I looked out of my bedroom window into the path the other day and realised how much my little path had changed, and yet how much it remained the same. The changes are difficult to see, at least at first glance. At first glance everything seems the same, the same the lawn, the same buildings (though slightly faded) the same gravelled path. But then again what is unseen is more real than what is seen.
The houses are have an illusion of the suburban, and so I can stay in my house and see my neighbour cooking, kissing, living. My immediate neighbours into whose home I am offered the occasional peek were a lovely, young, modern couple. They have two gorgeous girls. They have a mortgage, go on holidays frequently, and have barbecues whenever the weather permits. They always have friends over, modern young couple like them, with their clean looks and distant airs. Sometimes we meet on the boardwalk and talk extensively about nothing, really.
There is another couple, whose distinctiveness made me sort of re-believe in the truth of the saying – opposites attracts. The woman works in the city, the man is a handy man. The woman is given to fashion, the man would not know the word if it hit him. An abundantly gracious and generous man, since he works for himself and is quite frankly the more maternal of the two, he looks after the kids and by extension all the other kids on the path. He is their daddy, putting up camp sheds and bouncy castles in the summer, taking the children to the park and he always has an endless supply of goodies.
A busybody nosey Nigerian like me was certain it wouldn’t work. But it did, at least for a time. For a time they held hands down the path, and their eyes couldn’t leave each other’s eyes and they finished each other’s sentences… the love has since worn thin, and the man has since moved out. But he still comes, every day, to look after the kids while the woman is at work.
As I reflected on these marriages, these picturesque marriages that made me sprout envious tendrils, and yes, indeed my marriage has endured knocks whose roots can be traced back to the physical and visual and display of my lovely neighbours. And after being married for over 13years, when wanna-be-married couples turn to me for advice on marriage, my first instinct is to say run! Just kidding.
My response is firstly a warning. You will not like what I will say. Go on. They say.
Are you in love with him or her?
Yes, of course.
Well love is not enough. I say.
They often now have a stupefied look. A look of general confusion. And I am often relentless in breaking their heart, because though I haven’t been married the longest, though I am not an expert of any sort, I have been married long enough and been attentive enough to know that despite all of love’s redeeming qualities, it has a way of disappearing when life begins to happen.
The problem with marriage is that it is an amplifier. Take a teeny-weeny problem… okay let’s not call it ‘problem’, because ‘problem’ is a problematic word, it is too hard, it demands too much attention. Let’s call it an inconvenience (just because the word suggests that whatever it is could be done away with), okay so your partner has this teeny-weeny inconvenience, it doesn’t really bother you, not really, now take this thing, place it under the unforgiving microscope called marriage and suddenly it becomes a mountain.
Let’s assume marriage to be a small box room. Imagine now being locked in this box room for weeks, perhaps months (with enough oxygen to keepyou), with nothing to do, no reading material, no writing materials, no technology. You will during this time find yourself tracing every crooked line on the floor, every crevice, every fissure will be examined and re-examined – marriage does this. Suddenly, in marriage, the way he furrows his brows, or bites his nails, a manner that was so terribly cute during courtship, becomes terribly annoying. His laidback attitude that he’d lugged along with him through courtship becomes irresponsible, infantile or out rightly jerk-worthy. These examples may also apply to women or in variant forms.
The point is…
Marriage is NOT happily ever after. It isn’t an escape into utopia, or some sort of paradisiacal universe. Tthe wedding day might well be, and is indeed for numerous people, but marriage is too real to pretend to be anything else. I remember listening to a program many years ago on a TV station in Lagos called ‘Murhi’. An elderly woman, when asked what advice she would give to couples going into marriage said: ‘go to the market look for a cloth called patience, sew it and wear it’.
What great advice!!!