This Thing Called…Marriage

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My father was wearing his trademark brown khaki shorts, it’s roomy pockets sagging at the sides, and one of those old singlets he loved but which every other person at home hated because they looked like suspenders. The memory stands out in my head, very sharp. He stood straight with his back against the wall, his hands – the only visible sign of his anxiety – busy doing nothing in particular. My mother stood in the space between my dad and I; her wrapper was tightly cinched just below her breasts and she had rolled up the bogus sleeves of the fading Hollandis blouse past her elbows. She took up most of the room in the tiny corridor, her back to dad and her face in mine.

“I si gini?” she asked, her voice a chilling ferocious whisper. What did you say?

I swallowed the ball of bile that threatened to clog my throat. I had thought this through, I was sure that it was what I wanted, what I needed to do. So I willed my racing heart to calm down, and I said to her – to them, “Acholum inu nwanyi kita a” I want to get married now.

I was just 16 years old when this transpired between my parents and I. If you are Igbo, or Nigerian, or human, then there is a 99.5% chance that you know exactly what my parents did afterwards. In fact, you all now have different versions of the ensuing events playing over in your minds but like Nollywood, we all know how it ends – I didn’t get married. Heck, it’s been a long time since then and I am still not married.

This Thing Called Marriage is a matter that will neither lie low for us nor our generations to come. An elderly friend of mine once said that even if humans evolved into giant clumps of metal eons from now, our hills of steel would still find a way to pair off with each other in marriage. It is so important to us that a lot of the time, marriage is the most important medium with which we classify adults, second only to gender.

Think: when you first meet that dashing young auditor who just started at your office, your first thoughts are not about her state of origin, or birth stone or the trait of snoring in her family history, are they? No. You want to know if she’s married. Or when you first see that hunky form from behind, all you want is for him to propose so you can hand over the children you already had for him in advance; then he turns around…and he’s wearing a priestly collar. Bam! And it doesn’t stop at adults either – even 5-year old Kamsi goes home to tell Daddy that he will marry Miss Tayo, his kindergarten teacher.

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Marriage – it’s the all-important issue. Question though is, why?

Some say it’s a holy order anointed by the gods of society: from ‘School’ to ‘Job’ to ‘Marry’ (S-J-M). Others, like my friend Paul, disagree. He believes that it subtracts from the beauty of the union when people say such things about marriage as ‘it is next on the list’. Paul does not think of marriage as a requirement for whatever accolades are given out at the Pearl gates; he thinks of it as a privilege, one he presently is favored by.

When asked about his partner, he gets all dreamy and emotional and starts to cry tears of love says “moments together with her are moments in bliss. There really is nothing more beautiful that when two people give themselves completely to each other. When we disagree, there is this lovable tension between us; the rest of the time, it is the legendary tale of love birds. Fight or no fight, the feeling is awesome. Words really can’t explain such feelings, neither can words describe how anxious I am to consummate it in marriage”

Then you think that it is all roses and chocolatey panty hoses…until you talk to my friend, Walter. In a recent piece, he recounted how in a moment of – I like to think – sheer bravado, he updated his Blackberry dm with the message: ‘I do not believe in the institution of marriage.’ Now Walter is past 25 and talented, so, promising, and he has a day job! So of course, “the aftermath of that declaration was a series of pings and phone calls from friends and acquaintances who wanted to know if I was suffering a fever or feeling inebriated, for me to have the temerity to say such a thing”

You’re wondering “but why” and I’m saying “Wyclef” “I wondered too” Walter stated as his reasons for his disposition, a compulsive nature and his penchant for lonesomeness. He had more to say – or more rightly, ask: “Why do perennial bachelors need to explain why they don’t want to put the ring on it? Does all of humanity have to want the same kinds of things? Must my happiness and fulfillment come from wanting to spend my life with someone, just like everybody else does? Couldn’t I simply live my life, putting out good stories, paying my taxes and occasionally traveling around the world, unfettered by familial obligations or spousal guilt?”

Then I wondered “why not?!” Really, why not? With the calls for equality and fairness multiplying faster than Ebola is spreading, one would have figured that if the married do not have to explain their reasons for marriage, the unmarried should not have to explain their unmarried status either. I remember one time watching Serena Williams claim another tennis trophy on television; I turned to my buddy and said how it was a shame that such a beautiful, strong woman with so much talent was unmarried and without children. Now I think of it, and the real shame is sitting on my head.

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The problem of the human obsession with This Thing Called Marriage is that in the long run, a lot of us marry without knowing the half of what to expect. Some of us confuse wedding for marriage and enjoy the breeze of the former only to wake up in the latter as…

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Even the internet is guilty; try googling the word ‘marriage’ and you’ll find yourself deluged by a litany of rings, white gowns and pristine wedding smiles. That is so wrong. Even for those who understand that the concepts of wedding and marriage are well and truly divorced, it is no guarantee that we understand This Thing Called Marriage.

As at the time I made my intention of marriage known to my parents – yes, at 16, I wasn’t thinking about a wedding. Neither was I thinking of conforming to the societal creed of S-J-M – going by the creed anyway, I wasn’t even half ready. All I was thinking of was the sweet girl (let’s call her Bimi) I was in love with at the time and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

Like many of us, I was thinking of babies – how they would have my eyes, Bimi’s hair and nose, and a combo of both our lips, and how it would feel to sit in the evening breeze, with them curled up on my chest, making the cutest infant sounds.

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But I wasn’t thinking of children – the mess they can make, the noise which knows no seasons, the tantrums, the pranks, the school runs, the allergies, the grooming and the raising.

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Like many of us, I was thinking of starting small with Bimi – in a little bungalow in this polite neighborhood where the neighbors minded their business and the rain fell softly every Sunday morning; we would spend the days laughing and playing, I would let her win at cards and she would let me win at table tennis; and at nights, we would make babies.

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But I wasn’t thinking of money – the university degrees neither of us had at the time; the rent for that tiny bungalow which we could never afford without jobs; the PHCN bills, generator bills and water bills, and maintenance bills for when the roof leaked or when an errant child smashed a football against a window; hospital bills, transportation costs to wherever we needed to go, and food.

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I wasn’t thinking of Life – the food that would never come without money; the hunger that was bound to come without food; the attention I would need to pay to Bimi, and her hair and make-up – at 16, she had only just started experimenting with lipsticks; the clothes she would outgrow and the new ones she would need; the girl she would outgrow and the woman she would become; the boy I would outgrow and the man I would become.

The list is endless, and common among us, if we dared to be honest about it. We think of a lot of things, true, yet there’s a lot more we do not think of. And as if it isn’t hairy enough, reality is that a lot of the stuff we never thought of is still mysterious to even the married ones among us.

In correction therefore: The problem of the human obsession with This Thing Called Marriage is that in the long run, a lot of us marry without knowing the half of what to expect that all you can expect is to meet with the unexpected.

On this issue, I am neither for Paul nor Barnabas Walter; I am only that voice crying typing out in the wilderness, questions that you must answer for yourself: Firstly, do you ever want to be married? Why? After which you may then answer, what do you think of This Thing Called Marriage?

 

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

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20 thoughts on “This Thing Called…Marriage

  1. The reason I question the whole marriage thing, is because of the way people talk about it.. Like its the ultimate goal in life..
    Personally I think marriage stifles personal growth.. You’ll never reach ur full potential in life if you’re married.. You can only do so to the detriment of your spouse..

    People enter marriage for all the wrong reasons.. Its no wonder they fail too often these days..

    • I was mulling over your comment about potential. And how true it was. I actually went “kinda true”. But no, it’s not true. Well i believe it isnt.You see, it is all about the partner. Now imagine with me. You have this beautiful wife and she is pregnant with your second child. And at this point in time, a promotion and a raise would be most welcome. How hard do u think you would work towards it? Now remove the emotional blackmail, you have this annoying wife with kids too and there is an option of promotion. How hard would you go for it? In fact my dear, that other person makes you want to be a better you. To work better, make more, cos u want to take care of him or her. And forget money wise, he or she would support u. Would tell you the truth. And believe in you. Am i creating utopia? Lol, i thnketh noteth. It is all about the partner. You two would be soo in sync that when u r out of it, it’d be like u r still evn in it.

  2. Marriage is sweet
    Marriage is awesome
    Marriage is commitment
    And commitment is hardwork
    Everyone needs a companion at somw point in life.
    I will def love to get married even though its not my number one priority atm but an institution i hope to excel in.
    Having someone to love and be loved back is great and den having someone to stand by me, fall in and out of love with is anothee level of happiness

  3. Marriage. hmm..i didn’t want to get married. Mom would always say you have to learn how to cook and i hated d damn thn..i still do. Learn oo or ur husband would chase u out. Then dad had this annoying story about dis girl that wakes up to see her mom clapping her hands over a pot. So she gets married, fils her pot with water then claps her hand over but then it dsnt turn into food. She was chased out. The story isnt for real and dad always told it with a smile. So i found a way out. I reasoned it out, i dnt want to learn how to cook so lemme nt marry. Pure Genius! And their stories never bothered me again. I can cook now, nt chef material, and m grown now and id love to get married. To love and be loved back. To have children. To grow old with sm1. Have moments with this person. Bear his children. Talk to him. Argue with him. Love him and know i am nt alone. Go through the bad times and learn. Ofcourse push him out of bed to stop the kids from crying and change diapers and lend money to. lol..i dnt hv it all planned out bt i sure as hell am nt going to wing it. That is why it is important to have the right partner. You would work in snyc. I can be a loner but not up to the point of saying no to marriage. I’d love to love.

      • Hahahahaa…Ezinma, you have me positively tripping up here. Your parents are hilarious, I can only imagine what other stories Popsy would have come up with had you ever mentioned your resolve never to marry.
        See how you have now gaan’ made marriage look sweet…even changing diapers is trying to sound romantic.Lol. Thank you for sharing, dear…and I hope it happens for you exactly as you dream it.

  4. Marriage may not always be d bed of roses or the end to all hardships most ppl expect it to be. There will be hardship, challenges, and some ‘bed of rocks’. But in all of that, there are these moments of complete joy, fulfillment n euphoria one can only find in d presence of a good partner that mks it more than worth d while.
    In my opinion, most marriages face challenges cos of unrealistic expectations/ideas of what they expect to get out of it.

    Another masterpiece my friend. Keep it up

    • I completely agree with you on the issue of unrealistic expectations…but man, how do you tell a buddy to knock down his dream of a slim, curvy damsel with purple eyes and puff lips???
      I assume you are #teamPaul on the marriage stance…thanks for sharing, bro.

  5. Certainly, I will get married but that’s gonna be @ d right time.

    Personally I question the whole marriage thing too, because of the way people talk about it & especially the way ladies react to it as if its the ultimate goal in life….

    So many People get married for all the wrong reasons and that’s why marriages fail too easily these days..

    A lot of people can’t differentiate WEDDING from MARRIAGE…….Too bad.

    They say love is blind, and marriage is an institution. Well, I’m not ready for an institution for the blind just yet. I need few more years to plan for that. First things first.

    Before marriage, a man declares that he would lay down his life to serve you; after marriage, he won’t even lay down his newspaper to talk to you….lol

    Women hope men will change after marriage but they don’t. Men hope women won’t change but they do. This is one thing i’ve noticed in sooo many marriages. Most women change into something else after marriage. This one scares me ohhhhhhhh….lol

    Like anything else you want to succeed at, well i believe marriage takes training! If we want to have a healthy relationship, we have to put in the training and do what it takes to make it work. Despite the way Nollywood, Ghollywood, Hollywood, etc depicts intimacy, good things don’t just “happen”; proper training is vital to accomplishing any goal.

    Almost every marriage starts out as a huge celebration. Together with their family and friends, each couple is full of hopes and dreams for their future life together. But the road to a happy marriage is far from easy. And as today’s divorce statistics demonstrate all too well, many couples opt not to complete the journey. They can’t just take it anymore.

    It would be easy to blame our high rate of marital failure on things like not spending enough quality time together, allowing bitterness and resentment to build in our hearts and failing to keep communication lines open. There’s no end to books, articles and seminars that tell you how to improve these and many other aspects of your relationship. But while quality time, forgiveness and communication are vitally important to creating a happy marriage, if such things aren’t happening, it’s usually a sign of a much deeper problem. And until this problem is addressed, no amount of external behavior modification will work.

    Sorry about going spiritual but I have to. Let’s take a look at the following Scripture passage:

    One of them, an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

    I believe that virtually every marital problem can be traced back to one or both partners failing to abide by these two laws. The same is true of any relationship. The minute we begin to focus on our own wants and needs over those of God or our partner; we’re destined for trouble.

    MARRIAGE IS TOTAL COMMITMENT. I MEAN 100% OF ALL YOU’VE GOT.

    SHALOM.

    Thanks Ojukwu Martin for the tag. I sincerely appreciate. Have fun.

    • And am I glad I tagged you! Boy! this is some solid stuff you reeled out here…I hope you accept cheques cos really, I can’t take all this wisdom free of charge.lol.
      Thanks bro…and thank God for loving girlfriends who make sure we read WAW pieces 😉

  6. You know, I truly don’t believe half the earth’s planet really knows why they are getting married. People fall in love and they get this heady feeling that dictates to them the need to stay together forever and ever. And then, one day they wake up to the real horror of what they’ve done to themselves. There’s the cheating. The silence. The lack of communication. The resentment. And then there’s the lucky ones who manage to weather through it all and somehow still keep the marriage intact, not evident by the plastic smiles they show the public, but evident in the sense of contentment they actually feel within themselves.
    So no, I’m not sneezing at marriage. I do believe people can make it work. I just don’t believe ALL people can. Or should. It’s just like having children. Not everyone should be parents.
    And yet, this thing called Society (Martins, you should do a post on that) has put out set values which it expects everyone in it to follow. Yes, of course, society makes for order to exist between people. But the downside is, its uniformity makes for a stifling environment for those who are different. And there’ll always be the different ones. The perennial bachelor. The career-minded unmarried woman. The homosexual man. The single mother who wants children but detests the headship of a husband. They are people with wants, unpopular wants, yes, but idealistic wants nonetheless. And society doesn’t give them a chance. Society makes them want to apologize for wanting different things from the norm.
    That doesn’t have to be so.
    It makes a mockery of the often-peddled aphorism ‘You can be whoever you want to be.’ Yea, what that person telling you that really means is: ‘You can be whoever you want to be, just let it be within reason.’
    I laud those who gush about getting married. I wish I can feel that way. I honestly do. I’m the first child of my family, and I can do without the battle I see myself fighting with my folks when it becomes obvious to them that I have no intention of settling down. But even the fear of hurting my family cannot deter me from the determination to not put myself through something I have no desire for.

    • …you are heard, Waltz. Loud and clear. Plenty people might not share your resolve but we understand that you have a right to it. And we will not interfere.
      Really that’s all there is to it: nobody should be made to do what they do not want to do, so far as they are committing no crime by insisting on being different. Life has taught that lesson in many forms, but being the humans we are, we like to learn the ‘fun’ ones.

  7. This thing called marriage, Scares d hell outta me… Commitment to one human being for the rest of my life seems like an arduous task… What if I wake up one morning and discover that I’m bored with my spouse or irritated by his habits or just boooorrred!!! and at dat point there is no redemption, it means I’ll be condemned to a life of boredomness. But… I believe marriage is a beautiful experience if it is experienced with “the one”… I only hope that we all get married to the one because nobody deserves to be tied down in a loveless marriage. And to all dem perennial bachelors asking” WHY”… that answer will come when you’re 40 and alone in your big house and then you’ll begin to yearn for companionship and hearing the patters of little feet running around your house.

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