Sunday, November 29, 2009

Myth #2: It Takes Two (Fair Is Fair!)

"Every marriage tends to consist of an aristocrat and a peasant."
- John Updike

Not everyone will marry. That's a fact we must learn to live with.

If you are one person with a rather acute sense of fairness and equality, the institution of marriage might just not be for you; unless you are prepared to chuck some of those ideals out the windows. Marriage, by its very nature is steeped in inequalities. In fact, that's what makes marriage unique.

A marriage is not a partnership, it is a union.

That is why the very idea of a pre-nuptial agreement totally negates the idea of marriage. Unless of course its a business arrangement.

Someone once defined a marriage as like the relationship between a statue and a pigeon. The pigeon perches on the statue and shits on it and what not; the statue does not seem to complain -at least not openly. If you are in a marriage, on some days you are the pigeon, on some other days you are the statue. Live with it.

It is not possible for two people to love each other equally, one must love the other more -at different times in the life of the relationship. Whatever the reasons for getting married, of necessity, one must need the other more.

A clergyman friend of mine once told me this: It does not take two people to make a marriage work, success in marriage depends on the 'Power of One'. At any point in a successful marriage, one person is giving more, doing more, being more for both of them but because of the deliberate opacity of marriage, people on the outside do not usually see this.

Examples abound of this for me and I believe you have a few examples of your own too.

My friend Chinedu works in telecoms with an annual salary of about N4m, his wife Amarachi works in a bank with take home close to N3m per annum. They are from similar family backgrounds, children of retired civil servants. They have two beautiful children.

Nedu and I have been friends like forever; our families are like 5 and 6. I know that he pays the rent, the children's school fees and other fees around the house including feeding money. His siblings go to public schools - his kid sister is in LASU while the brother is in secondary school. Nedu pays their fees too because his parents are retired.

Sometime in 2006, Nedu's mum had to queue in the sun at LASUTH, Ikeja in order to get the free eye surgery for cataract removal sponsored by the government of Bola Tinubu, she also got a free pair of glasses. I know these because I drove her there.

Amara's brother is in Covenant University and she pays the fees. Her two sisters are in private secondary schools. Sometime last year, her employers sponsored a vacation for the famly in the UK. She went with her Dad and the children. Her Dad actually went for a comprehensive medical check-up in London and was treated for some minor ailments while there. Amara paid for it.

For some time, I used to think that the marriage was not fair to my friend. Until one day it hit me, Nedu had never complained to me! For as long he was happy in his marriage whatever the configuration, it was not any of my business.

Marriage is an eternal work-in-progress, a perpetual balancing act.

Marriages fail when one person decides that its not worth it anymore.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Myth #1: Its All About You!

"When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels desert heaven and come and sit in the house and sing for joy." - Brahma Sutra

People get married for so many reasons.

Some marry for love. Some marry for money. Some marry for security. Some marry for comfort. Some marry for positioning. Some marry for the baby. Some even marry for the wedding.

Usually, we all have our idea of a dream marriage (or dream wedding) and this idea/wish forms the basis of our 'reasons' for getting married but we mostly keep our 'reasons' to ourselves. We play our games right up until the wedding (or after) without the other person suspecting a thing. Then we settle down to 'live the dream'.

Problem is: We expect the other person to fit perfectly into our dream. And they don't. Then we get mad and wonder if we married the wrong person. Truth is, we married the right person for our 'reasons'. But then, our 'reasons' may have changed.

After all, he still owns that same airline and earns that same fantastic income as when you were courting and it fitted right into your 'reasons'. She's still the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria 1974 and she still earns good money from endorsements. She's still the daughter of Lord Rumblesbottom with all her Dad's connections. Besides, the PT stick still shows positive.

Nothing has really changed. Or has it? For one, you are now Mrs. Rumblesbottom-Ugbodikoko. But the change is more than in the name.

At the point you get married, everything changes. It is so subtle and you might have missed it but it happened. You may wake up to it the morning after or a year later, but it happened.

Since I came to this realization, I have watched wedding officiators try to explain something to the couples they wed. They try to tell them about the 'Divine Equation'; some times they fumble IMO and even when they get it right, the couples just don't get it.

The Divine Equation can be expressed as 1+1=1. Simple, abi?

I have seen some Pastors using the 'leave to cleave' passage from Genesis to explain this. Some have even used it to justify their arguments against hyphenated surnames - since they are supposed to become the mythical 'one'.

I don't want to go spiritual here but let me just say that the Divine Equation states that at the point of marriage between two people (usually a man and a woman), a third entity is formed. That entity is the Marriage.

From the moment they are married, the Marriage takes precedence over and above the constituent parts. It really does not matter who or what you were before, when you marry, you work at the Marriage. People shouldn't see you any longer rather they should see the Marriage.

People - especially Africans - will stop asking about your job, car or house once you are married. After 'How are you?' they ask about your spouse or the children. From then on it is about the Marriage. Remember, 1+1=1.

Does this mean that you lose your self in marriage? No. It means you are willing to submit of yourself in marriage. Remember, all former documents remain valid.

Some people say marriage is sacrifice. I don't agree wholly. Sacrifice can be forced. You can be made to sacrifice even against your will. Marriage is about submission. Its about what you are willing to give; about acceptance from the power of choice not a resignation from powerlessness.

The Marriage is only as strong as what both parties in it are willing to submit. If either or both gives 0.9 then it can't be 1+1=1. If he has $1 billion but is only willing to submit $900 million to the Marriage, beware. If she starts giving you conditions before she can be called Mrs. Rumblesbottom-Ugbodikoko, beware.

Think about the most successful marriages you know and try to decipher what either party in the marriage is doing to make the marriage work. If you can, then the marriage is not as strong as it appears. When a marriage is successful, it looks effortless. Its like they are doing nothing.

In reality, they are doing nothing. The Marriage they have built does it all for them.

It is really not about you. Neither is it about you too. Its about the Marriage.

Live with it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Six Myths About Marriage

"A happy man marries the girl he loves; a happier man loves the girl he marries."

Yes, I still have Laspapi's Tarzan Monologues on my mind.

The same weekend that my uncle was celebrating his fortieth wedding anniversary was also our own fifth wedding anniversary. Expectedly, my wife and I had several interesting discussions on what we will do to make it to forty. We concluded that it was best to just live it one day at a time.

I do some work with an NGO as a sort of relationship advisor. In the course of my duties, I usually meet with couples - both married and intending to marry. Most of the time I just listen and you will be amazed at the kind of things that people say they go through in their relationships. I have discovered that most people have created myths about the institution of marriage.

Most of these myths are based on misinformation. Misinformation fuelled by wrong attitudes.

Most of these misinformation unfortunately come from so called 'experts' and contained in books and magazines. For the wrong attitudes, I hold magazines like Cosmo responsible. And some of our 'Singles & Married' pastors. Some of them just don't have a clue.

Most of these myths are about the other sex. Myths about Men or Women in marriage. If these were all, there really wont have been much problems but sometimes, people have created myths about marriage itself.

I have tried to compile some that I have discovered both in the course of my own marriage and from listening to others. Some of them I had myself going into marriage but I believe I am wiser now.

I do not claim to know it all. After all, I am still married. And still learning. Please feel free to disagree with me.

These myths are about the Who, What, When, Why and How of marriage. The sixth myth I am still trying to grapple with. Here's hoping we will unravel it together in the next six weeks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Married Life!

I was at a recently married friend's place over the weekend and they were obviously still in their post-honeymoon daze. Everywhere in the house was littered with photographs, cards and gifts -opened and unopened. Since most of the gifts were wall-clocks anyway, the couple decided to stop opening until probably later.

I also noticed so many cards, many wishing them a happy married life.

How would you describe a Happy Married Life? Is there really anything like a happy married life?

Or is it as my good friend Abadingo said, that the words 'happy' and 'married' cannot exist in the same sentence? You are either happy or you are married. They are mutually exclusive.

I told about an uncle who recently celebrated his fortieth wedding anniversary. I went to see him during the week. I looked at their wedding picture again, he was a young man of 23, recently graduated from university and just got a job. She was a wide eyed, very pregnant woman of 20, recently qualified as a teacher.

I couldn't help but ask him if he had thought about what they would be doing in forty years time. He did not. Remember that this was in the middle of the Nigerian Civil war. They were afraid but they lived everyday as it came.

So I asked him: Has he had a happy married life?

He answered emphatically in the affirmative. I wonder can he be for real?

What do you think?

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