By Francis Ewherido
I have since crossed the 20 years mark in marriage. Within this period too, I have been involved in the preparation of new entrants into marriage (15 years) in my parish;I have interacted with and counselled many people on marital issues, and I have also kept this column for almost six years now. The icing is my book, Life Lessons from Mudipapa, which essentially focuses on courtship, marriage, family life and parenting.With the benefit of all these experiences, I have come up with my list of the most important ingredients necessary to sustain a marriage, and I dare add, make it happy.
God: God is central to the success of marriage, an institution He created, but what about marriages of atheists? Some of them do have successful marriages! I guess even though they do not believe in God, He still plays a role in the success of their marriages, just as He allows them to breathe free air.
Love: Love means so many things to people, so let me hasten to define the love I am talking about. This love is that deep feeling you have for your spouse. It is unconditional, selfless and inexplicable. You just love your spouse, but you cannot totally explain it; it has nothing to do with reciprocity. You just love him/her in and out of season: slim, fat, pregnant, ill, rich, financially low, young, old, hot, cold, childless… the fundamental core is constant. Such love conquers all adversities in marriage. The love has a depth that makes it undying as spouses go through various phases of life.
Forgiveness: Each time the issue of forgiveness comes up, what comes to my mind is the question Peter asked Jesus and Jesus’ response: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,” which means always. Peter and Jesus could have been talking specifically about spousal relationships and not human relationships generally.
Spouses need to forgive each other per second. The “sins” in marriage include sins of commission and omission, sins which are fleeting and those embedded in habits, which mean they will happen every now and then, even if the marriage lasts for 60 years. Some of the sins you were aware of before marriage and made up your mind to always forgive them; some others you never anticipated, but still have to put up with and forgive them.Forgiveness is fundamental to your peace of mind and happiness in marriage. My only admonition is that humans are not God; every human being has a threshold. Spouses must know it and not push their other halves to tipping point because they might just tip over.
Patience: Which marriage can do without patience? None; I have seen spouses wait patiently for their other halves when they have every reason to hit the roof. Some spouses have been going late for events since they got married 30 years ago because of one of them and they are still patient. Some bad habits just do not change in marriage.
Tolerance: Closely related to patience is tolerance. For any couple to have been married for 10,20, 30, 40, 50 years or more, they have had to put up with a lot. It is unbelievable what spouses put up with, but then your spouse also puts up with your thrash, why not his/hers. Coming to that realization helps.
Sex: Sex is making my list because without it, humanity will go extinct in a little over 100 years and for Christians, the only appropriate place for it is within matrimony. I am also putting it because without it, no marriage is valid and there should be no marriage in the first place. This might not apply to much older people who re-marry for companionship, not necessarily sex. Some have either lost their libido or appetite for sex. Sex is also a major source of recreation in marriage.
It also helps to release tension, bond or just relax. Young people who have no interest in sexual intercourse, but marry to deceive people about their sexual orientation, have no business getting married because the marriage will never be valid as long as it is not consummated (they do not engage in sexual intercourse after the marriage). In marriage sex must be unconditionally given. Temporary incapacity (illness, child birth) is understandable, but sex should not be a weapon of war or bargain in marriage.
Friendship: Friendship is a very important ingredient for a long lasting and happy marriage. Spouses must share some bond beyond just being people of the opposite sex. Sex is only for a while, friendship is forever. In fact, the primary reason for marriage is companionship (Gen 2:18) and only a friend can be a good companion.
Finance: Although money is the reason for the breakup of many marriages, especially in the western world, I am including it here reluctantly and for the following reason. Every man has an obligation to provide food, clothing and shelter for his family. The food should be decent, but not necessarily five star; the clothing should be decent, but not necessarily designers and the shelter should be decent, if possible. It might be rented or owned, small or big). A man also has an obligation to give his children formal and informal education.
The formal education does not have to be in a private school. Many of these Harvard and Cambridge alumni and alumnae went to public primary and secondary schools and government-owned universities for their first degrees in Nigeria, before the foreign sojourn. All the basic necessities above cost money. If the man cannot cope, the wife should assist, that is why she is a helpmate. Beyond these basic needs, every other thing is optional. Taunting a man because he cannot afford such luxuries like holidays, designer clothes, etc., is “afternoon witchcraft.”
You also have compatibility, effective marital communication, managing differences and conflict resolution, which we have dealt with in the past. You can read them up in my book or my previous articles. Trust also makes my list, although many spouses, especially women do not trust their other halves. I have heard that sweeping statement on countless occasions:”every married man cheats.” Meanwhile, the women are sitting tight in their marriage. So, I guess trust (fidelity) has dropped down the ladder of ingredients for a successful marriage for many Nigerian women, but for the men…hmmm.
Readers interested in getting a copy of Life Lessons from Mudipapa (referred to above) can contact us on [email protected] or 08186535360 or https://www.jumia.com.ng/family-relationships-books/?q=Mudipapa