By Francis Ewherido
Like haunted dwellings, many marriages today are being haunted by the past actions/inactions of the spouses’ parents. It comes mainly in the form of flawed behavioural patterns caused by defective parenting. John was born after four earlier pregnancies ended up being females. Typical of some male-child-crazy Nigerians, his parents over pampered him. He participated in no house chores and could do no wrong. Even when he was obviously at fault, the parents found a way to exonerate him. The parents helped him to live his life all the way, including helping him to get a wife. Today, his marriage is troubled on all fronts. One, John is totally unhelpful on the home front; he has no clue how to do any domestic chores.
In addition, John always believes he is right. With that mindset, apologies are out of the question. His dotting and ever supportive parents are not helping matters. They are still carrying on as if John is still under their roof. They legitimize all his “illegalities” and provide additional cash to enable him live well above his means. His wife is at her wits end. She feels she is in a nightmare not a marriage.
Jane was daddy’s girl, his obvious favourite. He had no qualms about it. He “protected” her from her mother, older siblings and even teachers. He will not allow her do household chores. Even when the mother warned the daddy, “You do not bring up an African girl like this,” it fell on deaf ears. She is very beautiful and getting a husband was easy. She is also very intelligent and it was easy getting a job and climbing the ladder pretty fast. But the home front is a different kettle of fish. The initial euphoria of marrying a beauty and brains is gone and the husband is screaming about the gaping holes in the composition of his wife. Cooking and housekeeping are near zero. In the midst of plenty, their children look unkempt. The husband was filling the gaps, but it has become too time-consuming and it is affecting his business. He loves his wife, but the shortcomings are too acute and they are straining the marriage.
Pat is also a daddy’s girl, but well grounded in the African sense. Her problem is that while growing up, the father never scolded her. She has grown accustomed to thinking she is perfect. The challenge now is that each time she does what the husband considers wrong and he points it out, she sulks and this can go on for days. Sometimes, she becomes ill in the process. The husband decided to let her be, but he has found out that the mystical: “They are no longer two but one” is very real. Her actions have affected his relationships, finances, spiritual life, etc. Also while he kept quiet and allowed her be, he realized the marriage was choking him. He decided to go back to “correcting” her; he has tried talking to her harshly, softly, in bed, after meals, but none seems to be working. “She just does not want to be corrected; she is set in her ways,” he lamented. “I would have loved to mind my business, but that is not possible, if I did, the marriage will go up in smoke one day.” He has decided to voice out his feelings on major issues while ignoring others to reduce conflicts and tension in the home.
Lara is a pathological liar. James noticed it during their courtship, but glossed over it. He did not know it was a habit that was entrenched. She got it from her mother. Together they used to lie to manipulate Lara’s father. Lara and her siblings often lied to their father to cover up for their mother and vice versa. Now her husband has realized the enormity of the problem and it is making him jumpy. He cannot understand why his wife would lie about just anything. He no longer trusts his wife and wonders how he can carry on with a marriage where there is no trust.
Mabel loves Jones to bits, but she is grappling with his ingratitude. He does not appreciate anything she does. “There is no thank you in his dictionary. He carries on as if everything I do is an entitlement. I love this man, but his ingratitude is driving me crazy. Is it a sign of weakness for a man to tell his wife, ‘Thank you?’” Not surprising, Jones’ father was a very ungrateful man. He had a chequered business career, so his more financially stable wife was actually the breadwinner. But he never had anything but “bad mouth” for the wife. When he suffered a debilitating ailment, he became very frustrated and even more “foul-mouthed” until he died.
All over the land today many marriages are troubled because of the wrong seeds parents planted in their children (the spouses) while they were growing up. Many of these spouses are set in their defective ways. But marriage is about sacrifice and so these spouses with flawed character traits must come to their senses, muster the willpower and begin to mend their ways to salvage their marriages. Apologies, when you are wrong, is a necessary ingredient for the survival of your marriage, so John, with his co-travellers, must come down from his high horse.
Cooking and housekeeping are sine qua non for every successful housewife. Even if you have a housekeeper, you need to know housekeeping to delegate the function effectively. A cook is supplementary and not a substitute. So you cannot paper over your cracked walls (miserable cooking skills) by employing a cook. It is not too late to go and learn how to cook.
It is a New Year and time for new beginnings. Today’s parents should get it right with the upbringing of their children, especially the very crucial first 10 years. The success of your children’s marriage in future starts with the values you inculcate in them today. Inculcate in them the right values. Love them endlessly, but also be continuously firm and just. Remember parenting cannot be outsourced, so know the limit of house helps and other domestic staff when it comes to your children’s upbringing. Siring children only makes you the biological father, real fatherhood comes with being in your child’s life and carrying out your parental responsibilities.
Parents should also strive to live by example. Action, they say, speaks louder than words. Our actions unconsciously seep into our children’s character and become a major part of it over time. We must realize that our actions can easily make our children assets or liabilities to their spouses later in life. Unfortunately, some of us will not be around to clear the mess we have created, so clear it now. Happy New Year.