By Juliet Umeh
If relationship and Marriage Counselor, Mrs. Olatoun Ayoola were to be a Smartphone, her multitask feature would have been second to none.
The Chief Executive Officer of Our Intimate Secrets, Ogudu, Lagos, doubles as a Sex Therapist, Family life Coach, and Blogger. Meanwhile, her academic discipline is far from what she is currently doing and widely known for.
Ayoola has a Master’s Degree in Public and International Affairs from the University of Lagos but a passion for keeping marriages alive drove her into studying and acquiring Certificate in Counseling from the Counseling Institute Scotland, Diploma in Couples and Family counseling from the same institute and a Certificate in Human Sexuality from the Institute of Sexology, California.
As a counselor, Ayoola provides skills and tools to help couples solve problems in their relationships. She heals the hurts, restores friendships, deepens intimacy and strengthens relationships.
In this interview, she admitted that many Nigerian marriages are crashing basically for unresolved issues of sex, infidelity, and distrust, among others. However, she cautioned that couples who returning infidelity for infidelity, risk having irreparable homes, traumatised partners and children that will eventually become a burden to society. Excerpts:
Is it right for a woman to cheat because her husband cheated on her? How would the law of marriage settle the issue?
There is nothing like tit for tat or an eye for an eye in marriage. Marriage has to do with a lot of compromises.
I’m not saying this because I am a counselor or therapist but from the point of view of what you want to achieve in your marriage. If you are a woman and your husband cheats on you, you would want to try to repair your marriage, same goes for the man.
If your purpose for your marriage is to stand the test of time then you won’t want to do the law of reciprocity with your partner. It won’t work in marriage because marriage needs more than that. Also, there is no law in a marriage that would settle the issue. You both have to come together to make your marriage work.
Sometimes you hear there are quarrels in homes because women deny their men sex. Is sex in marriage at the discretion of the woman or a right to the Man?
Let me start by stating an established fact here that sex in marriage, is at the discretion of both partners. The man is not left with the exclusive duty to ask for sex neither is the woman, both can ask for sex when in the mood. Going by that, it is very okay to say that in marriage, no one is supposed to deny themselves sex as both husband and wife are meant to enjoy sex, but if you find out that your man or woman is turning down sex from you, then you need to find out the reason. Sex is about two people and it takes two to tango right.
What do you say to the imbalance, in the treatment of extramarital affairs between the man and the woman seeing that the later is always at the receiving end?
It has been said that in the case of extra-marital affairs, there is a sort of imbalance making it look like it’s a man’s world so if he cheats, then it’s okay. In all of this, the person who bears the brunt here is the woman.
Let’s say, a man cheats and he comes home with any sexually transmitted disease, the woman would be the one most affected because she is at home and doesn’t know what is going down with her husband who has gone out to have unprotected sex with another woman. Now, it is important to know that in most marriages where cheating happens, it is as a result of the lack of love and trust and peace of mind because it is hard for a man to love his wife and still cheat on her. Simply put, you can’t love two or three persons of the opposite sex equal because the scale of love tilts to one end at the end of the day. However, it will be wrong to say women are victims because life is all about choices.
In all of this, I feel women can, and should be able to make their marriages work for good but that doesn’t mean I’m placing the whole responsibility on the woman alone, but on both parties, they have to deliberately decide to make their marriage work.
Most marriages have crashed because of an ordinary peep into the phones of the wife or husband. Are there privacy issues in people going into their spouses’ phones?
I advise couples to always respect the individuality of their spouse. It means that we are entitled to some sort of privacy whether we are single or married. Before you peep into your spouse’s phone, first ask yourself what do you intend to achieve? I don’t subscribe to clients peeping into their spouse’s phone. It is better you talk about anything bothering you instead of sneaking and hiding to peep into their phones. Phones are personal property so there should be something called privacy even in marriage. You have to determine what you want to achieve before going through your partner’s phone, whether your discovery will make you leave or stay? When you snoop around, there can only be two answers, what you see either makes you happy or sad. So, my advice to couples is to work on their relationships and marriages through proper home management and communication because peeping into their phones is counterproductive, whether your partner is cheating or not.
If I catch my husband in a compromising position with another woman, what is the right attitude to exhibit?
The right attitude is calmness and caution. Although, I know this is very hard for most women. At times, things might not seem the way they look. You need to put your emotions in check and analyze the situation properly and find out what’s really happening.
From experience, most couples assume a lot and assumptions kill relationships.
If you are too angry, just walk away from the situation and calm your nerves, relax till you feel sane enough to handle the situation.
To what extent can a married woman enforce her human right and freedom to move about, spending her money or buying things for herself without the express permission of her husband?
As a married woman, you don’t need the permission of anyone to move because you have your basic human right to movement and spending your money. Buying things without your husband’s permission is not a crime, neither does your husband need your permission to move, or spend his money. However, both of you need to be united and be in sync. A man and a woman united and in sync with each other will not have any problem discussing basic things as where the person is going or how they spend their money. They are just normal things you discuss in marriage but there is nowhere it is written that as a woman you need your spouse’s permission to, or expressly ask him if you can go out or spend your money.
Many have attributed incessant broken marriages these days to civilization. Are you from that school?
I don’t know if the incessant broken marriages of these days are as a result of civilisation.
From my experience in counseling so far, civilisation is not the only problem. I’m not of the school of thought that civilisation is the reason for failed marriages rather I believe that our basic foundation can also be a factor that can hinder marriages from working. Marriages can be affected by our roots and family. How we were brought up is very key, what we think is the right way to go about marriage and relationship can also mend or break our marriages. That’s the major reason why we have so many separations and divorces in recent times. However, I would say civilisation, the advent of the internet or phones make or contribute to broken marriages in some cases but it’s not the determining factor or the major cause of broken marriages in recent times.
Nigerian men boast of being most romantic. What actually do they do more to support this claim?
In all of my years as a sex therapist, I have had so many complaints from my female clients that Nigerian men are not romantic, that they don’t have an iota of romance in their bodies.
They are suggesting men should come and learn how to be more romantic and please their women. So, I cannot say for a fact that Nigerian men are the most romantic. From the look of things, things are getting better and Nigerian men are coming for sex therapy classes and counseling sessions, they want to get better and please their spouses more
Should friends and family influence who you will marry?
Friends and family can’t or should not influence who you marry because they would not know where it is hurting, after the wedding when everyone is gone, you are going to be alone with that man or woman spending the rest of your life with that person. So they should have little or no say in who you marry.
However, they can admonish, advice, tell you from their perspective what they think about certain issues then leave you to decide whether you take it or leave it.
Friends and family should not influence your decision however we have to be careful because there are times when we are so in love and don’t look at some things categorically or with a clear mind until someone points it out to us.
Inter-tribal marriages have always generated issues. While some approve of it, others abhor it. What’s your take?
Of course, intertribal and interracial marriage is not a walk in the park. The movement from one point of the country or the world to marry someone else who has a different upbringing is usually way harder than a marriage where you both understand yourselves and speak the same language. However, inter-tribal marriages are not big deals anymore. There are so many cases of people coming together from different tribes and having amazing marriages. They are able to communicate understandably and we all know that communication does not only happen because you speak the same language but because you love and respect each other. So, no matter the issues surrounding inter-tribal marriages, I don’t abhor it, instead, I encourage it because love and marriage don’t have a name, denomination or tribe instead it is universal.