Of course, I love writing and when i get to see good stuff, i appreciate them. i went visiting on nairaland when olumok’s post on the topic drew my attention. it’s long, I also agree, but when compared to what the knowledge will do, it’s worth it. part two, knowledge of the heart will come up tomorrow. Let’s save some marriages…
Why is it that so many marriages do not work? Why does a relationship that starts with two people gazing longingly and lovingly into each others’ eyes, end with those same people not even being able to look at each other except in disgust? Why is it that two people who promise each other to do everything to make the other happy, end up not being able to bring themselves to even acknowledge the other’s presence?
Before you even attempt to answer these questions consider the following examples:
1. A guy I know met a lovely young lady during our first year in university and shortly afterwards, started dating. This “model relationship” continued all the way to graduation. They eventually got married a few years after university (they had been together for a total of 9yrs before they got married). How lovely! One might say. Well, they were divorced 6months after they got married.
2. An acquaintance had been dating this girl for about 6years. They broke up, she met someone else and she was married within a year of meeting the new guy. They were divorced 3months later.
3. I heard of a couple who had been together since they were in their teens. By the time they were married, they had been together for about 16years. They divorced 2months after the wedding.
Just in case you were wondering, these are real life examples. I could go on with so many more, but there wouldn’t be space for anything else.
There are about a thousand reasons why marriages do not work, but for the purpose of this article, I will just deal with what I call the change factor.
Is this a guy problem or is it a girl problem? Is it a parental problem or is it a societal problem?
When two people meet and discover they like each other enough to want to be together, it feels like a breath of fresh air. He’s met this girl who makes him feel like he’s never felt before in his life. She’s met this guy who makes her believe that God indeed answers prayers. They start off on this journey that would take only death to pry one away from the other. They become each other’s confidant, telling each other stuff they’ve never told anyone before; he’s the last person she talks to before she sleeps and the first person she talks to when she wakes up; all of a sudden, the cries of “I’m so busy, I haven’t got time for a relationship” become, “let’s take next week off, so we can go off somewhere”. In short, it’s a dream come true. Neither can see any reason why this cannot go on forever. In the not too distant future, wedding bells begin to ring.
When the wedding ends, the marriage starts. Unfortunately, the word marriage means different things to different people. I use the word, “unfortunately” because marriage should be the beginning of a lifetime journey of discovery and devotion, initially to your spouse and eventually to your new family, when children come into the picture. That in no way implies that the journey is or will be an easy one. But what makes it easier (not easy) to deal with, is the knowledge that you are devoted to someone else other than yourself and that someone else is as devoted to you. But the reality is that no matter how devoted a couple is to each other prior to tying the knot, marriage always brings a new set of expectations. Things that they used to laugh and joke about now become disrespectful. Statements like, “I’m your husband, you cannot talk to me like that” or “Do you expect me to be a wife without an opinion?” become frequent and before you know what is happening, everyday becomes about conflict resolution.
When he was not yet a husband, he was the ideal boyfriend. Always attentive, extremely caring, generous, protective (not possessive), and a dozen other “Thanksgiving-worthy” adjectives. He is completely selfless in his love and devotion to his girlfriend. When a childhood friend says, “how can you be with that girl, I know about 20 people she’s been with”, he ex-communicates that friend. When another friend says, “you guys look so happy”, he glows and that one becomes his new best friend. He introduces her to his parents and they fall in love with her, as she is such a cultured young lady. He meets her parents and they are so happy that their daughter has found a responsible young man. He’s now ready to step it up, so he buys a ring and proposes in the most romantic, fairytale- way imaginable. She accepts and wedding plans start. HOLD ON! He calls up his new best friend and says, “I’ve noticed some things about her that I don’t like, and I never noticed them before. Was I so in love that I did not notice or are her true colours coming out?” His friend says, “don’t worry, no matter how much you love her, you cannot like every single thing about her, but maybe you should tell her about it.” He decides not to, because he does not want it to seem like an excuse to not get married.
So the wedding plans continue as normal and D day finally arrives. The wedding ends, the marriage starts and for the first few months, it’s all good. Suddenly, he wonders why he should go grocery shopping with her every month like they used to. He tells himself, “after all, we’re married now and I’m the husband. It’s her duty to do that”. Again, he wonders why he should help her out in the kitchen when she’s dead tired, like he used to when they were dating. He tells himself, “after all, we’re married now and I’m the husband. It’s her duty to do that”. Again, he wonders why she gets upset when he works late without telling her he’ll be late. He tells himself, “after all, I was out working like a responsible man and I take care of my responsibilities, why should I take permission from her to come home late from work?” Again, he wonders why she should use his phone without telling him or answer his phone without him asking her to, like they used to with each other’s phones when they were dating. He tells himself, “What right does she have to answer my phone without permission, isn’t my mobile phone supposed to be private?” Again, he wonders why she should argue with him when he wants to watch “prison break” while “sex and the city” is on, they used to take turns to watch their favourite shows together. He tells himself, “after all, I am the husband and pay all the bills, so I should be able to watch what I want in my own house.”
By this time, the relationship that was filled with so much laughter becomes one filled with so much tension, because she feels she has to practically walk on egg shells so as not to anger him.
She was the ideal girlfriend; caring, loving considerate, thoughtful and selfless. A childhood friend tells her, “that guy is a player, I heard he’s a heartbreak specialist”. Her response, “I’ve always known you were jealous of me.” She knows he is the one and has never felt stronger about anything in her life. She’s waiting and hoping that he proposes to her. When he eventually does, she tells herself, “can life be any more wonderful?”
The wedding ends, the marriage starts and for the first few months, it’s all good. Suddenly, she wonders why he wants to go out with his friends on Friday nights, when he should be home with his wife. She tells herself, “He used to go out a lot when we were dating but should that not stop now that he is married?” Again, she wonders why she cannot answer his phone when it rings. She tells herself, “Now that we are married, should I not be able to answer my husband’s phone?” Again, she wonders why he spends so much time at work. She tells herself, “Now that he is married, should the overtimes he’s working not be reduced, so we can spend more time together?”
What you will notice from these two scenarios is that after the marriage, they both had different expectations from the other. They expected the other to be a certain way, “because we are now married.” Marriage is a journey and usually a difficult one, because you are no longer living for yourself but for someone else (well, that’s how it should be anyway). When a couple gets to the point where they feel like the other should change things that they initially had no problem with, because they are now married, it will take a miracle for that marriage to stand. Take one of the issues in the first scenario: This must have been a guy who would probably call and say, “I’m working late today darling, will be home about 9 or so”. But when he gets married, he believes as long as she knows he’s at wok, he does not need “permission” to be home late from work. You might be surprised at the number of times I’ve actually heard this line from guys. That’s not seeking permission; that is acknowledging the fact that there is someone else in your life and that person should be important enough know to why you are not home on time. I don’t think this makes you any less a man.
Admittedly, there is a behaviour on the part of a wife that makes a man feel that if he acknowledges this fact, it’s tantamount to emasculation. It’s possible, and it has been known to happen, for the wife to act in such a way that the husband does not feel like he owes her any kind of explanation. Consider this example: John is a hardworking man. He has a job that sometimes requires him to be at work till about 9 or 10pm. His fiancée knows this and in fact loves that he is so hardworking and takes his work seriously. They got married and after a few months, she started complaining about the time he spends at work. He is genuinely surprised because his weekdays have always been like that. She believes now that he is married, he has to do something about it. The situation has always been like that and he cannot understand why there is a problem now.
He’s even more irritated because he goes out of his way to leave work as early as is practicable, but the nature of his job means he usually has no choice. It’s painful to him because he wonders how his wife can know all this and still act the way she is. If the wife in this case had an issue with his work hours before they were married, she should have mentioned it to him. It’s always much easier to deal with a problem when it rears its head than to wait for it to grow and fester. She could have thought, “Well, when we’re married, I’m sure he will reduce the hours”, forgetting he actually does not pick the hours he works. If she had voiced her concern before the wedding, it would have been easier to resolve, rather than wait till they were married (and in case you were wondering, it’s NOT possible that the work hours did not cross her mind before she accepted his proposal). This is where selflessness and sacrifice come in.
A couple needs to understand something very simple: it is NOT your duty or responsibility to make yourself happy, it’s your spouse’s duty. That probably does not make sense, but think about this for a second. If your priority in your relationship is to make yourself happy, and your spouse’s priority is to make himself/herself happy, what you have is a self-centred relationship. That sounds harsh but that is the reality, because in many regards, each one will try to ensure that he/she is happy and the other person’s happiness becomes secondary. You might argue that it’s possible to make yourself and your spouse happy, which does make sense. But what do you think would happen if you left that job to your spouse, while you concentrate on making the other person happy. If both are honest about this, that’s going to be a relationship that would be pretty hard to break. The problem of course becomes, “what if you know you are concentrating on making the other person happy and the other person is not doing the same, what then?” Well, it is more than likely that if the other person is not doing the same, there is a reason. Try to talk to them. Find out what is wrong and if there is something you’re doing or not doing. This sounds a bit mushy, but if you really want your marriage to work, you have to be willing to make sacrifices and if you consider sitting your spouse down (especially men!) and having that kind of conversation a bit much, I’ll say this; try it and see what happens.
People need to understand that marriage goes way beyond the festivities of the wedding and the anticipation of living together. Marriage involves an incredible amount of sacrifice. A very common problem is unwillingness to make that kind of sacrifice or just not realising that it takes the kind of sacrifice that you have never made before to make a marriage work. I know that sounds like a cliché because everyone says it, but have you actually sat down to really think about what those words mean? Before you pack your bags, ask yourself a very simple, but very profound question, “Have I done everything to make this work? If there was another chance, would I do things differently?” If so, “which things would I do differently?” If you can be honest with yourself and not let ego cloud your reasoning, your marriage CAN still work.
Sacrifice is about forgetting about you.
Sacrifice is about closing the door on your ego.
Sacrifice is about swapping convenience for inconvenience for the sake of your relationship.
Sacrifice is about acknowledging the fact that your spouse’s happiness is primary and yours is secondary.
Sacrifice is about accepting a view you don’t necessarily agree with for the sake of peace in your home.
Sacrifice is realisation of the fact that disagreements will arise, but they do not need to escalate to quarrels.
Sacrifice for women, is the realisation that no matter how strong-willed you are, your husband is the head of the home and should be accorded that respect.
Sacrifice for men, is the realisation that head of the home is not synonymous with dictator.
Sacrifice for women, is the realisation that ALL men are born with egos and when you try to compete with a man’s ego, the marriage is the sufferer.
Sacrifice for men is the realisation that her being married to you is a choice she made and it’s your duty to make sure she does not ever regret making that choice.
Sacrifice for women is the realisation that you cannot understand a man’s ego because you were not created to understand it.
Sacrifice for men is the realisation that women were created to be loved, not understood.
One of the reasons why there is such a sharp contrast between when people are dating and when they get married is because in the former, they tend to be more tolerant (either because he feels, “I’m sure when we’re married, she will stop doing this or that”, or she feels, “he is not my husband, so he should not expect me to be this or that way”). Obviously, there are things that responsible men and women should stop or start doing when they are married. The problem is that men and women expect the other to know what changes to make as soon as marriage sets in. People are stuck in the mind frame of, “a man should know what he ought to do” and “a woman should know what she ought to do.” So I guess the obvious question is, “if you should not expect someone to change as a result of marriage, how are you sure the person knows how you want your marriage to be?”
The answer to that is quite simple; Talk about it, BEFORE the wedding! The problem is so many people spend so much time planning their wedding, but not their marriage. And if you think a talk about a subject like that may be awkward, then maybe the relationship is not as strong as you think or want to believe it is. If you had issues with certain things before the wedding, why do you think marriage will change it? When you were dating, you used to go grocery shopping together, you’re married now and feel it’s the wife’s duty. While I don’t have a problem with a man or woman’s duties, men need to understand that things as simple as grocery shopping mean a lot to women. For women, it’s a lot more than grocery shopping; it’s about doing something together as a couple. If during the pre-marriage period, they hardly or never did that together, that’s fine. But if you had no problem with it before you were married, why is it a problem now? Someone might argue that, “I’m the only one that works, I get back home and I’m tired. Is it too much to ask her to do just that?” That’s a valid argument, but the question in that case would be, how was that issue resolved before you got married? If you were not living together before the wedding, then there should have been a discussion about issues like that (it does not have to a formal, serious discussion). I’ll say this again, so many people spend so much time planning their weddings, that they forget to plan their marriage.
A lot of people believe they can change the other person. The fact is, no one can change anybody. Someone can decide to change because of someone, but can also decide not to change. My point is, if you met and fell in love with someone and did not like certain things, but were quiet about it, don’t expect marriage to change them. If you have an issue with things he/she does, sit down and have an honest conversation about it. Unless you’re married to a psychic, don’t expect the other person to know what you want or expect without telling the person and then get upset when they act the way they’ve always acted.
The bottom line is this: The way a relationship was prior to getting married does not have to change because of marriage. If anything, marriage should make that relationship deeper. Spouses should make sure that their priority is the happiness of the other. If we can all be honest about this, the sky will be the starting point, not the limit.