I am no relationship expert. I write this article with a little trepidation.
Remember when Toke Makinwa used to do vlogs on how to snag a man, get a man to marry you, etc. etc. It was all great till her relationship came crashing down. I am not saying this to mock her. That would be stupid. We navigate life a step at a time. We also cannot predict what is around the corner and how we will react to it.
So no, I am not knocking Toke for speaking about how relationships should work when hers failed.
I am simply starting off by acknowledging that no one is an expert. You can still be blindsided by life even when you have given a relationship your very best. I have picked up a few things after being married for 12 years (our anniversary was yesterday, yay!!!!!)
- DO NOT MARRY FOR MONEY. I had to say that in capital letters. The most unfulfilled people walking the earth are wealthy people. Life gets old fast for them. The more you have, the more you want what you can’t have. If you marry only because your partner has money, the shine of wealth will fade fast.
- Financial standing matters: This doesn’t contradict my first point. Marrying SOLELY for money is a problem. It is also a problem to marry in the total absence of money. It may seem romantic to prioritize feelings when choosing a partner. But feelings are pesky unreliable minions. Persistent lack will erode love faster than water carries sand from a beach. It matters what your partner does for a living. It is a major consideration in a relationship.
- Marry a kind person: Do not stay with a cruel person just because they treat you right while being mean to other people. Marriage will bring down all the fences. You will see your partner as clear as daylight. A mean person will sooner or later turn on you.
I started out with the basics. Who you marry is pivotal to the success of your marriage. There are people that are impossible to live with. Doing the groundwork makes it easier.
- Give the marriage time: Initially for most people, marriage is hard. It takes a lot of adjusting. When the cuteness of being together and the sex begins to wear off, real problems will emerge. Cohesiveness takes a while. It takes a lot of patience and willingness to understand another human being. Don’t be too hasty to make conclusions about your partner or relationship.
- Have ground rules that protect each other’s dignity: In my relationship with my husband, there is an unspoken rule not to fight dirty. Not to use swear words or words that belittle. Once these words come out, it is hard to navigate one’s way back. There should be a low you must never descend to. Do not use your words to eviscerate a person’s dignity.
- TALK, TALK, TALK. It stuns me that a lot of couples do not talk. I know of many friends in marriages that will tell me things they could never tell their husbands or wives of many years. I even get it. It is possible to live under the same roof and not communicate. This is because we can be wary of each other’s reactions. So, a couple will keep quiet about major dissonance within them. This is dangerous because when stress is applied, these things come out like a volcano consuming everyone in its path. Talking gives the opportunity to resolve differences. It also makes you know exactly where your partner is at.
- LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Don’t always talk just so that you air out what is within you. It may be cathartic but if you don’t listen, you spoil the whole aim of talking. Really listen. If you do, you may even hear the things that are not being said. There is nothing more uplifting than a partner who really listens in a relationship or marriage. It makes you feel valued. It makes you feel seen. So, talk and listen.
- Be careful who you are friends with: Everything starts with friendship. When you have committed to be with another person for life, you need to guard against relationships that will threaten that. The moment you have a friend that you begin to run to with your problems, your successes and the interesting things that happen around you, then HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM. A lot of damaging extramarital affairs started with seemingly harmless friendships.
- CREATE TOGETHER TIME: I have capitalized again. Life is super busy for adults with responsibilities. Especially when they have kids (and live in Lagos). The rat race puts you in a nonstop Ferris wheel when you let it. Pause sometimes. Find time to be alone together. Kiss. Hold hands. Play. Laugh. Even if it is just for 24 hours. Find that time to remember how it all began. Refuel.
- Contentment: I feel that contentment is not something we happen upon or happens to us just like that. Contentment is a deliberate decision. Condition yourself to see your partner as enough. There will always be more fascinating people. More beautiful people. Richer people. More eloquent people. Once you start to journey to find a better person, it will never end. Make peace with your lot. That sounds like a prison sentence, but it is not. It is learning to always value what you have now. The grass is not greener on the other side. You don’t have to cross over to know this. No one is perfect. Make peace with each other’s imperfections.
This isn’t exhaustive. I may do a part two. Marriage is not something that you leave to the wind to decide how it will go. Marriage needs tending. When it is working, the people involved are working to make it work. Falling in love and accepting to be bound in law is not the end. It is just the beginning.
Keep staying safe, people.
Wear a mask.
Wash your hands.