By Francis Ewherido

Today, those who are aware will celebrate the less known cousin of  Valentine’s day, namely, Spouse day. Spouse day is a day set aside to celebrate and honour our spouses. Spouse day, unlike Valentine’s day, is specifically for spouses only.

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It emphasises the uniqueness of the marriage institution, unlike St. Valentine’s day that everybody can be part of. Spouse Day is also free from the commercialisation and pollution to which St. Valentine’s day has been subjected.

If you go out there today to look for a Spouse day branded card or gift to give to your spouse, you will likely not find any because Spouse day’s relative obscurity means that commercial considerations have not overtaken its importance.

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But more importantly, Spouse day is about honouring and appreciating your spouse, not with cards and gifts (not that both are out of place), but with something from within: yourself, your words and your actions.

One of the major viruses killing marriages today is lack of appreciation of spouses. Many spouses have developed a hardcore sense of entitlement. Your husband gives you money for upkeep, “before nko, is he not supposed to take care of his family?” Your wife prepares and serves you food; that is her responsibility. Your spouse buys you a gift; you ignore the spirit behind the gesture and focus on the monetary value of the gift. Many marriages have grown so rocky and infertile due to ingratitude that good and healthy fruits can scarcely grow in or out of them.

But one of the beauties of life and marriage is that many a time, we have a second chance. Today offers us a chance not only to tell our spouses that we appreciate them, but also show them that we do. When was the last time you served your spouse breakfast in bed? For me, that was probably when she was ill. If you are like me and you are reading this early enough, do that today. If it is late for today, do it tomorrow and as regularly as you can. Let every day be Spouse Day. After all, today is only symbolic and meant to remind us of something we ought to do habitually. Husbands can also cook and serve their wives lunch or dinner. Live for your spouse. If you will not live for your spouse, who do you want to live for? If you are in your 50s or above, soon all the children will leave the house and start their own lives and you are back to pre-children days: just the two of you.

Some people feel there is nothing to celebrate in their spouses. How did things descend to that level? Surely they were not so when you looked into each others’ eyes during your marriage ceremony. Spouse day offers you the opportunity to honour each other by sitting down to review where things started going down the hill and how you can mend them. Everything worth doing is worth doing well. If you are staying married, you better stay happily married.

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These are some of the dictionary meanings of celebrate and honour: Celebrate, as a verb, means to “honour or praise publicly.” Honour, as a noun, means “high respect; great esteem” and, as a verb, to “regard with great respect.” The question is why don’t you celebrate and honour your spouse? A number of scenarios are responsible for those who feel their spouses are not worth celebrating. There are spouses who see nothing good in their other halves. Every action and step is greeted with skepticism or met with cynicism. Such a spouse will never see any reason to honour or celebrate his/her spouse. Also, some spouses have driven their other halves to so much resentment that the other halves see no reason to honour or celebrate them. The other reason, which we identified earlier, is this sense of entitlement. We have a saying in my place that even if an emekpe (a bowl for measuring garri) is yours; you still honour it by using it to measure garri instead of packing ashes. The import here, is that even if it is your spouses’ responsibility to carry out a task, appreciate them. “Thank you” is a very calming balm in marriage. Even a glass of water served deserves a “thank you.”

So how are you going to celebrate your Spouse Day today? I made some suggestions five years ago and I am repeating some of them. Are you an absentee spouse? For once, stay by the side of your spouse today. That might just mean more to him/her than a million naira gift. If your absence has also denied him/her spousal intimacy, add it to the menu. For husbands, who are good cooks, this is the time to take over your wives’ kitchen and do their favourite dishes. But if your meals taste like paper, please do not go there and ruin the day; look for other activities. For big madams, who have cooks, please let your cook take the day off; go into the kitchen and give your spouse a treat.

Yes, your spouse complained that the last time you publicly professed your love was when you took your marital vows during your wedding. How about making your neighbourhood your love lane today? Take him/ her by the hand, no, waist and walk around before dark for humankind to see. You can also give your spouse the gift of peace of mind by promising to kick out that terrible habit that has been causing a nervous breakdown. Oh, she is sad because you do not participate in family prayers. Surprise her tonight by joining her and your children in family prayers. Your spouse is happy that you pay the children’s school fees promptly but sad that you have never taken time to look at their school work or monitor their progress. Do the unthinkable today; for the first time, go through children’s school work and help them with their assignment and prepare them for school on Monday.

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So what happens after today? Just continue your makeover until it becomes a habit. That is one of the ingredients for turning a bad marriage into a good one and a good one into a great one. Change for the better. And what happens in less than three weeks from now when it will be Valentine’s day? It is another wonderful time to shower love (and gifts) on your spouse. If you have the resources, spoil your spouse with gifts, if you do not with, love…. You know, sometimes the best things in life, as Janet Jackson sang, are free: air, rain water and spousal intimacy.


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