Dear single lady,
This letter is for you. If you are desirous for marriage, then keep reading. There was a Contemporary African Women (CAW) discussion thread on Facebook asking how single women are preparing for marriage, and I found an array of interesting perspectives and thought I might extend my thoughts via a CAW article instead. A male friend of mine told me the other day, that per his experiences, more women nowadays seem to be delaying marriage. He is still on the quest for Mrs. Right, in case you’re wondering.
Anywho, allow me to offer some tips on how to prepare yourself for marriage. I’m in my tenth year of marriage, and I think I’ve earned some stripes in this area to offer what I’ve learned so far. So here it goes, and in no particular order:
Tip 1 – Marriage is NOT a holiday.
In the first year or two of marriage you will experience the ever euphoric honeymoon stage. Ahhh, the birds are chirping and all is sublime…sigh…then life, children, extended family, a mortgage, bills and career all compete for you and your spouse, and the real work starts to set in. Marriage is work. It takes effort and motivation to keep working together as a couple. If only one person is carrying the load spiritually, financially, intellectually, emotionally, and/or physically, the risk of marriage dropout is high. When you said I DO, remember, this was stated in present tense (for all you English aficionados). It’s not about what you will (I PLAN TO), or have done (I DID) in marriage, it’s about remaining in presently (I DO) committed mindset. So, there you have it. Try to maintain an I DO state of mind as much as possible.
Tip 2 – Marriage is about relationship, and not just sex.
If you are solely fixated on sexual attraction or a person’s looks, and have no substantive, non-physical interactions in commonality of ideas, interests, dreams, family/life planning, and hanging out with each other, then the risk of marriage dropout is quite possible, and you will morph into two people just living under a roof, like roommates. Even while you’re dating a potential spouse, it’s important to like the one you’re with. As my Mom would always tell me, “Like comes before love.” My husband and I both enjoy travel, discussing international and humanitarian issues, and trying new foods. We engage in such activities we have in common to help bring us closer together.
Tip 3 – Marriage is about compromise and overall respect.
It is possible to be too strong willed to a point where it becomes a detriment. If you only focus on your point of view, your marriage won’t last. We’ve all heard the term “irreconcilable differences” when couples choose to “amicably” divorce. In a nutshell, it just means that there was something so heavy between the two that neither could come to agreement. The whole two become one outlook in the Bible is an important aspect of marriage. When both parties learn the art of effective compromise, then it invites a more harmonious tone to the marriage.
In the extended family culture of Nigerian marriages, there is the notion of this “our husband” or “our wife.” Well, that outlook should change. When you marry, your FIRST and PRIMARY focus should always be toward the overall well-being of your spouse. If you are in a non-marital relationship now, and your boyfriend/girlfriend is consumed with supplying the ever present (and sometimes never ending) needs of extended family members, I can heartily guarantee that your potential risk for marriage dropout is high, because that dynamic will not change even after you get married.
Before I get virtual rotten tomatoes thrown at me for this outlook, hear me out. It is admirable when an individual is looked to as some semblance of support for the family, but when you get married your SPOUSE should always come FIRST! Equilibrium in your household should always be the prime goal, because if the core of your relationship is insidiously invaded by the constant needs/wants of extended family (or even non-family), it will put wear and tear on a marriage. Married couples should try be on a united front to decide TOGETHER who, when and to what frequency they should help extended family or non-family.
Tip 5 – Marriage does not mean you should lose your individual identities.
I have interests in things that my husband isn’t into. For example, I have a love for cardio kickboxing, planning dinner parties, sewing and writing. He respects my interests and does not make a fuss when I want to engage in those things. He enjoys every realm of politics, military history, African history, tech stuff, and talking with his friends. We know when we need to give each other space to explore our individual interests. Give your spouse some space in this regard.
Tip 6 – Prayer
Aside from sexual intimacy, prayer with your spouse can be a special time. It is a way to bond as you both come before the Lord in prayer. If you are not in a praying relationship with your spouse, then your marriage dropout rate is high. Prayer is something that the devil detests because it is an ultimate act of unity and he hates unity the most when it is between a husband and wife, as this is the first form of corporate worship God designed. Sometimes when you have no words to say during a difficult time in marriage, the best thing you can do before relaying problems to a trusted person is to at least first pray together.
Okay, this article is getting a bit longer than I envisioned, but I hope I’ve offered some good, initial insight for you, single lady. I will write more specific topics later that center on one unique area of marriage (i.e. finances, sex, raising children, inlaws, spousal habits). Let’s save that for a rainy day, shall we? Just feast and ponder over what I’ve shared thus far and I’ll touch base with you again. The saga continues.
Signed Ten Years in Marriage and Counting,
by Chisom Unegbu