by Usman Shamaki.
Towards the end of last year, three of my cousins were betrothed and the weddings were slated for some time this year. Last week, I was privileged to be part of a delegation of elders from my family who sought for the hand of a lady in marriage for a cousin of mine. Next month I hope to be part of a similar delegation who will be seeking the hand of a lady for yet another cousin. So this year is going to be a real doozy for me as far as weddings are concerned.
In times past, some of my cousins have jokingly asked me to offer them some words of advice-or as they call it-“tips from my notebook of marriage”. Despite the need for such tips, we laugh it off and leave it as it is; a joke. I want to take up that challenge now for them and for other intending couples as I have noticed a huge gap in this regard which urgently needs to be filled. While it would have been best for me to sit down with each of them to dispense these tips, due to the constraints of our various work schedules and diverse location, this medium will have to do.
The already married couple are not left out either. You can think of this as a refresher course. After all, no one can claim to have achieved true perfection in marriage, if at all such a thing exists. Before I start dishing out tips, here is a disclaimer. I am no expert. These tips are merely what I have extracted from six years of marriage and from observing numerous married couples.
Weddings are a huge deal everywhere. This is no excuse but perhaps due to the numerous arrangements and plans for various events, parents and relatives on both sides get caught up in the hype of the wedding and leave a lot of important details unattended. No, I don’t mean the seating arrangement aimed at keeping warring family members at bay. Important details like advising the couple about their rights, duties and responsibilities towards each other. Somehow, most couples are left to wing it for themselves. While some stumble their way through and learn from their mistakes. Others are not so fortunate. There have been numerous cases of marriages hitting the rocks within a few months due to a trivial molehill which snowballed into a mountain. My plan is to tackle some of these issues in as honest and as real a manner as I can. Here goes 8 Mistakes Couples Make and How to Avoid Them:
- BE REAL, GET REAL: Lots of couples get into marriage with an exaggerated or phantasmagorical expectation of what it entails. This could be due to their own make believe fantasy or it could be based on the false impression(s) given by their partner. For those who give their partners an exaggerated view of themselves during courtship, you’re playing yourself. Those lies you tell during courtship to make yourself seem more desirable will come back to bite you in the backside. Humans are creatures of habit. When you give your partner a false impression about yourself, you will be expected to follow through with it after marriage. Let’s face it. You can’t put up a façade for the rest of your marriage. I give you a maximum of two months and your lies will start to unravel. Two months is actually the maximum period for the pathological liar. For the average liar, your lies will unravel much sooner. Marriages have failed as a result of one seemingly white lie told by one of the spouses. Be real with one another. Marriage is a lifetime thing. There is no point starting it off with a lie.
For those who have fantasies or excessively high expectations about marriage, please get your head out of those romantic comedies and Mills & Boon novels. “Happily Ever After” doesn’t just happen, it takes hard work. Lovey dovey isn’t an everyday affair. Your spouse will have his/her ups and downs. You thought he/she would be the spotlessly clean and nice smelling suitor you have always known? Sorry, newsflash! He’ll fart in bed, she’ll pick her nose and his poop will stink up the house. It’s a basic fact of life. Behind all those charming looks, we are only human. The sooner you get real and accept that fact, the smoother your marriage will be. So get real.
- COMMUNICATE: This cannot be overemphasized. Communication is an integral part of human interaction. Without proper communication, all forms of confusion, chaos and misunderstanding are bound to ensue in every aspect of human interaction, especially marriage.
Sometimes couples make the mistake of thinking they don’t need to speak their mind. “After all, he/she knows me very well and we finish each other’s sentences”, is the usual cliché. That silly movie line will get you nowhere. No one can read your mind, not even the devil. Say what you need to say. Ladies, you don’t like him leaving the toilet seat up? Tell him, he doesn’t know what’s going on inside your head. Fellas, does she hang up your suit in a way you don’t like? Show her how to do it, she’s not clairvoyant.
I have actually witnessed instances where the husband grunts and expects the wife to just get what he’s trying to say. You may be lucky to have an intuitive spouse who knows what your every grunt means but come on, if God wanted us to communicate by grunting He wouldn’t have granted us the ability to speak.
While communicating is important, it is also very important to communicate in a manner where the message is not lost or drowned out by some other distracting factor. When communicating your like or dislike about something, do not raise your voice or speak in a condescending manner. Put yourself in the shoes of the individual you are speaking to. In other words, correct them or speak to them as you would want to be spoken to.
- RESPECT ONE ANOTHER: Most times, this is erroneously seen to be a one sided duty. I like to call it the “Ultra African Concept of Marriage.” This concept misguides the husband into thinking and demanding respect from the wife while laboring under the misconception that she doesn’t deserve same. Sadly, despite how times have changed, not much has been done to quell or disrupt this archaic way of thinking. There are instances of husbands speaking to wives in a disrespectful and demeaning manner all in a bid to assert his authority. This sort of marriage pattern may have worked well during the time of our parents and grandparents, not anymore.
Respect is mutual. Treating your spouse with condescension will not get you far. If it does get you far, your path will be thorny.
Forget what you’ve been told by your boys. Speaking to your wife in a calm and respectful won’t make you appear meek. Your boys who told you acting loud and in charge will earn you respect probably speak to their wives in squeaky voices. Respect one another.
- KEEP FAMILY & FRIENDS OUT OF YOUR MARRIAGE: We like to think our family and friends are always out to help us. Sure they are, most of the time. However, when it comes to marriage, help from family and friends may not be as clear cut as with other aspects of your life.
Marriage is a sacred bond between two people. Allowing interference by family and friends unless such interference is extremely essential in preserving the marriage, should be avoided. Keep your marital issues between you and your spouse. Try to sort out your problems on your own. Involving family and friends at the slightest instance may seem like a good idea but remember the old saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
When you involve your family in your marital issues, they bring sentiment and a ton of emotion into it, which can complicate matters. Sit down, talk to one another and hear each other out. Every marriage goes through difficult times. Don’t be quick to seek help or discuss your issues with others.
While it is important to keep others out of your marriage, once the difficulties in the marriage border on physical or emotional abuse, by all means speak out. All that “be patient, stay for the kids” crap should be tossed where it belongs; in the bin.
- UNDERSTAND ONE ANOTHER AT ALL TIMES: While you may think that understanding one another ends once you tie the knot, understanding one another is a lifelong process. The human heart and mind has infinite depths. No one can claim to say he has seen every facet of his or her spouse. You will see new aspects of your spouse during your marriage. Some, you anticipated or knew about. Most, you didn’t.
Try to understand one another. As emotional creatures, certain things we do may not be without reason. Try to understand one another. Don’t just fly off the handle when your spouse does something out of character. Try to be understanding.
- SHE IS YOUR COMPANION, NOT YOUR SERVANT: It is not usual to see chores being shared between spouses in this part of the world. When it comes to chores the wife gets the bulk of it most of the time. This has been conditioned into our minds from childhood. Break free from this cycle and try to help out when you can. The usual excuse for the man is work. That may be true. You can try to help out on weekends. Lending a hand can go a long way in strengthening the bond between you and your spouse.
- COMPLIMENT YOUR WIFE: Before getting married, compliments usually flow unabated. Once married however, they tend to cease. Most spouses rarely ever complimenting their significant others. When it comes to complaining however, it comes easy.
Try to compliment your spouse and show appreciation for all that he/she does. You will be surprised at how it can brighten their day.
- MARRIAGE IS A JOURNEY, NOT A DESTINATION: “Let me get married and rest” is a common expression I have heard many times. Contrary to popular belief however, especially amongst young people, marriage has nothing in common with resting. A marriage does not simply make itself work. You both have to work at it. Making a marriage work is a journey of a lifetime, not a destination. There are no breaks or vacations. You work at it 24/7, 365.
While there are probably other important tips I am yet to hand out, I hope the few I have discussed will be of immense help to anyone about to or planning on taking a dive into this pool called marriage. I wish you a happy married life as your embark on your journey together.