By Francis Ewherido
You probably still remember the court case of divorce, sometime ago. The divorce proceedings were still on in court when the woman got pregnant. You remember who impregnated her? The same husband she was about to divorce. The judge probably felt that this pair is agbaya (very unserious pair) and as any sensible judge would do, he dismissed the case. I have been seeing many cases of divorce and separation that look like the above and it is worrisome. It just shows you that the couple has not exhausted all efforts to settle their differences. I have seen some other divorce cases that are so bitter and cantankerous. Sometimes, even if the former couples decide to be civil for the sake of the children and the good times they shared together, the pain and bitterness linger on. Jumping into bed to have sex, though not impossible, is out of the way. But this couple is still going through the divorce and the woman is getting pregnant; na serious people be that? I am not saying every divorce should end up acrimoniously. There is a couple, both of them professional colleagues, who were running a practice. They are now divorced but still run their business together and share the same office.
Communication can resolve many of the differences that lead to divorce and separation. A younger friend was having issues in his marriage. Communication was how he resolved the issues. At the same time that he came, I was having some issues with my wife. Then I remembered what I preached: Marriage is bigger than the husband and wife, and dialogue can resolve most issues in marriage. But sometimes my wife will shun dialogue and simply tell me no problem. But on this day, I put my feet down: There is no basis for a marriage where there is no happiness. I promised her I will apologise or/and explain where it is necessary. Then she opened up and said so many things. The at hand issues from resulted from assumption and communication gap. I explained on all issues except one where I apologised. At the end, it was sound and fury signifying nothing. We were both relieved. When spouses resolve issues, they seal it but I refrained because I did not want her to feel I initiated the reconciliation because I was sex-starved. Na only bachelors dey brokpakpa (hurry). Time dey. Couples just need to be empathetic and humble themselves in their communication. But jokes apart couples need empathic communication.
Some of the reasons for separations and divorces are bloated egos. You want your spouse to crawl and lick your foot because of your wealth, beauty, etc. Selfishness is another reason for divorces and separations. It is only you, me and I. The children do not matter, other family members, who will be affected by the breakup, do not matter. The world must revolve round you, so only you matter.
Sometimes the issues leading to divorce run very deep. One of the topics I always shy away from is infidelity. I shy away from it because of my struggle with Christianity and Urhobo culture and because of the battle for supremacy in my heart. I was brought up in strict Urhobo tradition and I was raised in a strict Christian home. In the Urhobo that I grew up in adultery is forbidden (do I need to qualify it “by housewives?”) and comes with serious consequences. Adultery is also discouraged in Christianity, but we serve a merciful God, who can also choose to be a consuming fire. While fidelity is binding on men and women who did civil or church wedding, it is not binding on men who only did traditional marriage. In Urhoboland, the women take a vow during marriage to be faithful, while the men do not because our culture recognises polygamy. So you cannot really accuse a traditional man of adultery. First he did not take a vow of fidelity and second his traditional beliefs allow him to marry many wives. People who are into gender equality can quarrel with our ancestors not me. Now my dilemma is that, as Christians, we must forgive all transgressions. But as an Urhoboman, the issue of infidelity should not even arise to warrant asking for forgiveness. As a marriage counsellor, I always feel uncomfortable telling people to do things that I am not sure I can do, but I always console myself that my view does not count; the Bible does. So I preach forgiveness.
Whatever be the case, know the dos and don’ts of your spouse and do not cross the Rubicon. I am not against forgiveness, our tradition and Christianity, make provisions for it. I only feel you should not serve the food your spouse abhors. I have seen a few cases when spouses crossed the line and the enmity. Only God, not even time, will heal those wounds.
The family unit remains the bedrock of any good society. Destroy the family units and you have destroyed the society. More worrisome in these divorces and separations are the celebrities and others with large followership. The collapse of their marriages has ripple effects because they have large followership and many people look up to them. They live their private lives in the social media. Every little quarrel, they unfollow each other and pull down each other‘s photograph on their social media display page (DP). How can a marriage last when no one is displaying maturity, tolerance and leadership? I understand their followers want to know everything that happens in their lives. But not everything can be on the social media. Why don’t they also make love in public for their fans and followers? I understand they need followership and trending constantly to drive traffic and make money, but marriage is private and must be kept that way from the public as much as possible.
We were taught in public relations to put our best foot forward, so there is nothing wrong in portraying ourselves as happy couples in social media. But the shortest definition of public relations we were taught in our undergraduate days is: “do well, then say it.” If you are not doing well and you are pretending publicly, that is propaganda and hypocrisy. The time some spend on pretending to be happily married is enough to mend their troubled marriages.
These days, people who are going into marriage seem to have a shorter fuse than people of old. For many of them, marriage is an open cage. If the going gets too tough, get out. Some of the critical elements (patience, tolerance, forgiveness) that make marriages endure are not there. Many do not know what marriage is. They do not know the part of marriage that is like surfing; they do not know that marriage is a hot kitchen some of the time, not an air conditioned room. That is the more reason why they must look critically before jumping into matrimony. It is very annoying, when people treat issues like marriage with enormous consequences when they fail, with levity. For reasons beyond my control.