Making The Best of A Wobbly Marriage

BEVERLY HILLS, April 26, (THEWILL) – When a new couple show all the emotional attachment of newly-weds, we know why. When the same couple display the same attachment 10 or 20 years after marriage, we wonder how.

The conventional wisdom is that there is a corresponding emotional detachment between couples as their marriage advance in years, with frequent complaints from both parties.

He: More demanding than ever before and she is starting to get fat what with those repulsive love handles, flabby mammary plus she is becoming increasingly assertive typical of a harridan in a Shakespearean drama.

She: He is parsimonious as a snuff seller in Amukoko, spends more time outdoors than he used to, not forgetting that his relatives invade our matrimonial home these days as if they were the ones that married him. Worse still, he shouts me down and roughs me up sometimes, making me feel as a kept woman in a household presided over by a husband in a theocratic Muslim country.

Spousal squabbles are as old as the union of man and woman and it occurs in nearly every culture of the world. Nothing suggests there would be an end to it anytime soon and so marital bliss will continue to be a mirage to some married folk.

Readers familiar with the Metro section of Nigerian newspapers know the story only too well: a couple married for years seeking divorce for such mundane reasons as no chop money, an abusive or diabolical partner or one who pays more attention to a paramour or even children born out of wedlock. As risible as they seem, marriages have been rent asunder – from the flimsiest of reasons to the most shocking revelations.

Even so, there is hope that some union on the verge of collapse can be salvaged. That is what the pair of Dr. Richard and Ngozi Okonkwo offer to readers in this slim publication 2 Sides of the Story.

It takes two to tango, so it is said. Making their case from that premise, Ngozi and Richard insist that no one partner in marriage should be overbearing or try to dominate the other. Better still, sit down together and iron out whatever differences there may be with the tact, understanding and patience of diplomats at the negotiating table after a war.

Eruptions in marriages are sometimes worse than wars because most conflicts between countries are almost always over territory. But the battle between spouses could be ego-related issues or plain neglect.

Consider this scenario, for instance. Hubby and wife attend a party together at the end of which the man vrooms off with the children leaving behind a harassed wife. To compound her woes, the rift between herself and her man is apparent to all.

Imagine this other situation: Wife arrives home and meets her mother in-law plum in her sitting room having the time of her life with some of her friends. Angry at the affront, she confronts hubby who, in turn, wonders why she is so upset. “She is my mother and my house is as much hers too,” hubby declares with the finality of a lord of the manor.

There are many more of such instances in this publication, situations that can put a cog in the wheel of marital progress, from meddlesome mother in-laws to philandering spouses and money worries or promises made and broken, especially on wedding anniversaries.

To Ngee and Richard however, there is no issue, no problem – financial, familial, sexual and otherwise – in a relationship that should separate any couple in love once they are married. Whatever it is, Ngee and Richard insist, spouses can always trash it out – talk about it in the most direct and frankest possible way.

Richard is a medical doctor from the University of Lagos while Ngozi is a Theatre Arts graduate from Imo State University, Owerri. But they function as a husband/ wife team in relationship/ marriage counselling. To help them in their roles as guides to spouses with more frowns than smiles in marriage, they set up a non-profit organization Keeping Marriage Alive Initiative to basically foster “oneness in marriage” because, in their view, it “brings out the beauty in marriage and reflects a healthier society.”

Spiced with verses from the Bible like you find in some other publications on and about marriage, the conversational style the authors employ stands it out from the rest. Thus, you find the spouses in their rueful moments after a spat, expressing their private fears and mutual suspicions about one another – with the appropriate illustrations bringing to mind the photo novels of yore.

2 Sides of the Story is the result of months of work distilled from years of personal experience on how to keep marriages alive and successful. It is a worthy effort in every respect, considering that in marriage, two entirely different people are brought together to live as one and should remain so until death do them part.

By their own admission, Ngee and Richard have had differences as husband and wife since they got married in 2004. But they always got over them, thus keeping their marriage alive and burning brighter. That is their wish for people in relationships faced with similar problems and issues, which is why they recommend it as “a workbook for married couples who believe that their marriage is an integral part of their success story, engaged couples who want to be better prepared for the institution of marriage and singles who need insight into what marriage is all about.”

Some readers may sniff at this assertion by the authors because not all spouses have relied on inspirational books or counselling to sustain their marriage. It is doubtful, for instance, if our grandfathers or those before them ever needed handy reminders like this to make their union with their spouse work. And their marriages did work! Some still work today without ever having to resort to literature or keep appointments with marriage counsellors.

To their credit, 2 Sides is error-free except substituting “thought” for “taught” on page 17. To their credit, also, the pamphlet – only 76 pages – covers most aspects of marriage that tomes on the same topic devotes pages and pages of drivel.

Handy and well-bound, readers curled in a couch at home or in a nerve-wracking Lagos traffic can run through it in an hour or so of unblinking concentration. But the lessons learnt thereof will last a lifetime – for those with unshakeable faith in inspirational/ motivational publications like thi