How to Like a Stranger

WeddingMy younger brother got married on September 6, 2014. For about two weeks prior to his wedding, he had been trying, without success, to get me to sit down so he could have the usual “marriage tips for newlyweds” from me. His inability to get me to do so wasn’t just because of my busy work schedule; in fact, my inability wasn’t inability at all. It was more of reluctance and a feeling of not being worthy enough to discharge such a responsibility. My reluctance was based on the premise that having been married for only three years now, I felt I was still in my infancy as far as marriage was concerned to enable me offer any meaningful marriage tips.
After much persuasion and prodding, on September 3, about 5pm, we sat down to have the much-anticipated talk on marriage. “How can I make my marriage successful?” he asked me.
Contrary to popular belief among many young people, marriage is not a destination. It is a journey, and, just as it is with every journey, you need to pack some baggage for your trip. From my humble experience, there isn’t a single answer as to how one can make a marriage successful. It is a combination of the following elements:
* Communication: This is very important, not just in a marriage but in all other facets of human interaction. A marriage devoid of communication may not get far. If it does, there’s likely to be a lot of bitterness and frustration in the long run. Couples should always communicate so as to fully understand each other and forestall any conflicts before they arise. Lack of communication can stir up problems in a marriage on two fronts: it can lead to one or both couples making erroneous inferences regarding the motives of the other; and it creates a feeling of disdain between couples as the lack of communication can lead to the belief that any errors or slights by one against the other are done on purpose.
As important as communication is, there is the need for this communication to be fluid, polite and unambiguous. Speak your minds clearly and concisely. Using parables or conjectures will distort whatever information you intend to pass on. Whenever you have a misunderstanding, do not go to sleep without resolving your issues. Some problems are not meant to be slept on as this will make them fester, thereby becoming difficult to resolve.
* Understanding: Considering the fact that both of you understand each other enough to want to settle down and start a family, it could be said that you can tick understanding off the to-do list of successful marriage tips. However, understanding each other does not stop at marriage. Understanding one another is a lifelong process, which never ends and can take many forms depending on the various challenges couples may be faced with. There is the need to always understand one another’s needs, peculiarities and problems.
* Patience: No matter how many times you hear this, it is never enough because you’re going to need a lot of it. Take this illustration: when two people, one of whom happens to be a vegetarian while the other is not, share a refrigerator, there is bound to be misunderstanding. With marriage, it can be even more complicated, as you are two individuals with different backgrounds, orientations, opinions and ways of doing things. I’ll be honest with you: you two are going to piss each other off occasionally. It happens in every marriage. The trick is to keep the lines of communication open, be understanding, be patient and resolve any issues. No doubt, this is easier said than done. Take myself as an example. I have a peculiar issue when it comes to watching television. Due to the wide array of channels available on DSTV, I sometimes get confused when it comes to what channel to watch. So, I do what any television buff would do: I watch them all. This is
not too difficult, for me at least. It involves flipping between one or more channels every 40 to 50 seconds. My wife finds this very annoying. However, she understands that this is my own kind of peculiarity and has been patient with me. She has discovered a way of rehabilitating me from this annoying habit: she in partnership with our daughter hides the remote control.
This issue is just a tip of the iceberg illustration of how peculiarities occur in a marriage. There are lots of issues that will no doubt test your patience far more than a simple channel-flipping disorder will. Be patient with one another.
*Perseverance: A happy or successful marriage does not just happen. You have to work hard at it. You will face a lot of challenges of varying degrees and intensities. You will both have to be resilient and tough enough to face and stand up to them. From family disputes to financial challenges to health issues, you may face them all. Your strength will be needed to withstand all the challenges that may come your way.
*Be a single unit: As Africans, it is usual for the man to make all the decisions that affect the home. Sometimes most men get carried away by this fact of culture and they take decisions unilaterally without consulting their wives. It is important to consult with your wife and make her part of the decision-making process, as this will strengthen the bond between two of you and will make her opinion valued.
*Savings: Most couples make the mistake of just winging it as far as finances are concerned. It is important to know what your income is in relation to your recurrent expenditure. Granted, marriage is “for better or for worse” deal and money or the lack of it should not be a hindrance to the survival of a marriage, but the fact is: it can affect its viability.
*Prayers: The fact that this comes last does not in any way mean it is far less important than the rest. I am a firm believer in the power of prayers but my intention to leave this for last is to prove that, no matter how hard you pray, if you do not communicate, understand one another, be patient with one another, persevere and be a single unit, your marriage isn’t going anywhere. If you pray alone and you don’t apply the other elements, you might as well place a ship on dry land and expect it to float.
The aforementioned tips are not exhaustive. There are tons of other tips that well-seasoned couples can offer. However, considering the fact that I’m not too far from a rookie, this is the best I can do for now.
To Abba and Maryam, I wish you a happy married life. To those intending to do the same, I wish you all the same. To those of us already married, may we continue to reap the joys of marriage.
By Usman Shamaki, Kaduna; email: [email protected]

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