By Uche Amunike
It is with a heart filled with joy that I write these lines. I truly feel a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty for giving me the opportunity to be the writer of my own story, twenty five years after my wedding to my dear husband. It was on the 6th day of November, 1993 and I remember that day very vividly as though it was yesterday.
Let me tell my story…
I got married during that era when there was nothing called courtship. It was the era when young men sought for wives from families they liked and went to meet them to declare their intentions. Looking back now, I think it was the norm then, as I remember that my elder sister married in the same manner. In retrospect, the world was really backward then because I can't imagine a total stranger walking up to my family to show interest in marrying my daughter. What do I know about you or your background? That's by the way, though.
I however will give one thing to the parents of those days of yore. They did thorough research whenever a suitor walked up their door to ask for their daughter's hand in marriage. In my own case, my parents researched and came up with their verdict: 'he is a good man from a good home. Marry him.' I couldn't believe it. First of all I didn't see myself as ripe enough for marriage, being merely a teenager. Apart from that, I couldn't believe I was being married off to a total stranger I hardly knew. Again, I learnt he was a business man who resided in Onitsha and I told my parents that I will NEVER marry a man who lived in a town I hated so much. I went on and on and on and I had never been so disappointed in my parents like I was on that fateful day. Yet they remained adamant. It was like an instruction was being dished out to me. When I saw that their minds were made up, I knew for sure that my fate was sealed. Therefore, I painfully had to start preparing my mind for holy matrimony.
You know, things were pretty different from what obtains now because, back then, children were very obedient to their parents and believed that their parents knew what was good for them at all points in their lives. That was my undoing. No matter how much you disagreed with whatever your parents told you or whatever decisions they made on your behalf, you never said no to them. It was the norm back then. So, much as I was upset and throwing tantrums and complaining to all my uncles about my parents' 'lack of understanding', I ended up saying YES to the marriage proposal of someone I hardly knew.
Being married and staying married are two different things. Anyone can become married. However, it takes a lot to stay married. It is all the hurdles I scaled in the past twenty five years that has made me make that conclusion. Marriage is a game of commitment, dedication, loyalty, love, perseverance, forgiveness and spirituality. If the couple who are the team players of this game do not have these qualities, then it will be difficult for them to stay married.
I got married a teenager and funnily didn't even know what marriage was all about or what to expect from it. I just saw myself moving with unsure steps and being very fearfully uncertain of what the future held for me. Looking back now, the question that burns supreme remains, 'how did I do it'? I'll tell you how.
My life in my twenty five years of marriage was lived in three stages. These were the stages of depression, acceptance and determination. In my years of depression, I was a baggage of sadness and melancholy. It was a phase that seemed unending. Half the time I saw myself losing a bit of myself on a daily basis. I was like someone who was supposed to be wearing a size 3 pair of shoes, but forced to wear a size 12. That's how bad it was. You see, courtship is a very important aspect of every marriage. It is during courtship that most partners discover the true colours of their better halves. Marriage is a lifelong project, so if my child is to be married to you, she needs the opportunity to study you and vice versa. That's how you can tell if you can cope with her kind of person or not. That's how she can tell if she can be married to someone like you or not. In my own case, I didn't have that privilege of knowing what kind of man I was married off to. He didn't have that privilege of knowing my kind of person. We just got married and started life together and it was truly sad at the beginning because we turned out to be so different in a whole lot of things, owing to our very different backgrounds and orientations. It was hellish for me. My mum didn't help matters too because each time I tried reaching out to her, she told me to be submissive to my husband and build my family together and pray for understanding. She refused to interfere. So I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into depression as the days went by.
That phase of my life stretched and stretched until I almost snapped. On this fateful day, something happened that made me decide to change the narrative I lived then. It was on a Saturday. I went to see my husband in his office somewhere along New Market Road in Onitsha. I had finished up with what I went to do with him and was on my way home when someone called my name. I turned and it was our mutual friend. We exchanged pleasantries and I went on my way. A day after that, his wife paid me a visit and looked so worried. I asked her what the problem was and she said I was the reason why she was worried. I didn't understand. So, she told me that her husband returned the day before and called her attention to the fact that he saw me looking so lost and worried and that I looked really sad. He wanted to ask me what the problem was but didn't know how to. He then told her to try and reach out to me to find out if there was a problem and if there was anything they could do to help. I was shocked. I was really burdened with a lot of stuff and my heart was heavy, but I didn't know it was that obvious. I just broke down and cried my heart out. I felt so sad and helpless. Anyway, as she tried calming my frayed nerves, I knew I just had to find a way to change things in my life and family. I knew it was time for me to accept things the way they turned out and try to live with them without hurting myself as I was.
That was what brought me to the second stage of my married life which was acceptance. I accepted the fact that I was married and there was no going back. What was my problem? Why was I sad? So what if I married a man I hardly knew? We were no longer strangers because we now had some children together and that meant we were tied together with something deeper than anything else. So what if I hated living in a town like Onitsha, having lived all my life in Lagos??? And so? Have all the people living in Onitsha gone crazy because they live in Onitsha? Have they all died? Will I be tied in Lagos forever because I was born there? By the way, is it enough to judge a man by the town where he lives? Must everyone live in beautiful cities? Is it better to live in a fancy city and end up breaking up my home or to live in the dirty commercial city of Onitsha and make the best of it? I couldn't sleep on that night as I thought of the conversation I had with my friend. I asked myself what next and the answer that came to my head was, 'make the best of what you have and try to enjoy your life with your husband and kids'. So, I started working on myself. I stopped looking for faults and instead began to watch out for the good attributes of my husband and capitalized on them. I tried also to look out for the things he didn't like about me and worked on them. It wasn't easy, I tell you. It was a most difficult challenge but I just had to change the way I lived and my acceptance of the situation of things helped spur me to try and look for that channel with which to close up the gap and make way for new beginnings. I tried to be less judgmental and tried to be more tolerant and understanding. It worked, but not without initial hitches. Before I knew it, my home was warm and there was heartfelt laughter and understanding. This gradually made me stronger and surer of the journey ahead. Of course, I gradually grew from an unhappy and uncertain young wife to a full grown woman of the house. We became happier and we even progressed more. Things began to look rosy and I knew I had done the right thing.
This naturally took me to the next stage which was DETERMINATION! Yeah! I became determined more than ever to make the best of my home. I couldn't do it without God who gave me inspiration and the grace. I was blessed in my marriage with beautiful children, a home that is happy and properly organized, a good job, a doting partner and most of all, peace profound. What more could I ask for? We have weathered so many storms together and through it all, we came out unscathed and stronger, even more than ever before.
Marriage, they say, is not a bed of roses. It is full of ups and downs. It consists of the good, the bad and the ugly. It has been twenty five years of tears, laughter, joy, sadness, disappointments, successes, failures, victories, and everything that is obtainable in any union. I however have a message. That message is that there is no perfect marriage out there. Marriages have different formulars. Whatever works for one couple might not work for the next couple. Assess your marriage if you think it's not working out and fill in the gaps. It's something you can do by yourself. It can work if you truly believe in your man and in your future together. I am proudly writing this piece because I wanted to be happy and I knew I owed it to my children to grow up in a happy home.
I exchanged marital vows for the first time on November 6, 1993. On that day, the vows meant little or nothing to me because I didn't even understand what I was going into.
However, as we exchanged those vows again on November 6, 2018, every word meant a lot to me. I was happy and very grateful to God for being so blessed as I renewed my marital vows with a certain stranger who has today, become not only the father of my kids, but my best friend, confidant, counselor and strength.
What can I say but a short and simple prayer that God will continue to protect us and supply us with the bliss we yearn until hopefully, I’ll be alive to tell a better story of our life together as we celebrate our Golden Jubilee in the next twenty five years.
God bless all marriages!!!!