Contrary to popular belief that marriage has always been about romantic love as historical fiction might have us believe, the notion of marrying for love is actually not more than 200 years even in the so called ‘developed’ world.
In Africa most of us can still cite polygamous marriages from our grandparents (both my granddads had three wives). Before humans got comfortable enough to explore the option of romance, marriage was about functionality. Compatibility was an afterthought.
What this meant was that all a couple had to do to be graded ‘successful’ in marriage was to play their functional role. The man provided, the woman nurtured. Flash-forward to 2015, no one wants to marry for functionality anymore. To your spouse you must be a wife/husband, best-friend, psychotherapist,business partner, adventure buddy, personal comedian, partner in crime (if you know what I mean 😉 ) and everything else. And oh, like the demand to be everything to one person isn’t enough, there is the pressure to remain romantic and spontaneous endlessly providing a supply of happiness (I blame this one largely on Hollywood flicks and Disney fairy-tales).
Now if marriage was all we had to do for a living, just maybe we could be all these things to someone. But unfortunately, there is the matter of working in the post-industrial world which means for most of us, at least eight hours of the day is spent in an office. When you add overtime and Naija traffic, this time can be as much as twelve hours. And even when we are home our attention can still be somewhat divided if pending work awaits us at the office.
In the old days at least one partner was in charge of making sure the house was a home. Good luck trying to lock a university graduate in the kitchen today. Heck, most families simply cannot financially survive with only one partner working. So now we are stuck with a work life as demanding as our romantic life, and to add salt to injury, there is no reliable ‘how to have a good relationship’ book because in this age of companionship no two relationships are the same (this is why I don’t read relationship advice, I just study the person).
All these factors discussed above has put the mental effort of maintaining a healthy relationship so high that it is even unattainable for some, especially when we are overly career-driven (and yes, this applies to men too). In an economy where money is essential for the most basic of comfort and social status is equitable to bank balances, it isn’t hard to see why so many people will pick their work over their spouse. And there is the security threat. Women will say, your money will never wake up in the morning and decide to leave you. The same cannot be said about a husband.
So here we are, in need of money for comfort, in need of love with all our ridiculous expectations for happiness (unless you are a monk or catholic priest). What should we do? In my humble opinion I think we have to start from understanding that we are all individuals. Expecting someone else to be everything to you is setting them up to fall short and fail. We need to adjust our expectations to accommodate the reality. So instead of fighting for things to be as we wish them to be, perhaps we should see things as they are and make them work for us as best we can under the circumstance. This means having emotional discipline and using emotional intelligence. Not running to a list of standby lovers on your phone because your partner is busy at work. Opening blame free communication aimed to be constructive instead of blame game arguments aimed to be destructive. I am no relationship counselor or guru, but these are some of my observations.
What do you guys think is needed to bring that relationship-career balance that will allow us eat our cake and have it? I have heard people say one partner has to bite the bullet and curtail their dreams, something has to give right? I have talk my own, now it’s your turn ☺
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Bryan Creely