There was a wedding at St Piran’s Anglican Church in Jos years ago. I recall the then Bishop (now Archbishop) Benjamin Kwashi asked the congregation an important question “How many of you would still marry your spouse assuming you knew what you now know about your spouse back then? We are before God, tell the truth.”
There was a rumble of laughter and then silence.
He repeated the question again.
Only one person raised his hand. Even the spouse of that person did not raise her hand. It was scary for me and my friend. We were both teenagers and had this romantic idea of what marriage what supposed to be like. We did not understand why there seemed to be so much regret.
We had what I call ‘fairy tale princess minds’. You fall in love and love proceeds to conquer every other thing. Every single struggle, as long as true love was involved, love would conquer it. Love bridged the gap created by class, age, culture, race, money, royalty… love was all that mattered.
So we tried to reason it out. Perhaps these people were not truly in love when they got married, or maybe the marriages were arranged. Whatever it was, true love guaranteed lifelong happiness. When we were of dateable and marriageable age, we wondered why when our mothers questioned us about suitors (that is such a dated word, I think ‘toasters’ is much better), they NEVER asked about love. It was always
Where is he from?
Where did he grow up?
What does he do?
Where are his parents?
What do they do?
Are the parents together?
Is he the first born?
How many siblings does he have?
What church does he go to?
What is his blood genotype?
They NEVER asked
Does he give you butterflies in your tummy?
Is there chemistry between you?
When you have a fight, does your appetite disappear?
Does your heart say he is ‘the one’?
hey always snorted away any ‘I love him’ statements. It did not impress them. It seemed they even had more respect for ‘like’.
“Shebi you like him, abi?” We thought that they were old fashioned, unromantic, too rigid and difficult.
In fact, deep within us, we thought that they did not know what love really was. They did not understand the burning desire to be with one person. The way the heart leaps when your name is called by the one you love. They did not understand the kind of love that we just knew could conquer every mountain. What did our old folks know about love?
A few years into marriage and it all begins to come together. You get exactly what they meant and what they were trying to establish with those down to earth questions.
WHERE IS HE FROM?: Nigerians, despite how cosmopolitan we seem, are truly steeped neck deep into culture. Where he is from will determine what his expectations may be. Like I was genuinely surprised to find out that in Igbo culture, the woman is considered to be from where her husband is from. Like she is from Anambra, he is from Imo. When they get married, they are all from Imo. So every time I proudly stated that I was from Ogun state, my husband thought I was not proud of where I was married into.
WHERE DID HE GROW UP? : A Yoruba man raised in the north is different from a Yoruba man raised in the West. Like an Igbo man raised in Lagos is different from the one raised in the east. The Lagosian Igbo man is more open minded so to speak and I don’t mean that the ones raised in the east are not in a negative sense. My neighbour grew up in Enugu and marriage brought her to Lagos. She was shocked that my husband, an Igbo man eats amala. It was so strange to her. The influences you had as a function of where you were raised cannot be ignored.
WHAT DOES HE DO: The ability to care for a family is important. The kind of job says a lot. Is he a Teacher, a civil servant, a ‘contractor’… all these things determine how much income and how regular it comes. Nothing clears romance from the eyes like financial problems.
WHERE ARE HIS PARENTS AND WHAT DO THEY DO? : If he lives close to his family, I don’t need to be a mamalawo to tell you what that will mean. Family interference puts pressure on a marriage. Are the parents wealthy? This would mean that there isn’t a heavy financial burden placed on the man. Are they educated and well-travelled? That will also play a major factor in how they handle family issues.
ARE THE PARENTS TOGETHER? : Let me tell you the uncomfortable truth. Parents are wary of the offspring of separated spouses. It may seem unfair to judge a child growing in a circumstance that he did not create but that is not what they are doing. Living with a single parent is different from living with both. What the child expects from a spouse may differ based on the roles his own parents played in his life. Being raised by a hardworking single mother may make him expect a lot more from a wife than a child that grew up seeing both parents hustle. Now if this wife grew up in a home where Daddy did all the major things, she is not going into the marriage expecting to shoulder major bills. Please do not misconstrue. I am not saying anything is wrong with children of single parents. Whether from single parents or double, no one can accurately say how marriage will play out. But family background can give a heads up on the type of challenges that may be faced.
IS HE THE FIRST BORN AND HOW MANY SIBLINGS DOES HE HAVE: One-word people, RESPONSIBILITY. A woman that marries a man that is responsible for a large number of people will have a rough time adjusting.
WHAT CHURCH DOES HE GO TO: For Christians, we are raised according to the denominations our parents attended. Marrying a Catholic when you are from a Pentecostal church is bound to create some tension.
BLOOD GENOTYPE: Watching children struggle with genotype issues is very difficult. Love is tested severely.
Young people in love have a way of waving these important questions away. Marrying a man from a very rich home or royalty when you are of humble means is not a walk in the park. You will find situations where you and your family will be considered less important and you may even battle with very low self-esteem. Marrying a very poor man may create a low self-esteemed man that will use everything in his power to show you that you are subservient to him. Everything will be“Is it because we don’t have that is why you are looking down on us…”
The first thing that goes in marriage are the rose coloured glasses. You begin to see each other not through a haze of love. You see warts and all. Similarities in upbringing, cultures, and education help to bridge some gaps. Huge differences are sometimes insurmountable or take a long time to bridge.
My friend told me that after a decade of marriage if she could rewind things, she would have chosen a partner based on pragmatic things and not love.
Love is great for movies or songs.
But love alone cannot pay for rent, food and school fees or change fundamental differences.
There is a place for romantic love, but in marriage, love becomes a tangible action word.
Think with your heart and also with your head.
I sound so reasonable in this article… some days I dey gentle small. If this writing thing does not pan out, I should open a church abi how una take see am?