When I was much younger, I thought I would be one of those ladies who got married in their mid to late 30’s. I never pictured myself getting married in my 20s, let alone at age 24. But as life would have it, an amazing man found a beautiful flower in my father’s garden. Lol.
At a time, I believed I was mature enough to handle the richness and hurdles of marriage. I thought I knew quite a lot about marriage, and most importantly, I was in love with this guy, and we had dated for about 3 years already. You know, these factors made me a bit confident there was not going to be any unpleasant surprise(s) in my marriage.
Well, so I thought.
It’s been six amazing years filled with life-changing lessons. I’ve grown and, in the process, I have learned and unlearned certain things. Also, I have realized that most of what you think you know or believe is tested in marriage. For example, if you think you are a very patient person, married life will tell you to “hold my drink”. I see married life as a journey of self-discovery. I see it as going on a voyage, where you are certain of what you want (happiness), but not certain of where and how to get it. All you have is you, your belief, and the perception of your partner.
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Now, I have a better understanding of what makes a healthy marriage. Or better still, what does not make a healthy marriage. I know that it’s not all about the date nights in fancy restaurants, the exchange of expensive gifts, or even having kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love to dress up and dine out, and I love receiving expensive gifts. However essential these things are, they are not the most important.
From my point of view, what makes a marriage work is the commitment to love, keep loving, and expressing love in thoughtful ways. We recently celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. In that spirit, I’d like to share six lessons I’ve learned in my six years of marriage. These lessons explain my understanding of what it means and what it takes to stay committed to someone. You are going to love them, I promise.
#1. Have a united front
Unity makes a marriage. I honestly don’t believe a marriage can work without the couples having a united front both in private and in public. Unity means oneness. It is the state of being one undivided entity. It means to be of one mind and purpose (not necessarily of thought). Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It requires being intentional.
Let me try to explain. I gained independence from my family quite early, so I got really used to making decisions on my own, taking care of myself, and enjoying my own space. I was used to making unilateral decisions. In marriage, it was difficult for me to adjust to making a joint decision. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t spend money on ‘asoebi’ like I used to [‘Asoebi’ is a uniform clothing material or styles worn by family members and friends of a celebrant to identify with him/her during a particular ceremony or an event, e.g., weddings, birthdays, etc.].
My husband, on the other hand, was so involved with his family that it took a while for him to understand the part of the scriptures that says, “...for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So, they are no longer two but one flesh...” (The Holy Bible, Matthew 19:5-6). However, the moment we realised that oneness of purpose is key to our married life, we both adjusted. We became united, and the unity reflects on how we conduct our business, both at home and in our careers.
I have seen couples who are living together but are not really together. They have conflicting views concerning almost every issue of life and are in a hurry to express it. Don’t get me wrong, having conflicting views is not necessarily bad. But I think some fundamental unifying factors (i.e., faith, belief system, ideology, etc.) make it easier to harmonise different views. Having a unifying factor also reflects on how you make decisions as a couple and how issues are resolved. For instance, during a quarrel, the way spouses express their grievances are mostly one-sided, with each party reporting what’s wrong with their partner. However, I have realised that having a united front makes it easier to resolve issues.
"However, communication loses its value if the other person is not listening. One of the most frustrating things ever for me is saying something over and over again."
#2. Allow both inter-dependence and individuality to co-exist
I know, I know. This point sounds like a contradiction to the first lesson. Let me explain myself with an example. Before I got married, I always hoped to marry someone from a different profession. I thought that would make my home interesting (more enjoyable). I wanted us to discuss varying topics during the “us” time, plus I enjoyed talking. Luckily for me, I am married to an engineer who is a good listener. Lol.
I believe my personality was what attracted my husband to me and vice versa, so why should I allow that to go now that we are married. My husband knows that whenever I am cranky in the home, I need to get outside or find an interesting activity for myself. He also enjoys travelling, which means enough gist for me when he returns.
My point is, our personal peace impacts the well-being of our home. It’s okay and highly necessary to explore your individual interests, practice self-care, maintain good friends, and establish meaningful communication with each other.
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#3. Be considerate. Be kind
It’s very easy to take your spouse for granted in marriage. Familiarity does breed contempt, especially in marriage. Sometimes, I find myself saying ‘thank you’ to outsiders more than I say it to my husband. I also remember complaining to my husband for being so quick to tell outsiders sorry more than he did to me. We had to adjust to these things quickly.
When I got my first paying job, I bought my husband a wristwatch and attached a note to it saying ‘thank you’ to him for handling the finances in the home all by himself, especially since I was the ‘madam spender’. This was about 5 years ago, and until today that little note is still in the transparent corner of his wallet. Whenever I see the note, it makes me happy that a piece of my appreciation is with him and he also feels appreciated.
It’s so important to consider your partner’s feelings in whatever you do. It’s easier to support, submit, and love someone who is very kind and considerate to you.
"Don’t get me wrong, I love to dress up and dine out, and I love receiving expensive gifts. However essential these things are, they are not the most important."
#4. Listen, and listen more!
We talk a lot about effective communication in relationships, which is very important. However, communication loses its value if the other person is not listening. One of the most frustrating things ever for me is saying something over and over again.
I’m sure you know or have heard that some of the most popular arguments couples have are “the toothpaste issue” and “the toilet seat drama.” With the “toothpaste issue”, one person prefers pressing the toothpaste from the middle while the other person prefers pressing it from the bottom, which leads to a bit of drama. My husband and I used to have the second kind of argument —the toilet seat issue.
I prefer the toilet seat down, he, on the other hand, could care less about the toilet seat position. It is very annoying that I have to repeat myself over and over on the need for him to keep the seat down. I felt like he wasn’t listening. Then, one day, it happened again! But, this time, he communicated differently.
He told me he’s been trying to change, but he always forgets for one reason or the other, and he’s also been trying to figure out why he couldn’t just fix a simple habit. He gave what he believes to be the reason, it was a valid reason. So, not only did I forgive him for making me rant for so long, but I also felt heard. Lol. I felt good.
You see, everyone loves attention. Listening proves you are paying attention to your spouse’s needs. Endeavour to listen more.
#5. Create a safe environment
This one is huge for me. I think it is the responsibility of both parties in a marriage to create a safe environment in their home. Your spouse should feel safe sharing with you. You would be shocked at the number of people who do not feel safe with their partners.
If your husband cannot share how much he is earning with you, then he doesn’t feel safe enough to do that. Likewise, if your wife cannot share her family’s burden or fears with you, then she doesn’t feel safe enough to do that. Sometimes I wonder why it took Samson (in the Holy Bible) three times to share his truth with Delilah. I guess Delilah did something to make him feel safe the third time. Lol.
I knew how much my husband earned even before we got married because I never gave him the vibes that I was out to drain his pocket (I’m literally laughing right now). Anyway, the point is, trust and safety go hand in hand. Make your spouse feel safe enough to share with you, so that trust can be strengthened in your marriage. You can read a nice article here on ‘tips for building trust in your personal relationships’.
#6. The love of God
The love of God is the beginning of wisdom! Honestly, nothing tests your level of maturity as the institution of marriage, and only God is the giver of true wisdom. The love for others, self-control, patience, forgiveness, etc., doesn’t come naturally to anyone. We are all self-centered people. I have learned that nobody is the perfect ‘husband material’ or ‘wife material’ without the love of God.
The love of God is what compels you to stay true (faithful) to your marriage vows. It is what makes it easy to forgive, and strengthens you to give your best when the other person is not even trying. Marriage takes personal effort, and it is only God that gives that kind of strength. I know this for sure!
Of course, I am still growing and learning in my (relatively young) marriage. However, one thing I know for sure is that I want to enjoy every step of the journey - so help me, God! If you are yet to decide to get married, or you are newly engaged, don’t fret. Although it is one of the most important decisions of your life, it is a worthy one. We all need to keep working towards making every life’s decision worth it every day, and deciding to get married is one of those decisions that come with the opportunity to dazzle and learn. And if you have been on this journey longer than I or you have a different experience, kindly share what makes your marriage tick in the comment section. I would love to hear your perspective.
As always, keep dazzling in your marriage!
Mrs. Opeyemi Ayodeji is a teacher, mother, content creator, and a personal growth enthusiast. She has a bachelor's degree in Economics Education. She is an advocate for the girl-child emancipation, and she is passionate about helping young women discover their purpose.