By Gloria Ibesi
The several cases of divorce and failed marriages constantly recorded from time to time in our society, are mostly as a result of the negligence of the necessary pre-nuptial obligations required of intending couples and their family members before marriage. One of these pre-nuptial or pre-marriage requirements is pre-nuptial investigation.
Pre-nuptial investigations are the background inquiries, conducted by to-be couples and their family members on each other, for a good understanding, relevant and accurate knowledge and to determine their compatibility before marriage.
Pre-nuptial investigations are done after the potential couples have declared their interest of getting married to their families or sometimes, after the formal introduction of the two families. It may be conducted by the to-be couples themselves, family members, both immediate and extended, trusted friends, work colleagues and well-wishers. Pre-nuptial investigations are best done in secret, so as to obtain accurate results.
The investigations are done to obtain information on family lineage, health histories, character, financial and social status. Pre-nuptial investigation should also unavoidably include examining the compatibility of the intending couples’ genotype, blood group, Rhesus factor, as well as HIV/AIDS status. A few marriages break down when couples begin to find out at a later stage, what they ought to have known from the outset.
In recent times, many young people neglect making these inquiries or do it haphazardly because, they either desperately want to bear the title ‘Mr and Mrs’, or cannot wait to flaunt wedding rings, while some believe they are in love and love, for them, is enough to get married. Funnily enough, many lack the knowledge of what love really is and how to tell love apart from lust and infatuation.
Many others get fascinated by physical beauty, wealth and other material things which they deem enough to sustain their marriage without knowing that marriage demands a lot and the feelings and excitement at the initial stage disappear or diminish with time. They fail to understand that it only takes mastering well, facts about ones partner, to be able to withstand most challenges and many demanding circumstances that come with marriage.
In some parts of Igbo land, pre-nuptial investigation is referred to as ‘Iju ase’ or ‘Iju ese’. The Igbos treat it as one of the approaches to a happy marriage. When certain problems occur among married couples, the first question usually asked is, ‘Unu jukwalu ese?’ Did you people carry out investigations? The Igbos, just like some other cultures, see marriage as an institution which demands a systematic approach.
In the olden days, some Igbo families do not marry out their children to people outside their towns or communities. This is because they sought to have full knowledge of who and the family their Son or daughter ends up with. During pre-nuptial investigation, the genealogical psychology of the family in question is checked, while their social and health status are examined.
The Igbos ask questions such as: do people in their lineage die early? Is there any trace of madness or drunkenness in their family? Do they last in their marital homes or do they abandon their marriage? Do they maltreat their husbands or wives? Have they committed any taboo or do they bear any curse?, among others.
My grand pa once told us a story of a young man from his kindred who died of food poisoning after vomiting so much blood. After some years, another man from the same kindred who lived in a faraway city, reported that he saw the man in the city where he lived, in a shop in the market which he discovered belonged to the man.
After a few weeks, the story was told, a young woman showed up at the dead young man’s father’s compound bearing with her, two children, and introduced herself as the wife of the dead man. The family members were bewildered on hearing it. They took the woman to the grave of the man he claimed to be her husband but the disconcerted woman presented to them their wedding pictures alongside marriage certificate, which, she said, the husband made her come along with.
In her narration, they met and got married in the city, with the husband promising to take her to meet his people later. They (she, the husband and the children) had travelled all the way from the city to the village together, only that her husband said he needed to meet urgently with a friend on their way, directing them to continue with the journey as he would be behind them.
The story had it that the family, in their shocked state, took in the woman and her children while they awaited the arrival of the said husband. According to my papa, since the day he told us the story, the husband had not been seen. Whether this story is a fact or not, I had no means of verifying, but the reality remains that if a proper pre-nuptial investigation was carried out before the marriage between the ghost man and the woman, she would have discovered facts about who she was going to marry.
A certain lady who narrated her experience after divorcing her husband in a year and two months old marriage said prior to the marriage, the husband told her he studied medicine and with his parents being nice to her, she agreed to marry him, abandoning her job as a bank official. Few months into their marriage, she discovered that the husband was only a university drop out who was also a cultist.
According to the divorcee, the husband began to display his despicable character as time went by after they were married and she later learnt that the man he married was a bother to his parents. Thus, they decided to get a wife for him, hoping he would calm down and turn a new leaf.
But the man failed to change and squandered all the funds provided for him to start a business by his parents and began to use her as a punching bag before she finally left the marriage. She lamented that her family did not conduct much investigation because they were carried away by the initial nice treatment given to them and their daughter, added to the status of their son-in-law to be.
For the most part, divorces that happen within the first five years of marriage are usually as a result of the negligence of pre-nuptial duties where pre-nuptial investigations might have prevented such marriage from happening.
Some of the reasons intending couples should inevitably engage in pre-nuptial investigation before proceeding into marriage are as follows;
To avoid getting married to a person who is already in a valid marriage:
Some people lack the discipline of staying or lasting in a marriage. In most cases, they abandon their legally married partners, get involved with another person who is oblivious of their marital status and eventually enter into marital ties with them. However, this can only happen when a proper pre-marriage investigation is not conducted.
To avoid getting married to a person with a challenging health condition:
People develop some health conditions as a result of accidents, heredity or their own recklessness which may be challenging to their marriage and future partner. They end up concealing their health status from their intending spouses who may later find out where pre-nuptial investigation was not properly carried out, after the marital vows have been made. This ends up turning the once enthusiastic and lovey-dovey marriage atmosphere to a jaded one and in some cases, culminate in a broken or failed marriage.
To avoid getting married to a sibling or relation:
Due to some life circumstances, some people do not get to know all their relations and even siblings. Most cultures prohibit marriage between people related by blood or adoption and people belonging to the same kindred and clan. Pre-marriage investigation inquiries, if neglected, can lead to such marriage between siblings or relations which may bring about some calamitous situations in the marriage.
To avoid marrying persons with ulterior motives:
The primary aims of marriage are for companionship, procreation, love and help to each other. At the same time, some persons engage and get married to people for extrinsic reasons which may be detrimental to the partners’ life, career or future. It is therefore, advised that people thoroughly conduct investigations before consenting to marriage.
To avoid the embarrassment and depression that may come with being separated or leaving a marriage:
It is true that the Church considers any marriage held on any deceitful foundation as null and void and automatically annuls such. Nonetheless, couples should endeavour to find out all that is essential to know about their partners before marriage to avoid the trouble and the stress of leaving a marriage.
The Universal Church in her wisdom, provides for three stages of pre-marriage preparations which include the remote, the proximate and the immediate stages. The proximate which comes after the engagement, makes couples aware of the natural requirements of marriage and helps them to understand the psychological and emotional shortcomings they may have.
The Church treats Christian marriage as a Sacrament, hence, the reason she wants couples to be well-prepared. She offers marriage preparation to help couples develop a better understanding of the Sacrament; to evaluate and deepen their readiness to live a married life, and to gain insights into themselves as individuals and as a couple.
The Church also announces prospective marriages in what is known as marriage bans to create awareness and enable anyone with important information as to why the marriage should not hold to inform the priest in charge on time. All these are the aspects of pre-nuptial investigation to prevent marriages from happening the wrong way.
Although, all these do not guarantee a successful marriage, it waxes its likelihood. Pre-nuptial investigation is an obligation; therefore, by extension, one is morally, socially and legally bound to rightly fulfill it before marriage.
In addition, spiritual investigation where one prays to God for the right and destined partner is also greatly encouraged for people seeking life partners.