Every marriage or relationship goes through trying times at one time or the other, but the way that period is managed, often determines if the trials would make the couple stronger or break them. In this interview with Bianca Iboma, Mr. Chidi Mathias, a lawyer, and his wife, Dr. Celine Nwabueze Njoku a counseling psychologist with the Lagos State Education District shared with Saturday Sun, some vital tips that can help married couple manage, or avoid crisis that can gradually lead to divorce or break up. Chidi Mathias works with Vintage Chambers, and hails from Ezi ahala Obiangwu in Imo state, while his wife is from Umueze Obiangwu in Ngor-Okpala LGA.
How did you meet your spouse?
Wife: At a party I accompanied my siblings to attend. My siblings wanted to go to a party, but did not know how to tell me, because I am the only person that could give them access out of the house. My elder sister used me to obtain that permission and never knew going to that party I would meet my better half there.
Husband: At a party, as she said.
How did you propose?
Husband: I was driving when I proposed. She was admitted in the hospital few hours after I met her. But I was in love with her, so I never hesitated professing my love for her and made her realise it was for a lifetime.
Wife: In the car. He was actually driving me around. When he did I almost fainted, because I developed cold feet. The young man was totally serious, he already made up his mind that I am his wife, but was just waiting for me to say yes to him.
What was your reaction?
Wife: I was afraid, after seeing him in the party we danced. I was attracted to him as well, but overwhelmed with mixed feelings. I don’t know whether to scream or stay quiet. The feeling was actually what took me to the hospital. I did not know how to say yes to him because it was too sudden. I was shivering and he wanted a yes, I equally do want to say yes, but had butterflies in my stomach.
Husband: I never wanted a no for an answer. Immediately I set my eyes on her, there was no going back. There was this synergy between us. At the party, I was sitting in a corner when she entered and I was attracted to her, so I went to meet with her, but she was afraid of opening up. But I saw the glow in her eyes and I was ready to make her say yes, because I love her. When we were dancing and I introduced my name as Chidi, she said uncle Chidi. My wife adopted that name till date. She calls me uncle Chidi till date.
Can you share some of the experience your marriage faced when it began?
Wife: The early stage of my marriage was hard for me because I didn’t conceive until five years. My husband’s sister did not make things easy, you know in this part of the continent, immediately you are married, they expect the woman to bear children and once they are not seeing the fruitfulness of that marriage it becomes a trying period for that woman. Within the first few months, my sister-in-law began building some anxiety inside me and as a woman I became troubled. I was working with a private school Loral International school, Festac then and the distance to my home was close. But I never got to the house until 6pm, when my husband, a lawyer, who worked on the Island then, would returned home in few minutes.
Naturally, as a teacher, I occupied myself with activities even the ones that were not relevant at that time, just to avoid any trouble she might launch against me. I was equally scared to face my sister-in-law, who was bent on singing humiliating songs just to mock me as a woman having some delay in child bearing. I was just avoiding the home those years and I was not happy. Although, those periods were stressful for me, my husband’s support kept me in faith.
He was just a wonderful creature that never allowed my relationship with him go sour. He understood God’s principle about the marriage institution and knew that no matter the circumstances, God is able.
When my husband was around they would try to behave well, though sometimes the sister can put up an act that is annoying and I can’t be complaining every time to him because I wanted a peaceful home. On some occasions they would called me barren in his presence, I would cry, he would console me and take me out of the house to pamper me. My husband stood by me the most difficult phase of my marriage.
When my husband was around, I won’t get any harsh treatment from her, because he always put on his protective shield to ensure that he was the head of our home.
You know jealous family members do exist, and they can cause a problem within the overall family. Family and all of our interactions with them are supposed to be a blessing. But if you have a jealous family member, you feel absolutely cursed.
There is a saying that goes, “Blood is thicker than water.” In my opinion, I would say blood is more jealous, too. It’s so sad to know that jealousy might motivate your family members to act negatively. While you cannot remove yourself from the family tree, you can easily manage any jealous family members that you have. I didn’t want my marriage to crumble, so the most important step I took was to keep them out of my personal business, (my home).
I ensured that the challenge did not steal the peace in my home until God answered our prayers and gave us a male child; today I have two handsome boys. Those periods were not easy for me, but I was able to surmount them.
Husband: I love my wife so much and my family must understand that. I wanted peace in my home, so I have to support my wife, but never fought my family members over her. The situation was not something I can just change as a human being, but we had to invest in prayers to ensure that faith in God was solid. I never wanted trouble for my wife, so I adorned her with everything I had. It was a way to tell her how much I valued our relationship. It was the grace of God that kept us going. You know we are Africans, the extended family does intervene in marriage, even if you try to stop them, they make things more complex. When my wife had issues with my family members, I intervened without creating any friction. I settled the issue and ensured my wife is respected.
I make peace between them and then take my wife out to give her a treat. I showed her affection a lot. Sometimes I communicate with her using signs. Newly weds need to understand that the success of their marriage is dependent on how they can adjust to the vibrations, turbulence, differences, miscommunication, misunderstanding around them. What one should do is to preach peace and ensure you don’t create problems for your wife in the family. I try to settle the issue, but always appealed to my wife. I tried to teach her a lot to have patience and ignore their activities and all this things paid off.
I always re-affirmed my love. Whenever she was called names, you know Africans and their attachment to children; I stood my ground by protecting my wife.
My sister was only acting based on her perception of marriage, but I see marriage beyond having children. I made my sister realise her place in my affairs.
You came from different background how were you able to blend in character and other ways?
Husband: We are wired differently. I am a very quiet person by nature. I don’t really talk much. I’m whom you describe as an introvert. My wife is an extrovert, she is outspoken. She loves expressing herself, but I am a very calm person. We complement each other. I do things in a chronological order and expect orderliness.
When I noticed that my wife crowds things and she really does not mean any harm because that was her nature, I gave her a helping hand. I tried to re-organise things and taught her to deal with priority. Make a list of what you want and ensure you arrange them in order of importance and that was how I started my blending process with my spouse.
Wife: When you are married to an introvert it could be exhausting. People often say extrovert and introvert are a complementary pair, but it can be exhausting at the initial stage, until there is mutual understanding and they meet at a point. At the beginning I didn’t understand, because he was too quiet. We could be in sitting room watching film and I would be talking while the movie is going on, but my husband would be silent till the end of the movie. I get angry when I talk and he does not respond. I learned from him as well. My husband and I never had any courtship, I was learning from the marriage, every experience I had with him. I was a church girl when we met. I don’t make up or wear trousers, but my husband’s taste influenced my dress sense.
How can a woman protect her home during crisis?
Husband: Most of the troubles we face in our marriages and relationship come as result of words that was not properly spoken. Though there are other medium of expression that are usually not as harmful as words when used wrongly in a relationship. You can be angry with your spouse and you walk past them without speaking a word, you can even keep mute for a whole day, it will not be as harmful as walking past him or her and sighing or say “you are a stupid man or woman”. If you want to avoid marital troubles or desire to drive your relationship to a successful end, you must learn to talk right.
Wife: For your relationship, life and all you do to prosper, you are going to learn how to use words properly. As human when you understand the power of words you will live a prosperous and a peaceful life. Right words will put money in your pocket, win your spouse heart, earn you respect before people and make you God’s favourite. God has not changed the tool given to man to work things out since creation. Learn not to be quick to speak negative words, when issues come up in your marriage do not say, I am tired of this marriage; or it’s over, that word hurts your spouse more than you can imagine, it has a way of making the other person tired also. Never talk in such a manner while thinking it will make your spouse sit up and start doing things right, it may only make him start preparing his/her heart consciously and unconsciously looking for alternative and makes their heart far from you.
A lot of single people of marriageable age would have been married today, if not because of inability to manage words when their relationship was going through crisis. Do not tell people things that they can hardly forget, or not easy to forgive because you are hurt.
Resolving a conflict has become one of the major obstacles in marriage, what is your take?
Husband: Each time you hear marriage failure, it’s actually attitude failure and words failure that bring about marriage failure, marriage is an attitude test.
Wife: The ability for couples to speak the same language is vital for the success of their marriage. Understand that speaking the same language here refers to being on the same page and being in agreement about things. Conflict resolution is a skills set that newlyweds should start developing early in their marriage especially through the adjustment phase (first five years of marriage). The purpose of conflict is to resolve and find a lasting solution. When couples resolve conflicts, it brings them closer together. Ultimately, the more conflicts they resolve, the less barrier between them and the closer they get. Couples should see conflicts as a learning opportunity to discover their spouse and an avenue to get closer. If you desire a peaceful and enjoyable marriage, you have to deliberately choose to speak right words.
Be polite when talking with your spouse; make sure you are not disrespectful in your words. Because every wrong word you speak to your spouse have the ability to take them further from you.
What are the causes of divorce in marriage?
Husband: The reason for divorce here and there is because of lack of closeness to God. Do not mistake a lot of church activities for closeness, people attend religious activities more these days, but are even farther from God. Jesus promised you peace, and peace He will give you in every aspect of your life, if you let Him. Some marriages could have still been together today, if they had reached out for the closest help. When you are going through crisis in your marriage, family is the worse people to tell, as far as they are concerned that man or woman is a stranger to them, so their advice and contributions is always based on sentiments. Learn to manage the information of your relationship discretely. There are things you will tell your family about your spouse, even if you forgive your husband or wife, your family will refuse to forgive them.
Wife: Marriage is a game of forgiveness; if you are not ready to constantly play that game, do not even think of marriage. Your spouse will offend you more than anyone else in the world, but you have to learn to forgive and take everyday as a fresh one.
Un-forgiveness is the greatest threat of marital harmony and peace. It brings division to your home and makes it impossible to calm the storm of crisis. Stop meditating on the wrong your spouse or someone else had cause you, it will not add to you but remove from you.
The moral decadence in the society today what role should the family play?
Husband: Times have changed. So have our values. This all seems so normal to most affluent societies, yet divorce and family breakdown damage the couple, but also children, relatives and friends. Moral values are an essential part of our culture and by not adopting these moral values, we destroy our culture. Each and every one of us is guilty and must take a portion of the blame. As parents, we have passed the wrong values to our children. As teachers, we have taught our students the wrong values.
As parents, we have exemplified the wrong values in our dealings with our clients. As leaders in our various fields, we have failed in modeling the right values to the people who look up to us. As such, each and every one of us must take a portion of the blame.
Wife: Since children’s behaviour reflects the parents’, I would be focusing on parents. Parents, who are workaholic, fail to discipline their children, and endow their children with less emotional attention. They are the ones who end up raising the morally flawed children. However, I will place the blame on the parents, especially mothers.