Written by Azuka Onwuka
I need a woman who can love me for me and not for my wealth.
I need a man who can truly love me and be dedicated to me.
When you want to marry, marry someone who truly loves you. That's the most important thing in marriage.
Once you marry someone you love and someone who loves you, you will have a happy marriage
Bla bla bla!
Those are some of the statements people make about love and marriage. Love is over-rated, over-blown, and over-hyped.
If indeed we want more happy marriages, we need to be debriefed and rebriefed about marriage. Love does not make a marriage succeed! Yes, I said so.
Mutual respect makes a marriage succeed. Mutual respect makes a marriage happy.
When it comes to marriage, the attitude of every married person should be: "I don't need your love! Gather your love like rags, stuff it in a bag and fling it over the Third Mainland Bridge into the Lagos Lagoon! It means nothing to me. Absolutely nothing! Just show me respect and I show you respect." End of discussion!
Some would ask: But you can't respect someone you don't love? Fa-fa-fa foul! You can. When strangers walk into the office to make enquiries or purchases and you show them first-class courtesy, respect, and warmth, is it out of love? Do you know them from Adam? When strangers stop you on the street for enquiries and directions, and you pause to attend to them, or even take them to their destinations, even though you may never meet them again in your life, is it done out of love? When did the love start?
Now, let's look at the other side of the coin. Have you not seen a man and woman so much in love that they can barely spend a minute without each other divorce within a month or a year of marriage? What happened? Did the love die so fast? I thought we were told that love cannot die?
Have you not seen or heard of a man who loves his wife so passionately but still panel-beats her every day, and then makes love to her passionately afterwards? Is that love too? Is love violent? Have you not heard of a man kill a woman he loves because of jealousy or anger, and vice versa? Can love kill its own beneficiary? This love sef!
Now, what can you say about this? While I was at the Nsukka campus of the University of Nigeria, I lived in Zik's Flats, Block A2, Room 206 for four years with Chimezie Otuonye (a.k.a. One Man). Were we friends? No. He had his friends and I had mine. Were we enemies? Not at all. But for one minute, we never quarrelled in those four years. How did we do it? Simple. If his friends visited him when I was having my siesta, he knew that he should take them out of the room. I did the same thing for him. We both loved to play music, but we were mindful not to play it when the other was sleeping or reading. We kept our mattresses side-by-side to form a big bed. If I washed the bed sheet this Saturday, nobody would tell him to wash the bed-sheet the next Saturday. If I mopped the floor this Saturday, nobody would tell him to mop the floor the following Saturday. It was never discussed for one day.
He smoked occasionally. I never told him for one day not to smoke in the room; and he never smoked in the room, except when we had a party in the room. We had water regularly in our hall of residence, but in the mornings when everyone was in the bathroom, the water pressure would not be strong enough to push the water to the first or second floor. So, we always filled our buckets and cans in the afternoon or evening. Whoever was in the room did that. Whoever wanted to use the water used it but always refilled the containers.
If I needed money urgently, I borrowed from him. He would not need to ask before I paid him back. He treated me the same way.
For one day, we never discussed these things. But we watched each other and also talked to the human spirit inside us and consequently treated each other with mutual respect. We treated the other the way we would like to be treated.
To ensure that we continued to live in the same room, we always returned to campus on resumption day to pay for our accommodation and get the same room. Even without GSM phones, if one of us did not return on the first day of school, the other person would pay the hostel fee for the other roommate to secure the room.
That's not Intelligence Quotient at work but emotional intelligence.
Yet, I heard many people complain about their roommates making life miserable for them.
How can a couple that claim to love each other go to work, church, mosque, parties, or markets and show strangers and casual acquaintances respect, watch their words when they talk to them, make all efforts to be nice and courteous to these people, apologise easily, forgive easily, but when they get back to their spouse, they are rude, sarcastic, caustic, stubborn, unapologetic, contentious, etc? How can partners call each other "useless, wicked, devil, witch, beast" and other unprintable names and still claim to love each other? How can partners make every effort to hurt the other, disregard each other's wish, take selfish decisions and actions, and still claim to love each other?
No, that is not love. Sexual love (Eros) is ephemeral and unpredictable but Agape is constant. That is the love Paul of Tarsus spoke about: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
Therefore, the Golden Rule in life or the greatest principle of peaceful coexistence is: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. That is the same law that makes a marriage happy and successful. If you would feel betrayed by your spouse's unfaithfulness, don't be unfaithful; if you hate rudeness, don't be rude; if you love to be apologised to when wronged, apologise when you are wrong; if you love to be pampered, pamper your partner; if you love to be appreciated, appreciate your spouse. There is no magic in it. It is commonsense. But then, is it not said that commonsense is not common?
That is why a couple who had no love for each other (but no hate for each other) – who did not know each other, had no dealings with each other – could marry, treat each other with mutual respect and have a wonderful union, while a couple who had a pulsating courtship for one year could marry and have an unhappy marriage or even a bitter divorce within five years of marriage.
You can love someone who respects you. But you cannot love someone who claims to love you but shows you no respect. That is why love turns sour shortly after marriage. That is why marriages crash so fast.
Therefore, the luckiest and happiest couples are not those who are madly in love during courtship, but those who deeply respect each other and love each other during courtship and after walking down the aisle. They hardly wear each other out, neither do they easily irritate each other.