By Francis Ewherido
These days, it is surprising the ease with which some people want to or walk out of marriage. It makes you wonder if they understood the marital institution before they got into it, or if there was ever a real marriage in the first place, or if it was just a sham. Examples of sham marriages are when some people get into marriage to enable them grab a chunk of their spouses’ wealth and walk out once they achieve their aim. Another example is when some people go into marriage to have children within matrimony and walk out after achieving their aim. Whatever the case is, couples in each of the categories above were never in each other’s lives. If they were, they could not have walked out of their marriages like people taking an evening stroll. Love, lust or deceit might bring people together, but they need more than any of these to stay together.
When God instituted matrimony, it was beautiful. But humankind has made it a minefield with trailer loads of reasons for marriages to fail if the couples do not commit to making it work. Every successful marriage is a product of deliberate actions: patience, understanding, love, tolerance, regular communication and wrestling cage mentality, among others. The other ingredients mentioned here are self-explanatory, but I want to throw some light on wrestling cage mentality. Over seven years ago, I wrote an article, marriage is a cage, not an open ring. The conventional wrestling cage has an open top with ropes round it. During a wrestling match, if the beating gets too much, a wrestler can jump out of the ring to get some respite or abandon the fight entirely.
Anyone with an open-cage mentality cannot have an enduring marriage; he/she will certainly jump out of marriage because tough situations aplenty. Unfortunately, that is the mentality of many people going into marriage today. They cannot bear any heat. I hear young married people say, “I don’t tolerate nonsense.” You cannot tolerate nonsense in your marriage, but you can tolerate nonsense driving on Nigerian roads and nonsense from colleagues at your workplace. Tolerating nonsense is part of daily living. Even the best of spouses are full of “nonsense.” This is because they are humans and every human being is a combination of the good, bad and ugly. It is just that goodness predominates in some people, while “ugliness” predominates in others. Sometimes, what one spouse sees as nonsense in the other is a product of differing personalities. But the situation gets ameliorated with tolerance, patience, communication and understanding.
Cage wrestling, on the other hand, takes place in an enclosure and the only entrance and exit is locked during fights. There is no escape until a winner emerges. You need a cage mentality to have a long lasting marriage. No retreat, no surrender. You confront every challenge head-on. You find solutions to all problems. Those problems you cannot solve, you learn to live with. There is no escape route until you are victorious. The only issues I will continue to preach against are marital abuse and threat to life. They are unacceptable and you should walk away once they rear their ugly heads in your marriage. Some of those who tarried have paid with their lives or suffered permanent deformities.
But our topic is another ingredient necessary for marriages to endure: spouses being in each other’s lives. Often, we talk about parents being in their children’s lives and not enough about spouses being in each other’s lives. For Christians couples, being in each other’s lives has its foundation in the bible: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). One flesh means a life that is incomplete without your spouse, two hearts that beat as one, two lives that are inextricably intertwined. These are broad descriptions. Every couple must evolve what will make their lives inseparable. For some it is eating together. No matter how long it takes the other in getting home, the spouse waits for him/her. Some share responsibilities in a way that only one spouse cannot make the home function properly. Both must collaborate to make the home function optimally. Living intertwined lives is very important considering the fragility of modern marriages.
While I was writing this column, a breaking news story appeared on my laptop screen: Bill and Melinda Gates to divorce after 27 years of Marriage. That came out of the blues. Every marital breakup breaks my heart and this one certainly did. I thought it was going all well in their marriage. First, it was Jeff Bezos, the current richest man in the world, and his former wife, MacKenzie. Now it is Bill Gates, the former richest man in the world and current world’s fourth richest man, and his wife. Every marital breakup diminishes the marital institution and high profile divorces like that of Bill and Belinda Gates do have worldwide ripple effects. The Gates are involved in so many charity and humanitarian activities and everything looked so normal with their marriage. Uwevwirohwofabeno (it is hard to understand the inner workings of another person’s house.
They did not say much in their divorce statement, but from their eldest daughter’s statement, the union seems to have been strained for a while. I cannot help but wonder if they were in each other’s lives; if one felt incomplete without the other. It does not look like they were. And apparently, the activities of the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation were not strong enough to keep them together as husband and wife because they said they intend to continue working together in the foundation after their divorce.
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The divorces of Gate and Bezos clearly point to the fact that money is important in marriage, but it is grossly insufficient to make a marriage happy and enduring. Sometimes, the presence of money is the major source of problems in some marriages. Young people going into marriage must understand the place of money in marriage. Every man should work hard to earn enough to provide for his family. Food, clothing, shelter, school fees, rent, etc., costs a lot, especially with the hyperinflation we are currently going through. It is also wonderful if you can afford holidays and other luxuries. But money is not everything. Couples must learn the balancing act between economic pursuits and other aspects of their lives: creating time for God, their families, themselves, recreation, etc. Poor distribution of time on various aspects of their lives by many couples is a leading cause of divorce. You cannot spend all the time on economic pursuits; you cannot spend the whole day with your wife while your mates are out there working; you cannot spend all your time on recreation and you cannot spend all the time at church. Good balancing is important.
Like everything in life, being in each other’s life has downsides. One of the downsides of the lives of spouses being intertwined is that if one spouse dies, life can become tasteless, incomplete, complicated and no longer worth living for the surviving spouse. You would have seen or read about spouses who died shortly after they lost their spouses… some hours, days or weeks. Still it is good to be in your spouse’s life.
Francis Ewherido is a seasoned relationship, financial and insurance coach. He’s also an author. He can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org.