By Francis Ewherido
The field of counselling is a minefield; unless you navigate with care, you can easily step on mines. A friend walked up to me at a wedding reception. He directed my attention to the wife of a mutual friend who has piled on weight. “Does acting in love not include staying attractive to your spouse,” he asked.
If he had not brought our mutual friend’s wife into the matter, I would have said yes. But in this case, I didn’t want to be quoted, so I stayed mute. I didn’t know why the weight of the wife of our mutual friend would be of concern to him. May be the husband complained to him.
Today’s topic is inspired by Romans 14:15 – “If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.” The context in which Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans is different, but can we find some correlation here?
I had a long discussion with someone very close to me recently. The wife had grown morbidly obese and unattractive. He has tried to make the wife see reasons with him and shed weight, rather she is sinking deeper into obesity. He does not find her sexually appealing anymore and so went out to get another woman. By the way, he is a traditional chief and a polygamist, so the rule of one-man-one-wife does not bind him. The issue is did the wife act in love when she ignored the husband’s pleas?
In another case, a young man was suffering from erectile dysfunction due to excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking. He could no longer perform his conjugal duties. The wife nudged him to quit his destructive habits and get help, but he refused. She refused to die in silence and brought the matter before family and close friends. Instead of the young man to deal with the issue on ground, he was boasting about his monster dick, he inherited from his father, to boost his ego.
Of what use is a monster dick that cannot rise up to the occasion? Of what use is a toothless bulldog? Is an agile squirrel not more useful than a dead lion? Since the incident I have been wondering about something a young girl I shared a taxi ride with long ago told her friend: “if you see the boy prick eh, na hammer, e big like im papa own?” Could she be referring to this young man and his father?
Anyway, the young man is lucky that his wife is patient with him. Some wives would simply go and get satisfaction elsewhere. Even some of those who have a healthy sex life with their husbands still want to sample that handsome male colleague in the office or that witty customer who always makes her laugh anytime he comes around, not to talk of those who are sex-starved. Welcome to our liberal world without boundaries.
The issue of acting in love or not acting in love is a delicate one in marriage. There are some criteria I apply. One, when you marry, you marry the good, the bad and the ugly. It is a complete package. As I wrote in my book, Life Lessons from Mudipapa,”When you marry, you marry wholesale not retail, that is, you marry the person with his/her strengths and weaknesses, successes and failings; the good, the bad and the ugly; his/her past, present and future.
You must be ready to put up with your potential spouse’s failings, shortcomings and weaknesses for the rest of your life. If you are not ready to do this, the relationship (courtship) must end there and then. You should not ever deceive or fool yourself into believing that he/she will change for the better.” The implication is that if your spouse was obese when you met him/her and you are now nagging him/her to shed weight, you are the one who is not acting in love. Agreed obesity is unhealthy, but you have no right to make issues out of it because na so you see am, open your eyes marry am. But if you were upfront that you do not want an obsess spouse, he/she has an obligation to put his/her weight in check.
Another criterion I use is that before you come to equity, your hands must be clean. If you are guilty of what you want your spouse to change or stop, you must remove the log from your eyes before you tell your spouse or help him/her to remove the speck from his/her own eyes. The chief we mentioned earlier is very trim and fit, so you cannot fault him for telling his wife to shed weight.
It is for the same reason of equity that the issue of weight cannot come up in my marriage. When we got married, both of us were very trim. Over the years both of us have added some weight, not obese. We are both conscious of it and are working on it. In 2018, I dropped over six kilograms after spending a month in the United States. I achieved it mainly with change in diet and little exercise. A year after returning to Nigeria, I not only regained the weight, but added five extra kilograms. It is a continuous battle to shed weight and I am acquiring new arsenal to win the war. Beyond not having the moral grounds, I have no issues with my wife’s weight. She, on her own, opted to try and “go back to my former self.”
Sometimes determining which spouse is not acting in love is like six and half a dozen. A friend joined a religious group where female members and wives of male members are forbidden from wearing trousers or shorts. He asked the wife to stop putting on trousers, but she refused. The issue was straining their marriage. I called my friend and reminded him that the wife was putting on trousers during their courtship and I could not remember him making an issue out of it.
Now that the football match (marriage) has started, he cannot shift the goal post. He should not allow the rules of his religious group to destroy his marriage. “Please let her be,” I admonished him. He listened and relented. But someone can also argue that since her wearing of trousers was causing her husband distress, she should have acted in love and given up wearing of trousers.
Beyond the above, there are other issues in marriage that are putting off one spouse. The other spouse should act in love by making adjustment. Hygiene is one of them. There are spouses who dread their other half kissing them because of perennial bad breath. In all fairness, the spouse with the bad breath might not even know. The other half should lovingly bring up the issue, while the one with bad breath should improve on his oral hygiene or see the dentist or ENT doctor, as the case might be. Body odour is another one, so is genital odour. Act in love, keep everywhere fresh and clean.