One of the greatest privileges of my life is having Rev. George Adegboye as a mentor and spiritual father at a tender age. As a remedial and later Diploma in Law student of what is now known as Kwara State Polytechnic at a time when he was a lecturer, I was able to chase after him and with his cooperation develop a very strong bond that exists till today. In one of our many private conversations that took place in the comfort of his home, bike rides before he had a car, road and air travels, he told me: “Marriage is a long journey that requires adjustments along the way”. Only God knows the woman with the capacity to adjust when necessary in the future. Therefore, choose prayerfully and with God’s direction. With my marriage union with Jumoke approaching its 30th anniversary in a few days, his words have been reechoed to me many times.
At 22 and 24 years of age respectively, Jummy and I couldn’t wait to get into each other’s arms. If only we knew how long the journey and how full of various turns it would be, maybe we wouldn’t have rushed into it that quickly. Looking back today however, we are full of gratitude that we have been able to adjust to one another along the journey.
TD Jakes once said in a message that many couples lose one another in the turns of life. Illustrating with two adults on a bike, Jakes alluded to the importance of both riders tilting in sync at turns, otherwise, they take a fall. Unlike co-riders on a bike, married couples often have different thoughts, interests, priorities, perspectives and convictions. The tendency is to tilt in separate directions and yet, that will lead to a crash as we see about half of marriages ending today.
Age-long traditions have put the male gender in the drivers seat and the female as a helpless passenger who must simply go wherever she is taken. With increased awareness of their individuality, unique talents and intelligences, the status quo is being challenged to the frustration of the male gender. It cuts right to the ego and esteem of the men for there to be a semblance of leadership from the women where very clearly in the bible, the man is the authority figure. Should authority be used for dominion? The Lord Jesus challenged this style of authority when He introduced servant leadership which lives for the interest of the led and not of itself. Apparently, that does not erode leadership in Christ’s perspective but rather inspires submission, which in turn achieves a team spirit and unity that cannot be conquered, and consequently achieves goals in a mutually rewarding and satisfying relationship.
“Marriage is not intended to make you happy, but rather it is intended to make you holy”, declared a senior friend recently and I cannot agree more. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it that He May sanctify and cleanse it..(Ephesians 5:23-27). Nothing tests character like marriage. This challenge produces a tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth. The choice before every couple is whether they want to seize the moment for growing up or rather get into the flesh and end up in separation. Well-navigated turns and bends lead to stronger relationships through more love and patience with one another. Mutual understanding and tolerance is enhanced and so is better communication and harmony.
Marriage usually begins with the Honeymoon stage. Couples enter into it with great joy and excitement. The mind is filled with the thrills of sex, romance, companionship and mutual support. The imminent challenges of trying to adjust to one another’s manners, temperaments, preferences, backgrounds and genders though not totally oblivious are often underestimated.
Moving beyond the Honeymoon stage, a couple find themselves in the Adjustment stage of marriage. This stage shows up weeks or months into marriage as the two partners begin to find tensions often building up at times when their sexual, personality, social and goal differences begin to magnify. This phase except handled with a high level of maturity often found only in mature believers, leads to the Conflict stage. This stage is marked by arguments, bickering, complaints, regular disagreements and resolutions. Where the resolutions however do not come and couple begin to fall apart, complications may set in like extra marital affairs, feelings of indifference, breakdown in the marital bed, bitterness and lack of commitment.
The extreme of it is the Divorce stage. One or both parties regret the marital choice and is tired of the other. Going their separate ways is preferred to enduring the status quo. Mental health is of greater concern than virtues of patience, long suffering and perseverance. Many couples head for the divorce court and part ways. Others however, having reached their wits’ end, seek for counsel, accountability and wisdom from mentors, counsellors or pastors. 12 years into our marriage, Jummy and I had to do that and with the help we got, we were able to navigate the sharp bend we were negotiating.
Couples like us who navigate the turn move on to the Tolerance stage. Rather than wallowing in regret and complaints, they lead to endure and live with the differences they so abhor. The conflicts begin to reduce, the flames of love begin to burn gradually again as they trudge on together in the knowledge that though not always comfortable, their relationship is destined for the long haul. This Tolerance stage leads to the Celebration stage, where the other spouse’s differences are now appreciated for the value they add to the family. The same character traits that were repulsive become acceptable and are either ignored, humoured or even honoured and celebrated.
After 30 years, we definitely have arrived at the celebration stage and grateful to God for the grace He granted us to grow through the various stages together. We now look forward to the final stage which is the Cementing stage. Here the couple become one in values, perspectives, thoughts, interests, preferences and others. They work in sync with one another, they trust each other deeply and love unconditionally. They accept one another totally and sacrifice unreservedly. In this fusion, they grow old together and gracefully pass their legacy to the next generation.