Commentaries | Jul 29,2023
Jul 30 , 2022
By Eden Sahle
Before tying the knot, my husband and I spent over a year in premarital counselling with several couples. We also read books about marriage, but nothing compared to the lifetime advice those couples walked us through. Knowing that so many things will be new to us in marriage, we had various questions and expectations that we wanted to be answered by those who have endured and persevered for decades.
Our counsellor couples were three. Two were Ethiopians and the other were from Canada. All of them had diverse life paths, giving us unique perspectives.
In two of the relationships, the men are in charge of cooking, cleaning, and raising children. In the other, the woman carried out these same tasks. The two men and the woman took away so many burdens from their spouses. Their way of life is not gendered roles. It was not about who does what but how they can collaborate.
The lessons we had involved seeing them do their routines of cooking, cleaning, taking care of their children, and spending family time at their respective homes. Then the couples will sit with us to explain the depth of the covenant bond of marriage that should be kept for life while working through problems.
Their marriage that looks perfect now results from years of hard work and grit. They proved to us marriage gets sweeter as the years go by. They dealt with loss, grief, infertility, and even financial difficulties but these things made them a lot closer and stronger.
They showed us forgiveness is an indispensable part of the glue that makes the marital covenant work for life. We were taught to make our spouse the priority more than our parents, siblings, friends, and even children. Apart from the marriage books, such people’s teaching taught us more than we had anticipated. I had assumed marriage is only about intimacy and adventure. The couples showed marriage is also about consistent work, responsibility, and sacrifice for the good of our spouse. It is not a union that we walk out from when the going gets tough.
In Ethiopia, with rare access to such advice, many learn about marriage from movies or books. I know several friends and relatives whose marriages could have been spared had they received similar counselling and approached that chapter of their lives with care and kindness instead of comparison.
I observed this play out recently. I am incredibly grateful for my husband, but I see so much danger in people who compare him with theirs - or if I was to compare him with others. These individuals lack the necessary knowledge of relationships and marriage, basing their frustration on their spouses being unable to be as "good" as others they idolise.
Going through premarital counselling gives us wisdom, teaching us that every man and woman has different qualities and shortcomings. The first challenge to overcome is accepting them as they are and trying to influence them toward a life approach that can benefit both. Such efforts sometimes require professional help when abuse or addiction are involved.
Several factors can affect people's personalities and outlook in life, especially upbringing. Some say that knowing a person takes only six months. If time is taken to know the people we tie the knot with, instead of exaggerated expectations, many could be spared the heartache that could come later.
Learning from others has the potential to equip us with the necessary skills that can help us manage it properly. We should not decide under the assumption that we know what a relationship is about - a seriously reductive view. Sometimes it is not up to us to fix with the belief that we know how. It is better to be informed and seek advice from the right people.
People suited to advise us are not the ones who have dated many or married and got divorced but those who have worked hard and prioritised their relationships to keep it going despite the challenges life brings. Improvements are not an overnight endeavour.
PUBLISHED ON Jul 30,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1161]
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