The Ideal Marriage
How it works and how to make it work
By Uche Oniemola
About 20 years ago, I attended a seminar with the above title. Then, I was struggling in my marriage and envious of people who seemed to have the ideal marriage. I can’t quite remember what they taught at that seminar; it didn’t minister to me as such. But I left there convinced of one thing: there is no ideal marriage! Every marriage is unique. Every marriage is different. And every marriage has its challenges.
Be careful of people who tell you that their marriage is perfect. There is no such thing. I remember years ago in a church service, a female minister was preaching and she made a statement that in over 10 years of marriage, she had never quarreled or had a disagreement with her husband. I turned to my husband right there and said “it’s either she is lying or one of them is very unhappy “. Unfortunately, I was correct as I later found out. One of them was unhappy and they soon parted ways.
Many young girls are going into marriage with a lot of unrealistic assumptions and expectations because either the older married women are not instructing the younger women as the Bible commands, or they are feeding them with lies by painting a false picture of marriage. There is no marriage where the couple does not quarrel or disagree sometimes. If such a marriage exists, one of them is, or both of them are, unhappy and not being honest about their situation.
The fact that you quarrel or disagree with your spouse doesn’t mean your marriage is failing or your marriage is not working. Disagreement is a part of life. It’s not the presence of the quarrel itself that’s bad but the way it is resolved or not resolved as the case may be. If you see two lovers who have never disagreed, it’s either they are not close enough, or they don’t tell each other the truth. One of them is unnecessary!
Another thing which I find unsettling is people telling young couples that they should “not go to bed angry, resolve every issue before you sleep”. That piece of advice has caused many more fights than necessary. It has led to a lot more issues that could have been avoided, if only people had time to cool off. Because it’s not every issue you can resolve before you sleep! Some issues need more time and deeper perspective. And you know what? Some issues will never be resolved. As long as they are not major issues, you will do well to let some things be. This however doesn’t mean that one should leave issues to fester. But there is a right way and a right time to resolve things.
If more married women talked of their marital challenges and how they overcame them, a lot of young ladies will not be disappointed in marriage. No one gets breakfast in bed everyday. Sometimes, birthdays are forgotten, especially if money is tight. Sex does not happen every night and desire is not automatic, particularly after a long wait in traffic. Sharp words are sometimes spoken. You may dream of two of you preparing dinner together in the kitchen. It may or may never happen. These are realities of marriage that young ladies should know.
They also need to know that marriage is a growth process. Sometimes, you have to use the bus before the car comes. Seasons change. When harmattan comes, it looks like the rains will never come again, but they always return.
Another false advice given to young couples is ‘never involve a third party in your marriage’. This is bad advice that has caused incalculable damages in homes. Many marriages would have been saved if the people involved had sought help earlier and from the right people.
I find it particularly tiresome the way we refuse to address real problems in our marriage seminars. We persist in focusing on minor irritations like pressing toothpaste from the middle or bottom, when people have more pressing problems. Just tell them to buy two tubes of toothpaste, please, if one tube is a problem.
One more thing, we need to allow people to be vulnerable and provide a safe harbour for them to deal with their issues. Stop advising people to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that everything is alright. That’s not faith. Faith is not a denial of circumstances.
They say the secret to a great marriage is to marry your friend. I have a question: who sets out to marry their enemy? You can marry your friend and your marriage will still pack up. There is no one formula for a great marriage. It’s a combination of a lot of things.
Firstly, there is need to establish a solid foundation in God’s word for the two of you. Because contrary to popular advice by marriage counselors, one person cannot make a marriage work! It needs the cooperation of the two people involved. There is no level of midnight prayers to make a spouse who is determined to go, to stay. You don’t have authority over the human will. He may change his mind, he may not. God can do anything, you say. So why hasn’t he made you give your tithes? Or forced you to walk in love towards that your “enemy”, you are trying to kill? The heart of the king is in God’s hands, you say; why is everyone not born again? Yes, prayers work and by all means pray. But you can’t force someone to love you! You can’t force someone to stay faithful to you. They have to want to. Stop pouring “anointing oil” on his head when he is sleeping!
Secondly, you need to make a commitment to practice the word of God. A commitment to walk in love according to First Corinthians 13 is very important. Falling in love may be exciting; walking in love is exacting and will take a toll on your flesh. But it will yield great dividends. Kenneth E. Hagin says that “divine love has never been to the divorce court”.
Thirdly, be committed to keep working on yourself and improving your character. This involves growing up spiritually and emotionally. A good place to start is by reading the book “Growing Up, Spiritually” by Kenneth E. Hagin. Many of what people refer to as marital problems is character issues of one or both parties. Character issues are not easily amenable to marriage counseling. They have to be confronted by the persons involved. Oftentimes, many counselors confuse the two issues. Before you solve marital issues, you have to first fix the character issue. A lazy person who doesn’t want to work to provide for the family has work-related character flaws. An immature, insecure person has to fix their insecurities first before they can be good spouses. Submission will not cure his stunted maturity. An undisciplined spendthrift of couple has to learn some discipline before they can maintain a home. Fix your character before you marry. Otherwise, your spouse will suffer needlessly!
Fourthly, make a commitment to keep working on your marriage. Seek help if you need it. Make the time to invest in your marriage. A good marriage is not automatic – it needs to be built. People should have marriage mentors. Churches should help facilitate real conversations around marriage. Our pre-marital counseling should be re-vamped and there should be periodic assessments with refresher courses. Your marriage is too important to trifle with. The future of your children and grandchildren depends on it. Bad marriages create “generational curses”. Bad marriages traumatize children who may never recover and will grow up to repeat the same pattern except a concerted effort is made to break the pattern. And it’s not by deliverance! It’s by living right in front of your children. Look around you. Young women are rebelling against traditional Christian values. What do you think is responsible? Most of them watched their mothers go through horrors they have sworn not to repeat!
Finally, I learnt a long time ago that the best person to tell you how a product should work is the one that developed it. Ask the Holy Spirit what to do. He is the Helper, after all! The Bible never said he helps only in spiritual matters! He is wisdom personified and he will help you in whatever area you need him to.
As I conclude, I want to remind you that the ‘ideal marriage’ only exists in romance novels, but you can have a happy marriage, if you work at it.
As the saying goes “Marriage is a bed of roses, but remember that roses have thorns”. And I add: the thorns should not be allowed to diminish their fragrance.
Enjoy your marriage now!
(c) Future World Magazine