This is a continuation of the last post with the same title but V
A successful marriage starts with a solid foundation. The foundation is love, trust, and selflessness. But these are hindered by the unrealistic expectations with which people go into marriage. They watch Chandler and Monica on TV with all the candles and sex and think that is what marriage is or should be. When their marriage does not turn out to be as they had dreamt, they blame it on the partner. The time to renegotiate or rescind the marriage “contract” has arrived. Anyone going into marriage with the expectation of a 50-year fulfilment of fantasy sex is in for disappointment. Sex does not stop after a year but it is not like a Karma Sutra performance every night. Another unrealistic expectation is that marriage will change the partner. Very few marriages that started with this expectation end up happily. “I do” may legalize, formalize, and ratify your relationship but does not change your partner’s character. Even grace does not build in a vacuum; grace builds on nature. For one to go into marriage hoping to change the partner is a lot of burden on oneself. You cannot change anyone. The responsibility for change lies with the individual. There is no Mr. or Ms. Perfect but ensure that you are able to live with the weaknesses of your partner.
Our grandparents did not see therapists but their marriages were for life. We claim to be enlightened and we have marital therapists, however, divorce rate has soared in our time. Something is wrong. Perhaps many people are not going into marriage with the right understanding or attitude. For instance, consider someone going into marriage who has a plan B in mind “in case it does not work out.” He hardly understands that his plan B has already opened the door which will keep him from fully committing himself to his wife. These days the words, “For better for worse till death do us part,” are said but not meant. That is a commitment to love the partner for life, a commitment to make the marriage work no matter what it takes.
Going into marriage putting the responsibility of your happiness on your partner is something to be watched out for. “My wife should make me happy,” and when she is not making you happy, “I need to find someone or something that will.” Marriage is not just about your happiness. Placing the responsibility of your happiness on your partner is a weighty burden for him. Marriage is about mutual love, respect, and honour through faithfulness.
Perhaps it helps to accept ab initio that there will be conflict in marriage. Conflict is not necessarily a sign of dysfunction. Thinking that a marriage is dysfunctional because of a conflict can prevent partners to stop communicating. Lack of communication in marriage does no good. In fact, conflict is often resolved by sincere communication. Couples intending to go into marriage should understand that.
One evening I got a call from one of my secondary school colleague who desired to get married soon but did not have any job then. He had begun preparation for marriage. When he called me, he sounded worried about his situation. I did not attempt to talk him out of his decision to get married but I did try to make him realize that his focus should be to be financially ready. Marriage comes with additional responsibility and finance plays a major role. The responsibility for provision is with the man. However, some men have gone into marriage without having stabilized themselves financially. Some have gone into marriage without a job. Some incurred debt to get married. Everyone makes choices and lives with the consequences but I think first things should be addressed first.
Financial problems can serve as stress in a marriage. The impact is heavily felt when the romance following the wedding begins to wane over time, when the butterflies gradually begin to die out. A man does not have to be a millionaire before going into marriage. But marriage is not for boys and the fact that one has not been able to get his own affairs in order may mean that he is not ready for the responsibility of marriage. You find some saying “God dey,” “God will see us through” without making real effort to confront the challenge before them. God dey makes them abdicate their responsibility as if God would do for them what they have the ability to do for themselves. God should neither be used as an excuse for laziness nor for failing to confront personal challenges. Challenges help us grow by building us. It may be hard but a challenge is a call to grow. The level you were before overcoming a challenge is not the same when you have overcome the challenge. So I would say for the love of your future wife and children, stabilize yourself financially by being able to at least take care of your own needs before giving serious thought to marriage. In doing your best, God comes to your aid.
Sometimes young men are desperate to go into marriage due to the fear of losing the girl. Some would rush to do Introduction in order to “tie” a girl down. That is a selfish act. If you are working hard to get yourself say an accommodation and your girlfriend leaves you for another man, she probably was not meant for you.
Preparation for marriage should be taken seriously. I do not just mean the events that characterize a wedding day. This preparation should start from within. In our society, as a girl approaches womanhood, she is taught how to be humble, how to be submissive, how to take care of the home, and how to be a good wife. This is different for the boys. Hardly are they taught how to be responsible, how to be faithful, how to lead a family even though they will become heads of families. The marriage would still have issues when the wife is submissive but the man is irresponsible. Some boys are just refusing to be men even though they are thirty.
A person should have intellectual, spiritual, and emotional maturity before marriage. Age is not so much of a factor in this. A person grows intellectually when he learns how to make good decisions and makes good use of the information he has. Spiritual maturity involves knowing oneself, deepening one’s faith and improving one’s relationship with God. One with emotional maturity is always aware of her emotions. She directs her emotions, thus, she is not enslaved to them. She responds to situations thoughtfully rather than react to them.
Our families and parishes will have a lot of benefit when individuals are built to be spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually mature.
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