Columns

January 14, 2023

The subjects of marriage

Leaked sex tapes

By Francis Ewherido

Many people agree that marriage is a school where you remain a student until you die; no graduation. That is why you get your certificate at inception to show that you enrolled in the institution of marriage, but no certificate of graduation.

Of course, there is death certificate and divorce certificate, which are outside our discussion today. But to remain in the institution, there are the subjects –compulsory and optional – that you have to pass. Marriage (monogamy) is a union of a man and woman. Marriages differ, just as the subjects you write to gain admissioninto higher institutions differ; also the courses you intend to study to get a particular degree or specialisation.

A credit in Mathematics and English seem to be compulsory to have a meaningful secondary school leaving certificate, but compulsory courses for a successful marriage seem to differ from one person to the other. For some couples fidelity is compulsory.

Fail it and your marriage in jeopardy or over (separation, divorce or annulment). But for some married people fidelity is not a compulsory course, if not the statistics by some “experts” that more than 50 per cent of married men and women have cheated on their spouses will not exist. In fact you have what they call swinging and open relationships where couples cheat with the full knowledge of their spouses.

Love is supposed to be a compulsory subject, but it is not so for some married people. We often hear of cases where married people approach the courts asking for divorce because they no longer love their spouses. Even the word, love is amoebic. It comes in different shapes and colours like the chameleon.

If we attempt to dwell on what love is, we will deviate from today’s topic. But however you look at it, from my personal experience in marriage, I do not know how you can stay for 10 years and above with a spouse you do not love.You can live a lie for a while, but not for too long. 

For our discussion today, let’s define love as a deep feeling of affection for your spouse. It is this deep feeling that makes it possible to love your spouse substantially. I will rate love as a compulsory course because “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” In fact God instituted marriage and God is love. Though I Corinthians 13: 4-7is talking about love generally, it also includes marital love.

There is no room for pride in marriage. Humility is a core subject in marriage. Honouring a spouse is also a core subject. Patience and perseverance are core subjects. How do you intend to sustain a marriage without patience and perseverance? From my experience, it is not possible.

Forgiveness is one of the most difficult courses of marriage. It iscompulsory. Anyone who wants a successful marriage has very little option. “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well” (Wikipedia).

The subject of forgiveness is very tough in all spheres of life, more so marriage. The deeper you love, the more difficult the forgiveness of deep hurts.But daily, Christian spouses are reminded in the Lord’s Prayer that forgiveness from God is predicated on forgiving our neighbour (spouse) who wrongs us.

Specifically, Jesus said: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14:15). To tell us that He means business, Jesus told Peter, his disciple, who was also struggling with forgiving his neighbour, that he should forgive 70 times seven, which means always (Matthew 18:22).

When we sin against God, God expects us to come to Him with a broken and contrite heart to ask for and get His forgiveness (Psalm 51). But here we are being asked to forgive spouses who have not even agreed that they are wrong, spouses who have not apologized for their transgressions, spouses who are still very bullish about their wrongs and will do greater wrongs if given the opportunity. Yet we are supposed to forgive.” You see why it is a very difficult subject?

Lack of forgiveness is the cause of many marital break ups. Forgiveness in marriage can be very easy and at the same time most difficult. It is easy because there is a bond, you have also taken vows of “for better, for worse,” “to love and to cherish” and “until death do us part.” If you take these vows seriously, you will overlook your spouse’s transgressions.

When you truly love and care for somebody too, forgiving transgressions is easier. At the same time, forgiveness within marriage can be very difficult, because, like death, you feel more pain if it involves somebody close to you. Spousal betrayal or breach of trust can be very devastating and difficult to forgive. So all parties should be careful lest you fail.

Communication is a compulsory course in the institution of marriage. I describe it as a livewire of marriage. No marriage can work without communication. But it is not just communication but empathic communication. Stephen Covey says, ‘Seek first to understand, then to be understood.’

In other words, when discussing, your first duty is to understand what each of you is saying; where you are coming from. Having done that, you are in a better position to respond appropriately. This is not what happens in many marriages. In addition learn to talk less and listen more. Communication should also be real and appropriately timed. Non-verbal communication is as effective or devastating as verbal communication.

There are many other important courses in the institution of marriage. Spending quality time together is important, but the task of providing for the family can become a stumbling block to spending quality time together, especially in the early stages of marriage. Conflict resolution is another very important course.

Mutual respect is a core course. Companionship is the first reason for marriage and paramount course. There are many other courses including prayers. The number of courses you need to study and do well is one of the reasons why marriage is a difficult institution. Inevitably, you have to know your priorities and find out how to juggle your courses.

One thing is clear; marriages pass or fail some of these courses in various degrees. Is there anything like electives in marriage? I am not sure. No marriage gets distinction in all courses, but you just keep studying and putting in on your best. Make improvements in your marriage one of your New Year resolutions in 2023. Happy New Year once more.