I would like to write about what makes a successful marriage, which is unfortunate, as I don’t know the answer. All I know is what a working marriage looks like close up, which is a different thing. The first thing to say about “happy marriages” is that I doubt there are many of them. Very roughly, half of all marriages end in divorce
I suspect that of those who still stay together, half are hanging on because of children, money, or fear of loneliness. Some are truly and consistently happy, out of a fortunate combination of circumstance, rather than any particular brand of love or tactic. Most of the remaining marriages, I think, are not about happiness or unhappiness, but accommodation and negotiation. And I say that as half of a married couple in which both of us have probably made one another both happy and unhappy, probably in roughly equal measure. We are very different people, but then all people are very different people. And therein lies the central problem of marriage, which asks you to spend close company with one person for years on end.
Anyone who does not have a lot of disagreements in a marriage is probably repressing a lot of stuff, which is liable to explode sooner or later.
To me, there are three keys to marriage and they are all very difficult to forge.
The first is communication:
Suffice to say that good communication requires practice, goodwill, determination and a considerable amount of inborn talent.
The second is respect:
Which in many ways is more important than love. Love comes and goes, but respect endures, and provides the space for love to flow after the ebb, which is bound to come in all long marriages sooner or later.
The third is trust. And this is the hardest of all, because if you have ever been let down (and we all have) reconstructing the trust is difficult. This isn’t about infidelity, but many small matters – broken promises, bad intentions, and frustrated hopes.
You have to trust, even though you have no guarantee you won’t be let down, and then, if you are let down, trust again, and then again. You must keep doing this as long as you are humanly able to, and your marriage will either stand or fall on it. You need to forget and forget again about any perceived hurts and mistreatment. Dragging the weight of the past behind you will drag you down in the end.
But you will never, can never, “get there”, because there is nowhere to get to. A marriage is a moving process, a living thing, and if it stops being fed with these existential nutrients, it will finally expire. Complacency and laziness is what kills marriage, far more than lack of love, and that is why it is often described as hard work. But no work is ultimately more rewarding.
Now in this part of the world where it is believed and embraced that marriage without money is a sin, where a theory has been generated that a partner should be so wealthy even before considering a date at all, this I won’t oppose due to the current economical state of the country, of course those who marry without substantial financial support do so at their own risk.
What I seem to be against is the mentality that true love comes with money, I choose to believe, against all odds that true love should come based on what people feel for themselves not what they have. But then as Nigerians, we need to have an assurance of the future.