By Francis Ewherido
There are some widely known factors responsible for happy and successful marriages: mutual respect, selflessness, humility, love, forgiveness, patience, tolerance, endurance, empathy, compatibility, effective management of differences, etc.
Many married people know these factors, so lack of knowledge is not the principal reason many marriages fail. Application and implementation of the above factors in individual marriages is mainly where the challenges in marriages lie.
Unfortunately, there are no universal rules for applying these factors, neither are there universal applications. When dealing with human phenomena, individual differences is very important. What works for one marriage might not work for another. I saw a couple abusing each other during a small misunderstanding. Husband: “shut up.” Wife: “you too, shut up.” Husband: you’re very stupid.” Wife: “you too, you’re stupid…” They went on and on. A short while later, the same couple – Wife: “Mike, look at that woman we saw the other time; she’s looking different.” Husband: “What did she do to herself? She’s looking funny.” This was followed by laughter. I was stunned. If such a conversation takes place between other spouses, it would take eternity for the dust to settle. Such abusive language can even break up some marriages. But there was even no dust in this case not to talk of the dust settling down. Mind you, I am against any form of marital abuse: verbal, physical, sexual, emotional and psychological.
I see some young couples, trying to create a happy marriage, spend so much time looking outside; meanwhile the solutions are within. Do not get me wrong; it is good to know how other people, especially those ahead of you, are doing things to help you improve on your marriage. You learn from their triumphs and failings. But you cannot import other people’s methodology wholesale in your marriage.
Happy marriages are the creations of the couples involved and it comes with owning your marriage. Take possession of your marriage. Look into each other’s lives, look at your likes and dislikes, your characters and personalities, and out of these, let the character and personality of your marriage begin to evolve. If you had a good courtship, it would help in laying the foundation for a good marriage. But courtship is like elementary school. While it gives you a solid base for your higher education, it is no substitute for the hard work you have to put in as you go further in your studies.
You must build the personality and character of your marriage on what works for you and your spouse. If kissing in public does not work for you, for instance, do not do it because a “happy” couple you admire and want to model your marriage after does it. Kissing in public is just one form of expression of love. There are other ways of expressing love. And not all public kissing express love. Some are fake, treacherous and deceptive. Judas Iscariot kissed Jesus publicly to betray HIM, not express love!
If having separate rooms is what works for you, please go ahead. You do not have to share a room because your parents did same, although I am very suspicious of couples having separate rooms. The arrangement looks like a refuge to prolong quarrels between couples and deny spouses their conjugal rights. But if your reasons are genuine and in line with your character, by all means go ahead. In the same vain, if couples prefer to eat separately, feel free. Do not force yourself to eat together because a couple you admire does it. Personally, I prefer to eat what makes me happy and my wife does not eat all the kinds of food I love. There are meals she also eats that I do not eat. So eating together is restricted to those meals we both enjoy eating. She eats other meals that make her happy without my participation and interference and I do same. That is what works for us. Do the one that works for you.
Own your marriage, focus on your marriage and ruminate on how to get it better daily. A happy marriage is a product of mutual hard work by the couple. The centerpiece of a marriage is the couple, not friends, in-laws or other family members. Some married people behave like dogs who are always looking at their owners’ faces (others) for acceptance and affirmation. I learnt a very valuable lessons on my wedding night. After the crowd at the church, reception and in-laws, who escorted my wife to the house, had departed, when it was time to go to bed, only the two of us went into the room. That was symbolic for me. It meant only the two of us mattered most as far as the marriage was concerned; our happiness depended mainly on the two us. Friends and family, though very important, are peripheral as far as the marriage was concerned.
Stop running your marriage to impress or comply with the expectations of others. You will be shocked to find out that they are so focused on their own lives and marriages that they do not even notice you. Look at Nigeria, look at what it takes to sustain a family. Many people spend virtually all that time trying to eke out a living. These are the same people you are working so hard in your marriage to impress. I have bad news for you. They are too involved in their lives and marriages to notice you! The more reason why your marriage should be self-centred not others-centred.
When couples focus on themselves, it does not interfere with their love for their own friends, parents or siblings. I know that for a fact. If your marriage interferes with your relationship with your parents and siblings, there are other underlying problems. It cannot be because of your efforts to create a happy marriage. Often, it is because either your spouse or your parents/siblings/friends are overstepping their bounds or all parties are overstepping their bounds. There is enough space in a well-organised heart to have a happy marriage and a good relationship with parents/siblings/friends.
You must own your marriage. You cannot succeed without first of all owning it. Learn from the story of David and Goliath. Saul dressed David in his (Saul’s) armour and armed him with his (Saul’s) weapons of war to go against Goliath, but David was uncomfortable in the borrowed war outfit. He removed them, wore his own outfits and carried his own weapons of war. He might have looked unserious and unprofessional to Goliath and others, but he was in his own turf; he owned the fight. The rest is now history; he triumphed over the giant Goliath. You cannot create a happy marriage without first of all owning it.