By Francis Ewherido
A lawyer friend recently expressed concern over the increasing number of divorce cases in court and the increasing number of couples asking for annulment of their marriages at a particular marriage tribunal. He wondered what could be responsible.
The reasons are legion, but perhaps we can reverse the trend by reminding those going into marriage of some of the pillars that keep marriages standing before they say: “I do.” It is not as if the presence of these pillars guarantees the survival of marriages; their presence only increases the probability of the survival of marriages. At the end of the day couples have a responsibility to work 24/7 towards the success of their marriages.
Companionship: When God created the marriage institution, the primary reason was companionship (Gen 2:18). What is companionship? It is “feeling of fellowship or friendship.” Synonyms include, “friendship, fellowship, closeness, togetherness, amity, intimacy, rapport, camaraderie, comradeship, solidarity.” Are you any of these with your prospective spouse? Young people going into marriage must realize and internalize this number one reason for marriage. This will guide them in their choices of a spouse. It is not that simplistic, though, but it is important.
In Africa, a marriage without children is like a vehicle without an engine. Once people get married and children do not come when expected, they come under unnecessary pressure from themselves, friends, family and the larger society. Children are good, they make couples feel more fulfilled and they add warmth to the family, but we must remember that the primary reason for marriage is companionship.
Childlessness is one of the main reasons why many marriages are packing up, but it need not be so. Spouses need to be patient with one another, do their medicals and due diligence to know where the problem is, then they can both chart a way forward. Some other pillars of marriage might give way along the line, but companionship stays with a happy marriage till the end, so prioritize it properly.
Sex: Sex is another major pillar of marriage and serves two main purposes: procreation and recreation. Marriage is not complete without sex. In fact, after couples are joined as husband and wife, the union remains incomplete, no matter the status of the person who conducted the ceremony, until the marriage is consummated, that is, the couple engages in sexual intercourse. Young people, who do not want sex or have no capacity to engage in sexual intercourse, do not have any business going into marriage.
It is understandable with aged widows/widowers remarrying mainly for companionship, but not young people. So this trend of young people going into marriage with no intention of engaging in intercourse is an aberration, it is not marriage.
In marriage, sex must be freely given, although spouses are expected to show understanding where there is temporary incapacity (a sick spouse and a wife who just had a baby). However, if you are not in the mood, but your spouse is, give it to him/her. If you want to abstain for a while for religious reasons, it must be in one accord with your spouse, if not, that abstinence is a nullity (1 Cor. 7:5).
It is also wrong to use sex as a weapon or bargaining power in marriage; it must come without strings attached. Sex has become one of the commonest and cheapest commodities around, so spouses toying with their spouses’ emotions are playing with fire. Do not push your spouse into another’s arms with your foolishness.
Forgiveness: When Peter asked Jesus how many times he must forgive his brother who wrongs him, he could just as well have asked how many times he should forgive his spouse. Spouses get on each others’ nerves; they drive each other up the wall. Sometimes, it is deliberate, at other times, it is accidental. Some spouses know what they are doing is wrong and will upset their other half, but they still go ahead. Sometimes it is just bad habits that refused to die.
This is what married people have to put up with all their lives. You never get used to some of these irritating behavior and habits from your spouse, so it is forgiveness galore: 77 times 7 everyday. It is tough, but it is a major pillar of marriage and has no substitute.
Love: For our purpose here, love is a deep feeling you have for your spouse, which surpasses your understanding. It enables you to forgive your spouse even for grievous transgressions; it makes you to be patient with him/her. It is the deep feeling that also makes the love undying as spouses go through various phases of life.
Spouses pile on weight as they grow older; some men grow pot-bellies, wives become shapeless, spouses develop debilitating ailments, the husbands suffer erectile dysfunction and other challenges, but the love remains constant. It conquers all.
Finance: Financial troubles topple many marriages. Before marriage, couples need to discuss their financial plans and expectations. The financial plan is tied to many other plans in marriage. It is tied to your family plan (size of your family), education plan, estate plan, retirement plan, etc. How do you earn the money? What are your financial goals?
What do you do, when and why? Who manages what? Husbands should work very hard to earn a decent income and wives should be supportive. But for all the importance of money, I still advise that couples should not allow their marital lives to revolve round money.
Trust: Some young people in relationships have become monitoring spirits. They call their fiancé(e) every now and then to know who they are with and what they are doing. They go through their partners’ phones, reading messages and call logs.
What is that for? Why are you torturing yourself? If you cannot trust the person you are preparing to get married to, there is no basis for continuation of the relationship. Trust is a major pillar of marriage and will remain so for a long while, even though spouses occasionally betray the trust of their other halves.
There are many other pillars of marriage, including marital communication, conflict resolution, patience, etc., which we have dealt with in the past, but any couple who has the ones mentioned above will go a long way.