Tomorrow, 21st of June 2011, will be our 14th anniversary. So it is only appropriate that I share my thoughts about marriage. I have learned that while I rejoice about this particular event, I should not congratulate myself too much. There are many who have focused more on their marriages and yet they have failed. It is actually an amazing paradox. Usually it is the most likely to succeed in your mind that end up failing and vice versa. One of my recent posts alluded to that.
There are many many lessons I have learned in the past fourteen years and I believe there are many many more yet to learn. But I have picked my five and at the end I will copy and paste my wife’s exactly the way she put them. Her’s are not five and I have not changed any of them. I wanted to say it exactly as she said it. Our marriage has had very many exciting times, fun times, broke times, chummed times, happy times, sad times, fights, quarrels, interesting times and some not so interesting ones. I would not be able to do it justice in one post. So here are five things i have learned over the years.
1. Premarital counselling can be misleading
A newly wedded couple is a bit like a baby. Nobody can look a new mother in the eye and tell her how ugly they think their baby is. All babies are cute and so beautiful. We were all once beautiful babies! Nobody tells a couple how ugly and mismatched they look. I have been mc at several weddings and I have yet to see one of the people giving speeches say how he/she thinks that this couple are in for a rough time and that they will be lucky to pass the three-year mark. I only know of one couple who were advised to break up during their pre-marital counselling class since they didn’t look like they would survive marriage to each other. And even that advice was wrong since that couple have been married for more than 40 years now. I believe that since premarital counselling classes are designed to prepare young couples for real life, they should have at least the following scenarios.
They should be shown a couple in the middle of a real life disagreement, they should meet someone who has been widowed, divorced or separated and listen to them. The good things couples have been told to expect should be tempered with a true reality check. Two weeks after we got married, we met a friend of ours, a lady who was going through a very rough time in her marriage. She did not seem to share the enthusiasm of all our other friends when we told her we were newly married. She just looked at us and said
“marriage is good for you, it will wake you up and give him a chance to grow up”
she said this snearing and almost poking me in the head as she said it. We were shocked and wrote her off as a jealous and negative person. A few years later, we realised she was right.
2. Never go into marriage with an exit clause in mind
Many couples go into marriage thinking
“if he does this, that’s it, if she fails to do this, kwisha!”
If you go in with this mind-set, chances are you will not stay together for long. Marriage does not have a probation period. Go into it with forever in mind. No matter what. All those issues of sijui what is non-negotiable nini nini, should be dealt with before you get married. Those are the things dating and courting should be dealing with. Marriage is for keeps. For better for worse etc is real, it is not a joke or cliche thing we say in our vows. Dating and courtship is not for partying and engaging in sexual experimentation, it is for learning about your potential spouse, to learn about their values, their likes and dislikes and for truly deciding whether this is someone you want to spend the rest of your life with.
3. Hii kitu haina mwalimu
This thing has no teacher. What I have tried and it worked in my marriage, you cannot take and try it in yours and expect it to work the same way. Our people, the wakamba say ‘Vayī mūsyi waakawaa ta ūngi’. No home is built like the other. What may seem to me like building for my marriage will be like destroying for another. True, it has the same syllabus; in-laws (and out-laws), finances, goals, parenting, communication, sex, oneness, conflicts etc. But the situations we find ourselves in are so different in terms of effect, scope and magnitude that there are no blanket solutions or panacea-type recommendations that will work for all marriages. There are no perfect people therefore there cannot be any perfect marriages. I have seen or heard of many marriages breaking but there are three for me that when I heard they broke, foundations in my life were shaken. These marriages were never supposed to break. I had made no provision, in my mind for even the remotest probability that those marriages would end. Have you ever held something to be true in your life and built so many others dependent on that remaining true, then it is proved to be untrue? Aiii, my head was spinning for a long time. I started doubting myself and wondering what else I could have falsely held to be true. Foundations were shaken. If those three marriages could break then none of ours are safe. Ni kubaya. Hii kitu haina mwalimu.
4. Selfishness is a big enemy of marriage
This is stupidly obvious and should not even be mentioned. Selfishness will kill any relationship not just marriage. Despite how obvious it is, I am listing it here because of how easy it is to forget. Most discord in marriage, I believe, stems from this sole reason. I think this is why God chose to use the picture of marriage to symbolise the relationship between Christ and the Church. For Christ to give His life in order to present the church blameless and holy before God the Father, this has to be the most selfless act ever. As spouses, dying to self for the benefit of the other is marriage’s highest calling. Marriage, and parenting, I dare add, are impossible without dealing with one’s selfishness. Selfishness is the one thing you have when you accuse your spouse of having it. (This is deep, read it again!)
5. It is not good for man to be alone
If you have read the first few chapters of Genesis then you know that these are not my words. God was the first one to think these words. They are still true. We were made for companionship and no man is an island. A lot of things we enjoy, we enjoy by sharing. No matter how our selfish mind tries to convince us that we can enjoy something alone, deep inside we know, that life is for sharing. It is relationships that make our lives worth living. We may want to be alone once in a while, but no one wants to live alone forever. Personally, I would dread to grow old alone.
So there, my 5 things I have learned.
Sweetie, as I think about the things we have gone through in our fourteen years of marriage, especially in the last year, triggered mostly by the closest bereavement we have both ever experienced, I cannot think if anyone else (except of course, Halle Berry, and maybe Janet Jackson – long running family joke) I would rather be married to. I love you.
The next words, until tuendelee kuongea are from my wife Carol.
1. Marriage isn’t fireproof, sometimes you get burnt. It’s a bed of roses but with many thorns.
2. Communication is very vital key in marriage, speaking each other’s language of love.
3. Watch out for parasites, they can destroy your marriage.
4. The grass may always seem greener on the other side but it’s always best to work on what you have.
5. Never take each other for granted, always try to spruce up your marriage to reignite the spark.
6. It’s important to be friends in a marriage, do stuff together, enjoy each other’s company.
7. Friends may try to give you solutions and advice but that will only act as a stepping ground to help you from sinking. At the end of the day the marriage is between two people.
8. Studying one another again and praying for one another helps.
9. There is no one who is a guru in marriage, we all make mistakes but the important thing is to learn from those mistakes.
10. What may work in one marriage may not work in yours. Every marriage is unique in it’s own way.
11. Even when it may seem like the end of the world (marriage) God can always turn things around and bring healing.
12. Forgiveness is crucial, forgiving one another and forgiving yourself as well and not keeping a record of wrongs.