By Francis Ewherido
An-about-to-get-married young man overstepped his bounds recently. He was told to apologise, but he bluntly refused due to ego. He would rather cut his nose to spite his face than say,” I’m sorry.”
As I thought over his case, I felt pity for him and even more pity for the fiancée. A potential spouse, who does not know how to apologise when he is wrong, is a monster movie in the making. For his marriage to work, it needs to be lopsided so that the wife will apologise when she is wrong and behave as if nothing happened or also apologise to him when he is wrong. It is not workable in the long run. It will never work in this age. It might have worked some 50 years ago when many marriages were tilted in favour of the man. Even then, these lopsided marriages were not happy marriages. I knew some while growing up. At least two of the women in such marriages died suddenly. There was no proper diagnosis then, but you know what causes sudden death in such situations: heart attack, heart failure or stroke.
The young man is immature. Quite often, wherever pride dwells, its neighbours are usually immaturity, inferiority complex and insecurity. I have said it all in my book, Life Lessons from Mudipapa, “Humility is a virtue that many purpose-driven people have.… Purpose-driven people have undergone a journey of self-discovery and are self-assured and very secure.… They have so much to brag about, but simply stay humble….Many arrogant people are insecure and their arrogance is the armour to protect their vulnerable low self-esteem. Wealth, power and positions do not cure insecurity; self-discovery, truly accepting who you are and inner peace are the cure for insecurity.”
This young man probably suffers from low self-esteem and insecurity. He is not ready for marriage. Marriage is for people who are physically, psychologically and emotionally mature. Each party coming into marriage should be self-assured and comfortable with himself/herself. As the late Steven Covey said, there should be self-mastery and victory over self, ‘private victories must precede public victories’ and only independent people should go into marriage because interdependence (that marriage is) is a decision only independent people can make.” The problem with many marriages today is that too many dependent (immature and insecure) people went into an interdependent relationship that marriage is. Any slight storm, their pride gets in the way of finding solutions; sometimes they run to friends or family for solutions that are within. If the people they ran to are Ahithophels, they give ruinous counsel and before you know it, the marriage is over.
Forgiveness is often touted as a virtue necessary for the success of any marriage. That is very true, but forgiveness goes with a concomitant responsibility. We call it a contrite heart, which flows from a humble disposition. Even God demands a contrite heart from us to receive forgiveness. There is no way you will continue to offend your spouse without apologizing and he or she will continue forgiving you. Maybe, you are reading too much of Matthew 18:21, where Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother who wronged him and Jesus said 70 times seven, which means always. Maybe you should now read Matthew 5: 23-24, where Jesus preached about reconciliation:” Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” How about also reading Matt 18:15-18, where Jesus, just before issuing the statement on unlimited forgiveness to Peter, also said that an unrepentant person may be cast out of the community after three tries to get him to say he is sorry? Only the humble seek reconciliation.
Communication is another ingredient that is often mentioned when talking about successful marriages. It is not just communication, but empathic communication. Covey says empathic communication means first to listen to your spouse, empathise with him/her to know and understand where he/she is coming from. It is after you have understood him/her that you can respond, based on your understanding of where he/she is coming from. The other bit of empathic communication is that you do not necessarily have to agree with the views or position of your spouse, but it helps to know and understand why he/she reasons that way. That way, you can respect your spouses’ contrary views even if you do not share them. Will a proud spouse go through this length? Not likely. Only his/her ways are likely to be right. Only humble people engage in empathic communication.
Mutual respect is another very important ingredient for a successful marriage. Marriage works better when the spouses respect each other. “Respect begets respect,” so they say. I do not see how a marriage can work where instead of respect, the other spouse gets insults, gets put down, gets humiliation privately and publicly; the marriage will not survive. There are a few of such marriages where the couples are still under in the same roof, but what you have is a walking corpse, not a marriage.
The couples should not only respect each other but extend the respect to each other’s extended families. One of the valuable pieces of advice my elder brother, Fr. Tony, gave us while we were preparing for marriage is that we must respect each other’s family. After over 20 years of marriage, I fully understand and appreciate the advice. If you hear some of the cases of divorce today, the main reason is that he/she “does not respect my family.” When a man leaves his parents and joins his wife, they start a new family (nuclear family). That does not obliterate the love for the families they came from. People remember the owner of the breasts they sucked as infants, the man who toiled to give them the life they live today and the siblings they shared the earlier parts of their lives with. Do not toy with your spouse’s extended family. But can a proud husband or wife understand this? I doubt. I have seen husbands/wives treat their spouses’ families like filth.
Frequent arguments are also likely to happen in a marriage where one or both parties are arrogant. The falcon will not hear the falconer and things will fall apart. Abuse is not far away in such cases. Abuse can be mental, sexual, emotional and physical. Once abuse creeps into a marriage, it must stop or the marriage should end. My belief in the indissolubility of marriage does not include abusive marriages.
Our young man and his sorts have their work cut out. They need to grow up fast. As far as I am concerned, they should put marriage on hold and grow up first. Why marry today and jump out tomorrow?