From the day we are born we are shaped by the relationships of the people around us and the relationships we form. Of course there is the initial relationship and bond you form with your mother. There is also the familial bond. If we are born to a two parent family, the relationship between our parents help to shape us. If we are born into single parent households, our parent’s relationship with people of the opposite sex also help to shape us. This is a simplistic yet somewhat effective Freudian analysis. What are we but the by-products of our upbringing and experiences and this extends into the realm of relationships.
As we grow up we inevitably start to have crushes and affections towards other people, could be of the same sex or other sex (depending on your preference). You sit in class and stare dreamily at him/her unsure of what you are feeling or how to express these feelings that you have. You wait for the person to notice you. You eventually move on to another crush. Perhaps this crush reciprocates you attention and you hold hands for the first time. Eventually you share your first kiss with someone, perhaps it was starry night and the cool evening breeze was blowing and you stared into each other’s eyes, watching to see who makes the first move, two gladiators upon the sands of “love”. Then maybe you leaned over to give her a hug and you notice that her mouth was puckered. You went for it and put to practice what you had seen in the movies. Were there fireworks when you kissed her? Did birds start singing? I doubt it. Fast forward to the first time your konji was not satisfied by your own hands and was satisfied by someone else through the process of making love. Depending on your school of thought, this might have happened after you got married which defeats the point of this description I am trying to put together.
Along the line you had long term and short term relationships, situations that you thought will last forever but did not and situations you knew from the beginning would not last. Eventually you find your sweetheart, your soulmate, the only sugar in your tea, the only cockroach in your wardrobe, the only water in your desert, the only meat in your pepper soup, the only suya on your stick, that person who you want to be with forever more. You get married and in your mind you believe this is it. You have finally found happiness, you are fulfilled. The journey to find happiness is complete. Right? Right? Wrong!
Problems start to develop, its not the happily ever after you wished for. You start to develop a pot belly, she gets fat as well. You dont get butterflies in your stomach when you see her (frankly if you have butterflies in your stomach you might need to have a purgative). I mean, you are still excited to see her but its not like the first time. The honeymoon phase passes and it segues into the trying to live together phase which brings its own brand of problems. You have kids, you get busier. The love life is not what it used to be. You go from marathon runner to coming faster than Usain Bolt on the track. Why? Now If I could answer that question definitively, I would be a billionaire. Unfortunately I do not know the answer and I am not a billionaire yet. However I will give my two cents, maybe the problem with marriage or commitment is that we see marriage or long term commitment as a destination and not a journey in itself.
If you visit the blog, it is obvious that I am Nigerian. Proud of it. No shame in my game but one thing I know that our people seem to be obsessed with is this idea of marriage. Woe betide you if you are woman, depending on how liberal your parents are you will begin to receive immense pressure to get married once you complete your tertiary education and by tertiary education I mean your bachelor’s degree. Some parents might put the pressure on when you finish your masters but it varies. Basically once they feel you are old enough the pressure begins. Why did I mention marriage and the first thing I talked about is parents, well in our society parent’s hold an immense influence on their children. They pay for most of your education and are the custodians of what is right and wrong in your culture since they are older. It is also a respect thing. Marriage is the point of emancipation for most Nigerian youth. Once you are married, you parents traditionally should wield less influence except maybe the naming of your kids.
The point is there is an expectation on both men and women in our society to get married. Marriage is seen as the ultimate sign of responsibility. You are not a responsible man or woman if you reach a certain age and you are not married. As much as women have a lot of pressure from our society to get married. Men also get pressure to get married. In my culture (my specific ethnic culture not necessarily all of Nigeria) a man who waits until he is too old (this is anything from late 30s) to get married is perceived to be impotent, basically people will begin to question if your jibby (this is my word for the male organ of fertility) works.
The result of this school of thought is a group of 30 something year old women running around looking to get married and settle down and ready to settle for people that might not be the best for them. To these people marriage is a do or die affair. It is the destination. It is el-dorado. The proverbial land filled with milk and honey. It is the promised land. You might not have the 40 something year old men running around of course basically because they have these 30 something year old women to chose from and if they are wealthy they can even go into the lower age bracket (topic for another day). This mindset is the fuel behind the “Pastor, help me find a husband” ministry. That special ed ministry where the pastor who is also single has a revelation that he should marry the hottest woman in his congregation. This is a million naira/dollar industry depending on your estimates of how many people put in special offering or tithes so that they get good husband/wife or people who pay for church organized singles seminars or shows. This is also the driving force behind the love potion from babalawo industry. Yet another million dollar industry. If marriage was not made to be such a big deal and people were more focused on taking their time to find a suitable partner, do you think people will visit native/witch doctors to get juju/jazz medicine to hook the handsome and eligible young bachelor they just started dating so that he will commit to them? I do not think so.
The media has also put into our heads the concept of finding Mr/Mrs Perfect, and that happily ever after that is promised once we get marriage. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a myth and like my father would say “a tale told by an idiot full of vim and fury.” Marriage is not a destination, it is a journey that begins once you say “I do” and hopefully ends when you die. Marriage is not something to be rushed into because society expects you to. It is something you do when you feel the time is right. Happily ever after only occurs in the movies. Real happiness in marriage is learning to love your partner even when they start to change and they are not the person you married. Real happiness is being married for 30 years and still enjoying each others company and conversation. Marriage is sharing in the good and the bad. Marriage is a process of getting to know more and more about your partner. Marriage is excavating your partners soul and finding out the things he/she kept hidden from you during your courtship and deciding to love these things. Maybe if more people saw marriage this way, we would have less divorces.
Is Marriage a destination or a Journey? Do people put too much emphasis on it? Does pressure on youth to get married make some people end up marrying the wrong people? Should the influence of parents on marriage be reduced?