you need to find out whether you can live with an inmate from his/her prison.
Rather than answer this crucial question, some would-be couples believe in getting married first and trying to change their spouses thereafter. I call that risky business; I do not share that genre of thought, as you would have found out by now in this column. I believe the kind of change you desire can only come from one party in marriage and that person is you; that is your salary.
In the event that your spouse changes to what you desire, that is a bonus, not an entitlement. Like an intelligent worker, make your plans and projections on your salary, not bonuses that are at the whims and caprices of others. As in business, you do your situation analysis before commencing marriage. Thereafter you do evaluation. It is comparatively easy for business partners to part ways. Parting ways in marriage is more difficult because marriage is covenantal and the emotions are higher; the more reason to look well before you leap.
But before going about knowing your potential spouse’s prison, do you even know and accept yours? Many of us live in self-denial. You can lie to others and get away with it, but when you also lie to yourself, you are courting failure and disaster. You must see and know yourself truly as you are; that ought to be the first assignment of anybody going into an interpersonal relationship because “private victories must precede public victories.”
Sometimes our prisons make us pass harsh judgments on others. Hence an organised spouse is labeled as rigid and a flexible spouse is dubbed unfocussed; a spouse who showers excessive love on the other half is either possessive or obsessed. When he/she gives the spouse space, he/she is aloof or uncaring. It all comes down to looking at our spouses from our prisons which define our world views. We therefore need to be wary of the logs our prisons have placed in our eyes, which prevent us from getting the true or perfect picture.
In all these, however, there is a divine angle to it; after all God is the author of marriage. You see some couples and you never cease to wonder “How these two ‘mad’ people have managed to live together for this long.’ “How does she cope with this terrible man?” “How does this man put up with this scattered woman? I will run mad if I stayed with her for just one day.”
One complete guy/girl is dying to marry you, but your heart is somewhere else and the world, including you, cannot explain why. Just leave matter, na only God know how water take enter coconut. There are some marriages and certain aspects of marriage that defy human understanding. They are mysteries and belong to the divine realm.