I was looking at the pictures of a couple on their wedding day, side by side that of their 30th wedding anniversary’s, and I couldn’t help but wonder how they have managed it so far. They had recreated the tender moment, where the groom was looking gently at his bride, as though he knew he would be looking at her the same way, 30 years down the line.
However, behind that tender moment are lots of stories, waters under their bridge, and simple everyday rituals that have seen them past all the trying times.
When the Agbajes met, several decades ago in the University, they were the most unlikely couple there was. One was an SU (a member of the popular Christian Student’s Union), and the other was just a church goer, with no further ambition. However, when her older cousin left the campus and asked his younger friend to look after his cousin, it put them in close contact, as he took his job as protector seriously.
He was further intrigued when his “ward” decided to take an optional mathematics class. She was one of the few females who took that course, which was not compulsory for them. And he wondered why she would deliberately take a hard course, when she could have taken one of the other easier courses her course mates were trooping to.
Purely due to her involvement in church matters, he joined her denomination, and grew in his Christian walk. And that was when they both realised that they had a lot in common, so they started what they called a ‘friendship’ and it lasted for the next three years they spent in university.
Things turned awry though, when they graduated and he went to her hometown to ask for her hand in marriage. Her father refused, on the grounds that she was his first daughter, and child, whom he had trained and she was expected to train her younger ones. He however told him to come back in a year’s time, if he was still interested, to see if, he, (her father) had changed his mind.
Folarin travelled thrice to Uche’s village, before he got permission to marry her. Immediately, he got it, he swung into action, bringing his family, paying the bride price, and then moving ahead to the church wedding. It was as though he feared, the permission would be withdrawn, as after all, some of her siblings were still waiting to be trained by her.
They got married in Lagos, and the babies started to come. Though she still got calls to come sort out one family issue or the other, the expectations started to dwindle, as her family expanded. However, the expectations caused plenty of grief in her marriage, alongside other issues that would normally creep up in a marriage.
Three things this couple said kept them together are as follows:
- Being each other’s confidant and making that a sacred obligation.
Both the Agbajes are firstborns of their families, with the full weight of taking care of their younger ones, resting on them. At first, that led to struggles on how to share their lean resources to cover everybody’s needs, including that of their growing children.
They started to hide things, but they soon realised it boomeranged on them, with their siblings now playing them off against each other. They resolved it, and it made them stronger.
That spilled into other areas of their lives, including sexual. They married very young, and were each other’s first sexual partner, and that gave way to lots of experimenting in the early days of their marriage, which tapered off as the years went by.
However, either party always found a way to bring the spark back into the marriage and they would take it from there.
It is essential, for you and your partner to feel safe talking to one another, whether the topic is sensitive or not. A general rule is: Treat your partner’s insecurities the way you want them to treat yours.
- A show of gratitude
This is especially true of Folarin; he thrives on gratitude and his wife knows it. It is his sole mumu button. She said, if you want him to break a leg for you, tell him “Thank you.” All the kids know it.
Remember the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Much the same principle applies to expressing your appreciation at something your partner did; it can keep the divorce lawyer at bay. Indeed, a recent study found that a key component of a happy marriage is regular expression of spousal gratitude.
This doesn’t have to involve major major events, it could just be a case of saying; “Thank you for clearing the table” and/or “That shirt looks terrific on you” and/or “How lucky I am to have a husband/wife who really cares about my happiness.”
- Spending quality time together every day
Even with over 30 years of marriage beneath their belt, this couple still sets aside time, just for themselves. It does not matter if they are in different cities in the country, or in different countries altogether…they still talk. Their grown kids and spouses know that when the older couple is talking, they are not to be disturbed.
And what do they talk about? Gossip, politics, business, their kids, themselves, what’s left to be achieved for them…everything! Barring an emergency, this time is sacrosanct.
As is convenient, your ‘couple moment’ could be first thing in the morning before you have to take showers, wake the kids and begin the daily routine. Or before you fall asleep at night, spend time decompressing, hugging, sharing interesting thoughts and events, and planning future activities and goals.
Couples that make the effort to share their day together will spend all their days together.
Those are the three things that have kept a marriage going for over 30 years and looks like, it will take them another 30, God willing.
Relationships require work but it always yields bountifully.
Kristine is a member of The Lovelint team. She is a down to earth person, who says it as it is. Having given relationship advice for years in a national daily, she has found out that fear is one of the main reasons holding people back from enjoying a healthy, happy relationship. She is married with kids and is willing to listen to you and help as much as you let her to.