The best and worst experiences are going to occur in our relationships, whether with family, friends or lovers. Therefore, I believe it is important that we are able to learn lessons from our experiences. I also believe that there are some experiences that other people have gone through before us and that we do not necessarily have to go through in order to learn the lessons that lie therein. The Yorubas say “esin iwaju to jin si koto, o ko ara iyoku l’ogbon which means when translated “The lead horse that falls in a ditch, teaches the ones behind a lesson”. I can glean from others and pick lessons that will help me along life’s way. Others too can learn from me.
It is with this in mind that I sat down on the 6th anniversary of my marriage to reflect on the experiences, good and bad that I have had, and the lessons I have learnt from them. Partly because I felt like counting my blessings, and partly because I was seeking for ways to improve myself to make my marriage better. Although I initially did this for me, I thought it could be helpful for one or two people as well and hence I decided to share!
So without much ado, here are 6 lessons I have learned in 6 beautiful, crazy, whirlwind years of marriage to my darling husband. The lessons are a lot more but I have tried to narrow them down the best I can.
You Decide What You Want in Your Marriage
Marriage starts with a decision to ask a woman’s hand in marriage, or in the woman’s case to accept the proposal. While this is commendable and we all oooh and ahhh when we see the size of the ring or where he proposed, how he proposed, infant of who, whether he cried or she cried, there is so much more in terms of decision making that has to be done right at the very beginning.
You should have had many conversations about marriage. What kind of marriage do you want? Who will mentor both of you in marriage? To whom would you be accountable? What are your individual life goals? How about as a couple? What would it mean to achieve them? What about spiritual goals? How many children would you ideally love to have? What kind of children do you want to raise? What would it mean to achieve that?
No one goes into a business partnership without considering what each one will bring to the table and what benefits the partnership is aimed at delivering. It is the consideration of these factors that determines the business model, the type of agreements entered into in order to get the results we desire.
So plan prayerfully together and decide what you want as early as possible in your relationship. The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The next best time is now.
In Marriage, Love Is A Choice You Make Daily
I initially worded this to read Marriage is not about love but decided against it as I am sure it will spark a heated debate. Do not get me wrong, I love love. I love being in love. I would love to stay in love with my husband every passing day till the end of time. But the reality is, the initial flurry type love WILL fade. It will be replaced by a more sensible type of love that comes about as a matter of choice. There will be heart-wrenching decisions to make. That man will annoy you. That woman will irritate you, piss you off and you will sometimes feel like sticking your face out the window and screaming till your head falls off. That’s when love becomes a choice. Many a husband or wife has chosen to hate the other person based on annoying habits or behaviour and the marriage fell on the rocks as a result. He annoyed you, she annoyed you. Then you both checked out on each other?
Please! Expect imperfections to show in your spouse and prepare yourself to deal with them understanding that they too are imperfect. And best believe your spouse too sees imperfections and annoying habits in you that he/she is learning to live with. Cut them some slack. Choose love over everything. Everyday.
How You Resolve Conflicts Is Probably The Most Important Determining Factor Of The Success of Your Marriage
Pause. You might want to read that again. Play. As with any relationship, conflicts are meant to arise. How you view and handle them determines how far your marriage will go. Do you view them as an opportunity to strengthen your marriage or as an opportunity to consciously or unconsciously destroy it? Are you the type to run at the first sign of trouble or the type that withdraws into his or her shell, offering the silent treatment? Do you talk about why you had a fight, quarrel or disagreement or do you simply push them under the carpet and move on? In short, do you disagree to agree or disagree to disagree some more? Conflict resolution is crucial. It is the way you prove that you can work through anything together.
It brings out your wisdom or the lack of it thereof. Skills and values that you can also use through out every other area or facet of life come through when you are faced with a conflict between you and your spouse. If you can’t handle them at home, how can you do so on your job or anywhere else? My husband and I learned (and are still learning) to fight fair in our marriage and use conflicts as an opportunity to grow together as a couple.
Looking After Yourself The Way Your Spouse Wants Is Important To Enjoying A Good Marriage
Now this part I must admit is not easy. Note that I said the way your spouse wants. Something as simple as a shower before bedtime because your spouse likes it can change the dynamics of your relationship. You might think your wife likes you wearing your hair low but for pete’s sake she likes it clean shaven. Or you might think your husband doesn’t really care whether you do your nails or shave your legs but he sure does.
My husband and I were speaking to an older male friend who has been married for about 15 years. He told the story of how himself and his wife had been invited to mediate between his younger cousin and his wife who were having serious marital issues. The husband wanted out and the wife couldn’t for the life of her figure out why. When they got there, dude said he was tired of the marriage and wanted out. Kilode, ki lo se fun e, they both asked, worried. My guy declined to say but after much probing said in the last 3 years he had only seen his wife at home in one ankara boubou. The boubou sef don dey tear at the edges. She leaves her weaves on for so long, that they start to smell. If he talks she says the boubou is comfortable.
To make matters worse, she has one hair net that she brought in from Nigeria that she wears all the time that he says in his own words “makes her look like Iya Ijemo” their maternal grandmother in the village. He insisted he has tried to get her to look more presentable but the babe no gree. How then was he expected to sleep with someone who reminds him of his aged grandmother? And that was how the real issue came out; the two had not had sex in over 6 months! Look after yourself, take the time to find out what your spouse wants, what sets him in the mood, what makes him/her happy and do it. Feel free to communicate your needs to each other in other to make your marriage thrive.
Your Marriage Is First And Foremost About Your Spouse
Not your children. Not even you. This should have even been the first lesson because marriage will first of all teach you how NOT to be selfish. It is all about giving a 100% to your spouse and vice-versa. The perfect marriage will be one where both parties give their all to the other. For the first few years of marriage, I looked to my husband to make me happy but I soon realised while I was looking to him for this, I was failing to give the best of myself. I held back a lot because I was expectant. The same was happening with him. The moment I lowered my expectations and focused my energy on giving him my best, I got so much more in return. The moment he did the same, he got the best type of loving and respect any man could ever dream of. I can’t say we are fully there yet but we are very well on our way. Submit to each other, be open about your weaknesses and the things you don’t understand about your spouse and put in the necessary effort to do it. But of course I say this based on the premise that you have already put in the necessary work to build yourself up and continue to do so. Because obviously you can’t give what you don’t have.
You NEED A Third Party In Your Marriage
Someone to talk to, someone to confide in about your spouse, someone who can step in in times of conflict, someone who understands you yet understands your spouse and will build you both up. Someone who will tell you secrets about your spouse that you would otherwise not have known. I spent the first years of my marriage always arguing with my husband over one thing or the other. We argued, oh how we argued! Our arguments never produced any results and would always lead to more and more arguments. Until one day, tired, frustrated and angry with myself for not being able to get the results I desired, I went on my knees in prayer. You see I had always been the praying type and I had a very free and open line of communication with Him. My husband and I also prayed regularly together. But the prayer I offered that day was different. I surrendered to God. I admitted that I couldn’t do it on my own. I made a promise that I would hand over myself and my husband to God and that I would do my best not to interfere with His work. And then I sat back and watched God change my marriage for the better in ways that only He could. I saw Him take over the reins of my marriage and steer it where only He could.
No longer did I have to struggle to get my husband to buy into an opinion I had. As long as it aligned with His will all I had to do was mention it to Him in prayer and it would be done! Someone once told me there was no gossip quite like the Holy Spirit; I found that particularly true in my marriage.I have been spoken to in dreams about my husband, he has had the same experience countless times. Strangers have stopped us to talk on issues we were both deliberating on, the list is endless. That is the power of a third party, the third chord in a marriage, if you will let Him. We all try so hard to do so much ourselves that we shouldn’t even bother about. It’s really not our job. Let God in and stop trying to fix the issues and problems on your own.The beauty of surrendering to God is that you have this indescribable inner peace. You worry less, you are calm because you have the assurance that it is handled. With God, consider it handled. No fuss, no stress, just Him doing what only Him can do.
There are many more lessons I have learnt but these top the list. While I acknowledge I am still a baby in this institution, I am sure there are so many people out there who have grown way beyond where I am. Pray tell, what are the lessons you’ve gathered along the way? What would you do differently? Let’s keep the convo going!
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