35 years feels like half of a lifetime. I have made many mistakes. I have learned so many lessons. I feel like as I have told my story, I should wrap it all up with a few closing remarks of sorts…In sum, here are the lessons I have learned to ensure peaceful co-existence with my husband some of which have been from errors I made, errors he made, counseling, preachings and teachings:
Do unto Femi as you will have Femi do unto you, Ore:
This is so basic. But yet, I broke this code several times. I would expect Femi to call me during the day to say, “Baby, how is your day going?” yet I never called him. I would expect sweet messages, flirty texts, yet I never sent any. I would expect Femi to call my sisters just to say hi but I was not doing same. I would sit pretty expecting Femi to always initiate sex whilst I crossed my legs like a prize waiting to be opened. The list is endless.
I have discovered that I attract what I give off. When I want romance, I give romance. When I want respect, I give respect. When I want care, I show care. I must treat Femi the way I want to be treated. I must not shout or speak to him in a manner I would loathe to be spoken to. I must let go of things the way I expect him to let go. I must not criticize him when I would hate to be criticized.
I must remember (a) Femi is a man, not a woman and (b) Femi is Femi
This means, Femi is male, Femi is a man with man-like needs and dispositions and Femi is an individual with his personal traits and individual peculiarities. So I must seek to understand (a) how men generally are and (b) how my own man specifically is.
Whilst I rep a school of feminism, I am aware that women and men are wired totally differently, each having strengths and weaknesses. I love to watch E! Femi prefers Super Sport. I love to shop whilst on vacation, Femi feels that is a very Nigerian and warped idea of holiday and can comfortably travel with a hand luggage and return with same hand luggage only 1kg heavier due to the few souvenirs he picked up. I, on the other hand, will travel with one box and return with four. Femi would stroll on beaches whilst on vacation. I would stroll in malls. Femi likes to communicate with text messages, short and sharp and clear and concise. I like to talk, explain, give you the background facts, tell the full story. Femi talks to pass information. I talk to unburden and get relief. When I have gist, it is a burden on my chest, so heavy, it’s unbelievable, especially when I only want to share it with Femi.
So when I get home and announce, “Femi, you won’t believe what happened to your wife today?”, Femi expects to hear, “I was promoted” simple. But oh no, why waste a good story by not building it up and so I begin with, “It was about 10 am when I just finished my cup of coffee, then my phone now rang and it was HR calling…”
Femi will say what is making him upset directly, I expect him to figure what is making me sad out if indeed he is a caring and loving husband. Femi can be driven by a person who is about to almost crash the car and not say a word. I, on the other hand, would comment on every bump you speed past and every turn you took without signaling appropriately.
My point is: we are different. But different does not mean bad. Different does not mean incompatible. Different means compromise. Compromise does not mean lowering your standards and living life contrary to your upbringing and values. It means making allowance for difference in views, expectations and needs and methods. Remember, if we want to arrive at 4, we could go the 1+3 route, the 2+2 route, the 4+0 route or even the 4x 1 route, etc.
So now, Femi has learned to offer me the necessary “oohs” and “ahhs” in between my stories and patiently wait for the “point” (to me, the whole story is what makes up the point). I have learned to stroll on beaches on holidays and visit museums and art galleries though I’m itching wondering what end of the season sales I am missing out on. I have learned to respect his need for space and not smother him with “are you okay?” when he is sitting quietly and reflecting. I have learned that it’s okay for him to hang out with his friends (occasionally :|). I have learned not to mark up every wrongdoing. I have learned not to address every error. I have learned to shorten my tales by moonlight (sometimes). I have learned to initiate if I really want things happening. I have learned to leisurely mention misgivings to him instead of calling for a meeting and sharing the agenda ahead of time or instead of announcing, “Femi, we need to talk”. I have learned to study and COMMUNICATE with the man called Femi EFFECTIVELY.
Focus on my own wrong
This was a toughie because I am an excellent analyst of others (speck, log, you might say). I am reputed for knowing how to review reports painstakingly yet swiftly and nothing passes my fine tooth comb, but I just don’t use the comb on my own hair! So I have learned to let Femi’s error be and focus on correcting my own issues. For instance, before, when Femi says, “Ore, you delay too long” instead of accepting this observation, I will promptly throw one of his lapses at him, “you nko, you snore too loudly so it disturbs my sleep and so I oversleep and that’s why I delay in getting ready for church”. Roooiiight, I’m getting you.
Over time, I have learned that when I address my own shortcomings, Femi aligns…eventually. I don’t know how, I cannot explain it. It just happens. I do not need to talk about it. I just do right and with time, Femi also improves remarkably. So this is it: we both have issues. We both need to change. Who will bell the cat? Who will make the first move? Who will take the first step? I have decided that when two wrongs have made a big wrong, I will ,instead of demanding that he change first, make the first step and thereafter, things take a turn for the better. I inspire change in Femi by first changing my attitude and behaviour.
Bitterness is an interesting feeling/concept/phenomenon. It starts out pretty benign. He came home late, she left the tooth paste open, she knows I’m allergic to fish but I see the fin of a fish swimming in the the stew. If not addressed wisely and swiftly, it develops horns, teeth, fangs, three heads etc and soon enough, you don’t even know how it all began. So deal with issues sensibly and swiftly. Don’t harbour unforgiveness which easily transitions to resentment which creates a wedge, drifts you apart and before you know what is going on, you cannot stand each other anymore. Even after forgiving, don’t keep score, let it go…genuinely.
Whilst I have gone to bed angry many times, I accept the precept not to let the sun go down on your bitterness. I just wish I could adopt it always.
Effective conflict resolution
I am also learning to chose the right time to make Femi know he has made me unhappy and also discuss with him in the right way. All I want to hear is “sorry” not create another issue. Many times, speaking to Femi about my displeasure has created even more problems such as “you don’t appreciate anything I do in this house”, “you cannot be pleased”, “what more do you want” etc. It is therefore key to master the art of resolving conflict effectively.
Sex is Bae
Need I say more. As sex outside marriage is a sin, in my opinion, not having (enough) sex in marriage is also a sin and contrary to God’s desire for your home. A wise woman recommends twice a week. I recommend three (bite me). You need to ensure that your marriage bed does not go cold. You must educate yourself and each other and ensure you are bonding sexually, regularly. This is one sure way the devil can slip into your marriage.
Don’t wait to “feel like it” because due to Lagos life for instance, you might never feel like it in 6 months, trust me, it is very possible. From waking up at 4/5am, getting home at 10pm tired and stressed, where do you think “feeling” like it will come in? Just like severally, you don’t feel like going to work, you get up and show up and reap the monthly benefit as well as fulfillment from within, just like we sometimes don’t feel like going to church but we get up and go coming home feeling refreshed and grateful to God that we summoned the strength and we went, we need to do the needful when it comes to sex.
You need to make it a priority, put it on your to-do list, send him an Outlook calendar reminder, mark it on your calendar in your room, set an alarm reminder, schedule it, tell his secretary to keep his evening on Tuesdays and Thursdays free, whatever, I really don’t care, like Nike, JUST DO IT!
Waiting for the right mood and the right setting is the nonsense we were fed in Mills & Boon and Hints and Hearts. There is sometimes no such thing. You need to create the right mood and setting. You need to consciously make it happen. If you like, call it mechanical and scheduled and non-spontaneous. Scheduled sex is way better than no sex, so ladies and gentlemen, get out your calendars and begin scheduling those dates.Some facts:
- Sexlessness in marriage is defined at less than twice a month and is totally wrong and almost ruined Femi and I’s home.
- Sex has been found to be directly correlated to satisfaction in marriage
- You are hardly still angry after sex
- Sexlessness in marriage is defined as less than once a month (which is ridiculously low in my opinion)
- A party in a sexless marriage is likely to be unhappy and secretly bitter about it but is afraid to voice it out and may one day, explode: issue a quit notice or begin to cheat
- Sexlessness not due to cheating (e.g. due to being busy) is grossly unfair on the more willing party, a sign of indiscipline and should be addressed swiftly.
Marriage is as much a Joint Assignment as it is an Individual One
Marriage is like one of those joint reports you are given by your supervisor to write. You are scored as a team but also as individuals. You allocate tasks to members of the team. Will you say because the rest are not pulling their weights, you will agree to getting a bad score? I would think not. Sometimes, you have to take one for the team. You have to do the bit of your team member who has taken ill in addition to your own bit. You have to do more than your fair share because darn, by all means, you are going to submit a killer report! When the team mate gets back on their feet, they take over. And they surely, surely will.
You must always do right even when right is not being done to you. It is IMMENSELY DIFFICULT but the grace of God makes it possible. The strength of God is made available in our weakness. When all you wanna do is throw that shoe at him/her, you hold back and turn to God. This brings me to my final lesson…
Forget the hype, its not just you and your boo: Marriage is a tripartite relationship!
The third person in the equation is God. He is the centre of it all and holds you guys together. He has been the umpire in my marriage when ish goes down and someone must be corrected/chastised, like the day Femi shouted at me for complaining that he must always place his shoes in the rack and tripped over the very same shoe the next morning (chuckles). I quickly went to him, all the while chuckling in my mind and giving God a spiritual Hi-5! You go God! Wink wink. Needless to say, shoes were thereafter neatly placed.
God has been the mediator when we argue, guiding us towards finding amicable resolution for our issues. He has been my confidante when my heart is burdened. I read His word for the situation and He lifts me up. He has been my friend when my dear spouse misses out that role. He has been that one that listens when I need to vent when Femi offends me: not my mom, dad or many sisters, God. Speaking to God when facing issues leads to one of the following:
(a) I receive wisdom to deal with the situation myself;
(b) God helps me accept the situation;
(c) God deals with the situation for me (by correcting it, or making someone trip over a shoe, etc)
You cannot afford to leave Him behind and do your thing. He is the glue that holds you together. All the love in the world cannot do this. God Himself is Love.
I hope with these few points of mine, I have been able to help someone avert a mistake I have made and instead, build a happy home filled with God’s joy and peace!
Mrs. Oreoluwa Soleye