With marriages breaking up these days and tales of infidelity all around us, I can’t help but wonder what hope there is for single ones. Does it make sense getting married? Or even falling in love? With one new story of spousal abuse, or a couple parting ways after 5 years of marriage, I had to stop, and think, and ask myself why? Why this ugly trend? What should be one of the most satisfying and fulfilling relationships is now becoming a nightmare to look forward to.
Usually, after a discussion about the demise of one relationship, we’d conclude with this: we don’t know what went down in the marriage. Yes, we don’t, but that’s not the point. I’ve rationalized such situations with that cop-out clause in the past, but I’ve realized that we are just treating symptoms, while the cause remains, and more people get wounded and broken. The true story of one experience can save another’s life and relationship. Note the word true.
One thing I hear as the reasons for most divorces is irreconcilable differences. In no other case is this more confounding than in a case where a couple dated, or co-habited for, say, 8 years. Irreconcilable differences? I know it’s a legal term but where did those differences come from? Two people who knew, and loved, each other for that long, suddenly have issues that are irresolvable.
I know that people change, and some tough situations happen, and external factors, like children and in-laws, can alter the equation of a marriage. I know that we can’t predict the future. We can’t really tell what will be thrown our way tomorrow. I, however, know that with this one thing you have a better chance of succeeding in your relationship. You have a better chance of weathering the storms that will come, of sorting out your differences, and of understanding change: how you and your partner will change as time goes on.
That one thing is sincerity.
Because you will change; and your partner will change, too. It’s the only constant thing. It’s really crazy not to expect anyone to change, at all, in a marriage. However, when your change is coming from a place of sincerity, of honesty, it’s easier to understand, and to handle. Attitudes, habits, behaviours change, but principles never change. What you need to understand about yourself and your partner, before you ever think of getting serious, is what principles your values are built upon, and what those values are. And to communicate them sincerely to each other.
We lie. We lie a lot to please people. The problem is that in a long term relationship, such as marriage, one little indiscretion could cost you everything beautiful that you’ve built.
Let me tell you a true story. We’ll call the boy Obi, and the girl Ada. Obi and Ada met in university here in Nigeria. He was handsome, charming, and smart. She was also smart, but very reserved. With black rimmed eyeglasses, and a usually barely made-up face, she was the girl you’ll call a nerd. They were so in love and dated all through the university. Upon graduation, Ada travelled to the UK for her master’s degree—that had been in the pipeline because she was a British citizen. Obi stayed in Lagos to hustle. Everyone wondered how Obi and Ada ever got along.
You see, I knew Obi, he was such a nice, kind guy and a load of fun, but he was also a bit of a rascal. He stayed out late nights, he was a ladies’ man, he finished school with a mediocre grade even when he could have done better, and he practically lived life without a plan. A couple of years later it was announced that they were getting married. Obi would then relocate to the UK to be with Ada. Before he travelled, Obi seemed different. He’d got a steady job and his life was pretty stable. All his detractors had been put to shame; everyone who had confronted him because of his irresponsible behavior began to eat their words. Obi was now a new man. He left for the UK with his bride, and visited the country a couple of years later with his three beautiful kids.
Another three years have passed and the news is that the marriage is over. What happened? Ada says Obi was irresponsible towards her and the kids’ welfare, and he kept late nights drinking and partying. Obi said Ada was unfaithful to him, she was having an affair.
What’s the next thing you’ll hear? After discussing and analyzing the issue, the final word: nobody knows what went down in the marriage. That is true. If only Obi and Ada could tell us what happened. Most importantly, if only Obi and Ada could tell us who they were. Maybe Obi could have told Ada that he would always be the party kind—that’s the way he lets off steam. Maybe Ada knew this, and tried to change him, probably he would give up that beloved hobby for her. Maybe. Maybe Obi would have been better off with a party girl, or a girl who doesn’t mind a party boy. Maybe. This is one story among millions. My hypothetical conclusions are few permutations from a thousand realizations. The truth is that nobody knows, except Obi and Ada (and God). The truth is that I feel that a little more sincerity would have saved the day.
Men, let her know who you are. Ladies, let him know who you are. If you’re a party freak, if you love praying for two hours at midnight, if you are sexually adventurous, if you are very meticulous, if you prefer spending your alone-time indoors, tell him/her every single thing about yourself.
We lie and lie about ourselves, our likes and dislikes, what we can accept and what are deal breakers for us, and when we are finally living with our spouses and there’s nowhere to hide, we are busted.
We may not be able to stop the challenges that will come in every relationship. But with the right foundation, no mountain is too high to climb. And sincerity is a good place to start building from.