Editor’s Note: There’s almost nothing as beautiful as the love that has stood the test of time. That is why, in collaboration with BellaNaija Features, BellaNaija Weddings is bringing you beautiful stories of couples whose love has not waned through the years with The Ever After Series.
Today, Mr. and Mrs. Ayano, who have been married for 20 years, are sharing their insights on love, marriage, and the forever journey. Let’s take you on a dive into their Ever After story. Ride with us!
Marriage, for every couple, is unique. What might be sweet oranges in your home may be sour grapes for others. That is why, when you speak with couples who have been married for long, they always give you one very important piece of advice: marry your friend. There’s a question that follows this: “before nko? Will I marry my enemy?” Marrying your friend doesn’t mean you would marry just anyone you are cordial with, it means marrying someone with whom your friendship is planted on solid soil.
Mr. and Mrs. Ayano’s marriage is rooted in friendship. Their friendship comes through for them even in times when situations are tough and things don’t seem to be going so well. Based in Ibadan, this couple have been married for 20 years. Mr. Bunmi Ayano is a businessman who is into real estate and other forms of entrepreneurship. Mrs. Ayano is also a businesswoman and both of them are pastors in redeem church. Together, they have 5 children- 2 adopted kids and 3 biological kids.
They met in church, were both ushers, and then became friends. While doing the work of God, Mr. Ayano was busy eyeing Mrs. Ayano.
We were always posted together to officiate, so we were always laughing and arguing together. I was trying to befriend her, then I discovered we were fond of each other. So we started like that and after 9 months, we got married in August, 2001.
Mrs. Ayano liked him too, but, you know, a little shakara hurts no one.
I was an usher and was very beautiful so I had men asking me out. He was also very handsome, and he jokes a lot, so I said ‘let me go for this one.’
Mr. and Mrs. Ayano may not always be together geographically, but remember what we said about friendship?
I still work outside Ibadan and she is at Ibadan and up till now, I can call more than 30 times in a day. Every little gist, I will call. Every little gist, she will call. We gist, we travel, we go on holidays, we discuss anything, we argue and quarrel. Now, my birthday is on the 7th of February, and we are planning on which country to go for the birthday. We keep friendship with our children. They tell me their secrets and say “don’t tell mummy”, and I, in turn, leak it to my wife.
He makes fun of me a lot. He taught me how to play and joke. No one can come in-between us, Mrs. Ayano says. I remember that in our wedding program, I wrote “thank God I’m getting married to my friend,” because I believe a husband and wife should be friends. People, including the extended family, know they can’t come in-between us. We fight and settle. He’s a little bit stubborn but I’m calm.
On being stubborn and fighting – these two things are major deal breakers in marriages, but with 20 years of marriage? This couple has definitely sailed through stormy waters successfully. How did they do this?
We’re into marriage counselling and I tell couples that the first 2-3 years are always tough, financially and in knowing each other’s character. I call it ‘early marriage waves.’ If you’re not careful, it will make you break up.
Remember I told you he’s very jovial? When we got married, I didn’t know there was another aspect of him that was very very tough. He can abuse you and you’ll feel like dying. Any little thing and he’ll flare up. Then I was so gentle and I’d be so scared, wondering “what’s wrong with this man?” “Did I get married to the right person?” But because I’m a child of God, I learnt humility and gentleness. My husband will talk and talk and when he notices that the words are not entering you deeply, he’d say “they didn’t even train you well.” I will just go into the corner and keep quiet. Seconds later, he’d realise what he said and then apologise for it. I’d just say ‘it is well.’ The good thing is that he wasn’t abusive. Me, I promised God that if a man hits me once, I’m done with the marriage.
Mr. Ayano on managing his anger:
You must have a mentor, someone who can call you to order. Those you respect a lot. Even when you’re right on issues, the way you present it matters. The first stages of marriage are difficult because sometimes, you can never tell a person’s character. You can never tell that my temperament is high because I play and joke a lot. I like respect and if you don’t respect me, I might take it up with you and this can lead to a fight.
But when we first started, I had a cousin she would call when things were going wrong. My cousin helped us settle a lot of issues. I also have some people that can talk to me and calm me down. The first few weeks, months, and years are usually tough to acclimatise to issue. Both of you have to make up your mind never to divorce. You must be determined to make it work. There are people who will gossip or hate your marriage, you have to be firm. You should also help each other’s weaknesses. She has been helping me, when I’m angry, she won’t talk. When I’m aggressive and fuming, she would be calm. But I know how to apologise to her; sometimes I buy gifts and all.
Mr. Ayano’s anger issues weren’t the only problem Mrs. Ayano had. Family intrusion is a big deal in marriages, especially in the first few years. How do you handle it when your spouse’s family members come to fight you in your own home? Mr. Ayano says there was something he didn’t like about his wife: she couldn’t fight.
My siblings were a bit intrusive, and I always wanted her to confront them. She will run away. I wanted someone that could face them. So I wasn’t happy when I married someone who will just be looking when my younger ones were abusive. I stood up for her most times, but because I wasn’t always around, they would go to Ibadan to bully her. And she’s always too calm. Now that we’re older, she gets pissed off easily and that bothers me.
Mrs. Ayano is not a fighter.
He’ll be telling me to face his sibling but I cannot. In my home, we’re not used to fighting; all my siblings are very calm.
The good thing is that when it comes to fighting his siblings, Mr. Ayano is quite capable.
He defends me well, they know they can’t mess up his wife. He handed over all family things to me so even if his mum needs money or anything, she has to pass through me. Initially, she complained she couldn’t be collecting money from me, my husband told her it was obvious she didn’t need the money. I’m busy and she’s the one you’ll be seeing. With time, my mother-in-law and I became so close to each other.
Mrs. Ayano’s non-fighting nature is not just restricted to family matters only, it ‘affects’ her businesses too. Mr. Ayano doesn’t like this.
When she starts a business and encounters a few hitches, she gets tired and fed up immediately. I learned to assist her in her business.
She’s the type of person who needs more conviction on issues. But I can perceive things that will happen seven kilometres away, but she can’t see that so we always argue on ways to do things.
Mrs. Ayano quickly chips in.
Physically I see far and I can tell him certain things will not work, but spiritually, he sees farther than me – that’s one way we rub each other’s back. And he’s the kind of person that when you tell him ‘this thing will not work,’ he hands off it immediately. That’s why, to the glory of God, we hardly make mistakes.
Mrs. Ayano is very calm and Mr. Ayano is the one who fumes easily. But when it comes to parenting, the couple found a way to ensure their children are well disciplined as well as calm and caring; Mrs. Ayano holds the whip while her husband dangles the carrot. Let’s start with the carrot.
I didn’t enjoy fatherly love from my dad, so I learned from his mistake to love my children and ensure they don’t lack anything. The girl is still enjoying that up till now. She has a method of handling me. One day she and her mum borrowed 1 million from me – the mum stood as surety. Up till now, they did not return it. Both of them swallowed my money.
The thing with me is that once someone starts crying, it melts my heart immediately, and my daughter knows how to shed both crocodile and real tears when she wants to get something from me. My boy, on the other hand, has ego. He doesn’t like someone questioning him when he makes a request for money. But as soft as I am, I am very disciplined, I don’t take nonsense.
And now, the whip.
Growing up, in my own home, no siblings must not raise a hand on each other. When my children were growing up, it was the same, you must never beat your siblings. You must respect each other and be calm. No abusive words. I beat my kids and he supports me.
Once the children asked my husband ‘who is the head of the family? Because any small thing, you’ll tell us to go and ask mummy,’ He told them it was me. He can pamper a child to a fault. He will be disciplining a child and then ask “have you eaten?,” I will be like ‘why would you ask a child you are scolding if he has eaten?’
When my daughter was in Bowen, my husband used to pay about 100k per month as allowance; the girl would just be demanding and collecting. As a matter of fact, she used to teach her younger ones how to demand for more money. One day, I called her and told her ‘from now, your allowance is 50k a month.’ And that was how the allowance was reduced.
100,000 allowance every month! Mr. and Mrs. Ayano definitely need to adopt us, what do ya say?
Adoption is a big deal in Nigeria; many people don’t want to take in kids for fear of ‘ogbanjes.’ Mr. and Mrs. Ayano are proof that adopting kids is great for the world.
We weighed our options and prayed before adopting. Once I tell you you’re my son or daughter, you are, forever. I can’t make a decision without them. I don’t see any difference; if you’re at fault, I scold you. I love them equally, and buy them gifts equally. There’s no discrimination.
Being a whip or a carrot is not the only way Mr. and Mrs. Ayano are different. When it comes to spending, Mr. Ayano is an oga patapata.
He loves buying things. Me, I don’t, maybe because of my humble background. He started exposing me to big big things. One day, my shoe removed in the church and he started laughing. He said “when you’ll not allow me buy you better shoes, you’ll be wearing cheap shoes of 10,000 naira. See your life.”
Even when we’re broke, he will still continue to buy. I can stay 6 months without buying anything, but he can’t stay two weeks without buying anything. He will buy t-shirts and I will help him wear them. He still buys us Christmas clothes as if we are children, including all the households and the driver. Sometimes, he sneaks out to buy things and then sneaks them into the house.
My husband can plan for Africa, he can plan for next year. He hardly saves; he invests all his money. He’s pompous so he shoulders all the responsibilities including fueling my car, buying my clothes, and making my hair.
Mr. Ayano is a buyer, yes, but beyond his ‘nature,’ he believes buying is a man’s responsibility.
I believe a man should be responsible for his family’s finances. We handle our finances well. Most times, she handles the project we’re currently working on. All I do is bring the architecture and design of the building, and tell her when I want the house to be ready. She gets the engineer and puts things together, all I do is drop the funds. I don’t even check the account balance. She will spend it, steal my money, and rob me.
Wait, hol’ up, hol’ up. Mrs Ayano, come and defend yourself.
In 2004, that was when we began to be free of poverty. I looked at him one day, and said “Alani, I’ve promised God that one day, I will take your 500,000 naira from you and you won’t know.” But I take responsibility for his business and he’s seeing the result. There’s no way you will build a house and something will not enter your own pocket. Ask him, is he paying me for helping me build the house? So I take what will be comfortable for me to enjoy myself. He always says that the money I’ve stolen from him will be enough to build another house.
Mr. and Mrs. Ayano have managed to keep the fire burning in their marriage, and it is exciting to see. He has advice for married men.
Don’t be selfish. I have been buying beautiful things for my wife and children ever since and I still do so. Don’t get complacent, continue to impress your spouse. I check magazines, the internet, go to stores, and shop for her. I will buy any pretty thing I see for my wife.
You cannot say you love a woman and she’ll just be your cook or sex mate, you have to show commitment. Even during morning devotion this morning, I was still sending her photos of beautiful clothes and asking her if I should get it for her.
Mrs. Ayano believes friendship and communication are key.
We’re both friends and we can talk from morning to night. Sometimes, when we talk too much, our conversation goes like this:
Me: (after talking for several minutes) Wait, am I the one who called or it’s you who called me?
Him: It’s you now.
Me: Ehn? Cut it, cut it, cut it immediately.
When I discover I’ve spent more than one thousand naira, I tell him, ‘you’ve used all your calls for this week. For the rest of the week, you’re on flash mode. I will be flashing you.’
Him: Ahan, are you that broke, are you not a big woman?
Me: I am not a big woman o. I’m not big.
He can call for hours. We will just be talking and talking. Even during service, we’re always doing cho cho cho, and laughing. Our friendship is even stronger now than when we first got married. Did I also tell you he loves taking pictures? He can snap for Africa and he changes his DP more than three times a day.
There’s one more important factor: Prayer.
I had to settle a lot of things on my knees, especially his anger. If I had continued saying “you get angry too much,” it may have changed nothing. So it’s better for me to take it to God. It was not rosy when we got married but I believe so much in the power of prayer and I believe prayer can turn situations.
Amen to that, and amen to this love that will clearly last forever.
Did you enjoy this episode as much as we did? We bet your answer is a solid yes. Be sure to check back next Thursday for the next episode! If you missed our previous episodes with the Akinseyes, the Owolabis, and the Olayinkas, you can read them all here.