By Francis Ewherido
Some previous participants in my parish marriage class have come back to me saying, “una no tell us say na so the thing be o; una just paint rosy picture.” We are in a season when many weddings take place, so let me reemphasise the alternate wedding gospel: your spouse is your cross. I do not know why this is difficult for anybody to grasp. Like a coin, there are two parts to some of the marital vows. “For better, for worse;” “for richer, for poorer;” “in sickness and in health.” The problem sometime is that, in the euphoria of the moment, many brides and grooms gloss over the other side of the coin during the exchange of vows.
To start with, just how worse can the “worse” be? You never know, but you should know that marriage is not always going to be rosy; there will be lows and there will bad times. The “worse” can be those traits that were always there in your spouse which you knew but glossed over. The “worse” can also be latent traits which you never knew of, but come to fore as the marriage unfolds. For instance, your spouse loses his/her job and instead of dusting himself/herself up and looking for a positive way forward, he/she descends into self pity and takes refuge in alcohol. The other spouse is now saddled with a cross he/she never anticipated.
Sometimes the “worse” is nothing bad, just that it rubs you the wrong way. At the time of courtship, the spouses might share some common ideas, beliefs or religion. Somewhere along the line, one spouse changes his/her faith, beliefs or paradigms. What used to hold them together now becomes an object of discord. If not well managed, it can tear the marriage to shreds.
“For richer, for poorer” is a little easier to understand for new entrants into matrimony. The Nigerian economic environment is challenging and it did not start with the current recession. Government policy somersault and lack of continuity of economic policies have turned many yesterday’s rich people into paupers. Married men find out all of a sudden that they are no longer bread winners. Not only that, they even have to be catered for by their wives. Where the wife cannot cope, the reality of the vow “for richer, for poorer” stares them in the face.
“In sickness and in health” scenario is more common in homes where the couples are in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. As people get older, the probability of suffering debilitating ailments increases. There is stroke, paralysis, arthritis, dementia, diabetes, failure of vital organs, among others. Sometimes young couples are challenged with these ailments. Nollywood actor, Leo Mezie and his wife, Maureen, narrated their own experience in the Vanguard of last Sunday when Leo was hit with kidney problem. It was a difficult time for them and the young marriage could easily have died, but it survived because they held fast to “in sickness and in health.”
Beyond the double-edged vows, there are other issues—some
seemingly inconsequential, but mighty—which can turn your spouse to your cross. You do not like mosquito buzz, not to talk of the bite, while asleep and so you always shut the door of your room. Your spouse, on the other hand, always leaves the door open. You have raised the issue times without number, but he/she never seems to learn. This is the proverbial tsetse fly perching on the scrotum. You really need to handle with care. Also your spouse always leaves drawers open after pulling them out. Repeated appeals and complaints have fallen on deaf ears. On this day, you saw the drawers out again and slammed them into position in the presence of your spouse. Your spouse gets upset, not because he/she feels you are trying to destroy your property in this recession, but because your action portrays him/her in negative light. Managed badly, this small matter can become a wild bushfire spiralling out of control.
Your spouse has an atrocious fashion sense. Smallest matter; as long as there is little money for wardrobe upgrade or makeover, there are fashion experts all over to deliver the transformation. Just manage him/her well to ensure you do not bruise his ego or hurt her pride in the process. If you do, you will have a heavy cross on your hand.
Sometimes some people never seem to shake off their past, your spouse is brash and uncultured, in spite of his education and exposure. Just remember his background, sometime you can take the pig from the slum, but you cannot take the slum out of the pig. No amount of money or education eradicates these foundational tendencies in some people. So just bear your cross, while you work on him/her with Solomon’s wisdom.
Also, your spouse eats like a hyena, as if he is competing with others for the food. Meanwhile, he is all alone. This can be very embarrassing, especially if you are eating out or you have guests. But please remember he/she grew up with 14 siblings and food was never enough; it was, therefore, survival of the fittest. For those who are amenable to corrections and changes, it is no big deal, but if your spouse is very touchy, you have a real cross on your hand. If you try to correct, him/her, he/she says you are taunting him/her with his/her past. You need the wisdom of Solomon to navigate through before a candle light turns to an inferno in your marriage. You can make light of it and be contented in other aspects where he/she is doing great. At the end of the day, who does not carry one baggage or the other?
Perception can also turn your spouse to a cross. Assuming you leave home for specific engagement. On your way, your wife asks you to stopover at her tailor’s. Meanwhile, you are already running late. How do you see her in this regard: disorganised and inconsiderate, or flexible and pragmatic? If you see her as disorganized and inconsiderate, you have a cross to bear. And if your husband refused to stop, insisting that you attend the event for which you left home first before any other thing; how do you see him: organised and principled, or rigid and uncaring? If you see him as rigid, you must bear his cross of rigidity.
Marriage is beautiful, the crosses notwithstanding. The pain of labour can never diminish the joy of motherhood; also the challenges in matrimony should not diminish the beauty of this divinely-crafted institution. For those taking the giant leap this season, I wish you a happy married life. For the rest us, Merry Christmas.