Written by Gloria Ogunbadejo - Nigeria
I spoke recently to several friends and clients who are either contemplating having an affair, are having affairs or simply feel indifferent to their spouses. In particular, I recently met an old friend who told me that her marriage of 15 years had come to an end, and she appeared to be in a complete fog as to how it had happened. As we went through the post-mortem of the marriage, it became clear that there were many signs along the way that should have been red flags for both of them.
Up to five years ago after their second child was born, my friend Jadesola (not her real name) had noticed not wanting to or enjoying having sex with her husband anymore. In addition, she said she found being in his company oppressive and increasingly felt unhappy with him.
While it is quite possible Jade might have been suffering from some form of post-partum depression since she noticed her problems started after her second child, it seemed many things happened over the years which they did not pay attention to.
Jade said things just seemed to change overnight and went from a happy, loving marriage to feeling like she was living with a stranger who she didn't even like let alone love. This is typically an erroneous, delusional and somewhat naive belief of a lot of couples with marital problems. The problems never happen overnight and the relationship has to be nurtured and given attention.
While there are some problems that couples may battle with through out their marriage with no resolution, it may be that a compromise needs to be reached or they eventually get to a time and place they can both live with it because there are parts of their union that are stronger and out-weigh the problems.
However, when there are more problem areas than workable ones, then it is time to get to work.
Sometimes, we may erroneously believe that as long as we do not step out of the marriage, nothing bad will come into it. Wrong! Unfortunately, there are many things competing for one's love and affection and sometimes, if one is not on the alert, the outside can intrude one's relationship.
There are just too many forces waiting to attack and get between one and one's mate to diminish one's relationship. Marriage needs to be actively protected.
Love within marriage requires a great deal of safety for any intimacy to grow, as it brings out the most vulnerable and fragile parts of one's personality. When we feel safe we can come out of feelings of isolation and self-centeredness and to work together on one's individual weaknesses.
Keeping the lines of communication open is crucial to a healthy marriage. If one does not know how to express one's feelings and/or have poor listening skills, one needs to learn to get better at both in the interest of one's marriage.
Most times, couples are telling each other in one form or another what the problems are. The problem is couples are either not listening or not hearing or have stopped caring.
If you have stopped talking in any intimate way and only discuss the mundane events of daily activities and household chores, this might be a warning sign that should not be ignored. No matter how healthy a marriage is, it can disintegrate quickly if ignored or neglected.
One cannot sweep one's fundamental disagreements under the rug and hope they will magically resolve themselves. They will almost always definitely emerge in other areas of one's marriage such as one's sex life, extra- marital affairs, drifting apart). Remembering that your love for your spouse can help him or her the benefit of the doubt when you feel angry, hurt or disappointed.
Talk to your partner and do not make assumptions that they know how you feel or that you know how they feel.
You should never have to feel or see your spouse as your enemy. If they do something wrong, it helps to remember that this is the same person you fell in love with and wanted to spend the rest of your life with, the father or mother of your children.
Go back and take a look at your wedding pictures, try and remember the feelings you had on that day. If you are unable to get any relief or to reconnect with those feelings then your marriage might be in trouble.
Love requires sacrifice; it is the highest form of maturity. Do not believe all the romantic nonsense we have been sold about love not having to say I'm sorry, not needing to work hard at it, or if it's real it should exist on its own. The people who wrote all those sentiments in books and cards are the same ones who wrote a whole other catalogue of literatures on 'when love goes bad!'
When you truly love and care about someone there will and must be sacrifices in your actions for the other person. A healthy marriage invariably requires quality decisions to always try to have one's spouses' interest in mind. Granted this is not always easy but if the intention is there, it will help to guide one's decision making.
Sacrifice means you are not always going to have your way. It means having unconditional love for each other while also having firm boundaries where necessary or required.
Good lasting marriages are made up of two conscious, mindful individuals that have the desire to work on themselves with the determination to stay focused on the importance of their marriage. It is not magic, it is hard work! but it is equally filled with unparalleled joy.