My name is Oreoluwa Soleye and I got married 4 years ago (well, it will be 4 years in July) and recently, I find that I am usually the oldest person at bridal showers – possibly because I got married at 31 and almost all my friends were married at the time. In fact, 3 of my 7 bridesmaids were at different stages of pregnancy and so now, at 35, it’s hard to receive invites to showers, except its for a friend’s baby sister. When I do attend, I am usually expected to be a fountain of knowledge and expertise giving insights into how to be a fabulous wife. In reality, I probably need the advice more than anyone else because, frankly speaking, I am not that great at this thing called marriage and I have made a number of mistakes in mine. However, that being said, I sill thought to share 10 lessons I have learned in marriage, most of which I have learned the hard way. These will be shared in a series called Ore’s Corner:
- Be quick to Forgive, Remember your spouse’s good sides and Constantly Make excuses for “bad behaviour”
In the first 6 months of marriage, Femi (my husband) and I were in Dreamland. It was too amazing and I actually felt like sticking my tongue out at all those who had warned me about rocky starts in marriage. He was so attentive to my needs. He would buy me lunch and have it delivered to my office. He would send roses to me just because it is Tuesday. He would order and send me vouchers to my favourite spa for a foot massage etc. I was euphoric. I mean, I knew I got married to a great guy but I had never seen him make this much of an effort to show me how lucky I am. The love was amazing in every sense of the word and I felt so wanted, so desired, so loved.
All my office friends were jealous as they got to see evidence of his affection even more than my other friends. I knew it could have been initial gra gra but boy, I was not complaining at all. On our 6th month anniversary, he planned a trip to Ghana because that was our Option 2 for honeymoon and we had the most romantic weekend getaway in Accra. I was glowing. I was happy. We were happy. Sure enough, every rose petal went on my Facebook page. Every pizza delivery. Every gesture. All that he did for me, I shared with the world who were more than excited to leave comments. He was not on Facebook but even his friends would call him and tease him, “Femo, nawa o you dey oppress boys o. Madam too is expecting half anniversary gift. Which levels na?”
One day, after visiting his aunty, I innocently declared that I hadn’t been to South Africa and would love to go there or to the Seychelles at some point in the near future. I was shocked when my sweet Femi quipped at me angrily, “Seychelles ko, Cowries ni, why are you so ungrateful and hard to please or satisfy? People are suffering, you are focusing on childish dreams! How many seconds ago did we just land from the Ghana trip, you did not even wait to unpack your luggage, you are already greedily thinking of where next to go and pose to all your fake friends! Make your own damn money and then we can go all the four corners of Africa if you like!”
There were no words to describe how I felt. I did not have a great job and my contribution to the family pot was close to negligible but we had agreed that I would maintain my Ministry job and we would start a family so I could have time to take care of the kids and the home whilst he focused on our finances. It was a difficult decision but after much thought, we both agreed on that labour division technique. It therefore stung me deeply that he would fling his financial superiority in my face- superiority that we had both agreed to entrust him with.
We had gone to the same University though he was 2 years ahead of me (I studied Economics and he, Computer Sciences) and I even had a Masters degree and a number of certifications in addition to my BSc. That night, I updated my CV and started shooting out unsolicited applications with a vengeance. By the third day, I had sent out at least 30 applications. I did not tell Femi what I was up to and pretended to accept his apology but within me, I was bitter and resentful and a mere apology was not going to solve the problem.
That is how the 3 headed happiness-destroying serpent called Bitterness, Competition, Resentment entered our marriage. After 2 months of intensive search, interviews, rejections, I got a position at a management consulting company. I had a choice of doing my training in Nigeria with occasional trips abroad but I ensured I secured the option that made me travel the most. I wanted him to know he’s not the only one who could be busy. I wanted him to know its not only him that can stay out late at business dinners. I wanted him to know it is not only him that could decline to go out on dates because of work. I wanted him to know that I too could be summoned to a client meeting at 6pm on Saturday evening and could take conference calls in the car on our way from church. The more love I lavished on my job, the more love it reciprocated with and within a short period, I was identified as one of the rising stars of the group of new hires. A few people would comment, “Wow, your husband must be so supportive” when they see me bent over my laptop in a client’s office at 10:30pm feasting on coffee and cold Chinese food.
At home, things had rapidly gone sour. We were okay. We were not fighting, at least not openly but the battle line had clearly been drawn. I contracted every single meal to my mobile chef, Mr Friday and then I realised it is true: it takes true love and happiness to cook for and take care of a man. Some days, I wouldn’t even bother putting the food in a plate and will warm it up and place the food container/plastic where Mr Friday dished the meals in the tray for him. We were drifting apart so widely. We never gossiped about people or our experiences at work anymore. I would find out Femi was going to Lokoja for 6 days, the night before his flight. Instead of telling him how bad that made me feel, I would respond with a trip of my own to Port Harcourt for 7 days and inform him the morning of the flight. Some days, I would out rightly lie that it was impromptu and I am already boarding! Yes, things got that bad.
Femi also responded with a few comebacks of his own and one night, I knew things had gone too far but did not know how to stop it anymore. The little cub had become an uncontrollable roaring beast. “I am travelling”. “Oh really, cool. Where is work taking you to this time?,” I quipped, my eyes never leaving my phone. “Seychelles, Cape Town and the Gambia and its not work. I’m going away as part of my annual leave”
To be continued…
Like I mentioned, in marriage you have to be your spouse’s advocate. I watch a lot of legal drama and see how lawyers fight the causes of their clients whether or not the clients messed up and is not deserving of that gesture. That is how you should defend your husband – not only to other people but even to your own self. When they deal you a hand that is uncharacteristic and behave in a funny manner, do not jump to react in anger. Instead, make excuses. Maybe he had a bad day. Maybe her boss shouted at her. Maybe something is wrong with his parents. Maybe he is ill. Everything but “He hates me and does not respect me”. “She has no regard for me”. When you do this, you can then address the situation and speak to them when anger is not ruling emotions and consequently, your speech.
A year after, I found out why Femi behaved in that manner. The reason does not excuse his behaviour but I could understand him better. It turns out his aunt had confided in him that she was scheduled to have a growth removed for the 4th time and she was praying it was a benign growth but did not want his parents to find out. It was therefore the shock of the news and the burden of not being able to share it at the time that had sent him off the rails. Had I responded gently, “Baby what’s wrong, are you okay? Is everything okay? It is unlike you to speak to me in this manner”, perhaps I would not have started or continued what led into what is now my Lesson Number 2.
Hope you enjoyed Ore’s corner. More coming really soon. Have a good evening all.