For 38 years, Chief PNP Okonkwo and Chief (Mrs) Chinelo Okonkwo have been married, they have been able to live together despite challenges of life. In fact, they did not only face them together, they also have been able to surmount many of them. Talk about the power of two tied together with the string of love! In this interview with BIANCA IBOMA, they share their marital experiences in which they point to mutual love and commitment as the saving grace in their marital relationship.
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Can you give us a brief detail of your background?
Husband: I am Chief P.N.P Okonkwo. Ichie Egbe Ji Aku II Umuoji of Umuoji in Idemmili North Local Government Area of Anambra State. I am a hotelier and a school proprietor.
Wife: I am Chief (Mrs.) Anthonia Chinelo Okonkwo, (Lolo Osodi Eme Aku), Ada Ihembosi in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State. I am a school proprietress.
How did you meet your spouse?
Husband: We met in 1980 through God’s providence. Earlier before then, I had been praying for a beautiful, intelligent, hardworking, loving and prayerful wife. I was working with Sokoto State Broadcasting Corporation-Rima Radio Sokoto, when she was posted to Sokoto for her National Youth Service Corps programme (NYSC). From the NYSC orientation camp, she was posted to where I was working to serve. As I stepped out of my office that beautiful day I met four girls alighting from N.Y.S.C bus. I welcomed them. My eyes immediately met with her eyes and she gave me a beautiful smile and it was love at first sight. My mind immediately told me that this is my wife.
Wife: It was God-planned because in those good days N.Y.S.C postings used to come out before we leave the campus. But that fateful August 1980 I ran down to the hostel to tell my roommate that she had been posted to Sokoto State, to do her “August fool” but lo, when we went to the notice board, I was the one posted to Sokoto State while she was posted to the West. That is why I said it was destined by God, from Anambra to Sokoto to meet my would-be husband. Sure, God has a hand in the union.
How did you propose to her?
Husband: I proposed to her the following day. I bought an engagement ring, came close to her smiling, I slipped the ring into her finger and proposed to her. She gave me a beautiful smile, embraced me and accepted.
What was the attraction?
Husband: The attraction was her beauty, elegance, and intelligence.
Wife: It was love at first sight. His tall figure and charisma, in fact, everything outward about him I fancied. Later I came to see qualities of a good husband in him. So to say I loved everything about him.
How long have you been married and how were you able to sustain your marital relationship?
Husband: We have been married for 38 years, and we have been able to sustain our marital relationship through love and honesty, as I always try to show her that I love her dearly both in words and deed. She also strives to show me that she loves me more.
Wife: There is love, understanding, patience, care, honesty and working together in many aspects of life. Sharing views and asking questions when the need arises have also contributed to the success of this marriage.
How many children do you have?
Wife: God blessed us with five children (three girls and two boys), they are all grown up and doing awesomely well in their various endeavours. We are also blessed with eight grandchildren and still counting.
You come from different backgrounds. How did you manage your individual differences?
Husband: We manage our individual differences through love and tolerance. If there is any cause for us to disagree, we settle it within twenty-four hours. In short, in less than twenty-four hours we smile at each other again.
Wife: Our background is not too far. We live in the commandments of God which say “Wife obey your husband and husband do the same which is good for your wife”.
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Marriage is a sacred institution but sometimes conflicts arise that couples don’t easily resolve. What are the reasons for these conflicts?
Husband: Some of the reasons are lack of true love in the relationship. Again, infidelity, dishonesty to each other and intolerant of each other are part of the problems.
Wife: Most often couples that are not prepared for marriage or that hurried into marriage seem to have conflicts because of the rush. The youth of these days want everything fast and when it does not happen, trouble begins. Such things include not having kids as early as they expected or money issues. They should know that their daily expenses have increased once they are two or more in the family. Other factors could be the relationship with in-laws. It can include respect on both sides, one couple not being hardworking to complement the efforts of the other, and so on.
Can you share some of the steps needed for a successful marriage?
Husband: Marriage is an institution ordained by God for man and woman. Both husband and wife should understand from the beginning that they are not getting married for a few years and separate afterward, rather they are going into life union until death do them part. Love, honesty, tolerance, and faithfulness to each other are essential ingredients that sustain every union. This love from the husband should also be made to reach the wife’s parents and relations and also love from the wife should reach out to the husband’s parents and relations.
Wife: The steps to a successful marriage are many; the important aspect is for every wife and husband to understand his or her role in the family. With understanding, peace will reign supreme in the home. Honesty is very important, avoid telling each other lies. Always be sincere with each other. Avoid pride and selfishness; try to keep that love at first sight that joined you together. Avoid too long argument. Try to learn and understand each other day by day. Remember learning is a continuous process.
How can couples unwind?
Husband: From the beginning of their marriage, they should learn to do things together. They should eat together, sleep together on one bed. They should also attend social functions together. Togetherness should be the watchword.
Wife: There are so many ways depending on individuals and the nature of their jobs. Any method a couple chooses let it be accepted by both be it, playing Ludo games, watching films, outing, working at home.
When a particular spouse admonishes their ward, should the other spouse support such discipline?
Husband: Once the admonishment is for the good of the ward, the other spouse should support the discipline.
Wife: Yes, so far it is positive.
When violence becomes pronounced in the home, would you advise the couples to go their separate ways?
Husband: I will not advise the couples to go their separate ways. Rather, I will advise them to get closer to God. I will remind them of what the Bible says about marriage in Mark 10:9 that, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder”. They should be prayerful and surrender themselves to God.
Wife: In times of misunderstanding, it is only God that has the solution. Pray earnestly but do not go into violence. They can approach the sponsors at their wedding who are more experienced, for advice and reconciliation.
What is your advice to younger couples?
Husband: My advice to them is to love each other dearly. They should also be faithful and honest with each other.
Wife: Younger couples should try to be patient with each other. Read newspapers to see both negative and positive stories of families. Emulate the good ones and discard the bad ones. Lastly, let them endeavour to make up their minds to reflect the fact that marriage should be forward ever, andbackward never.