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Read Letter

Marriage Expectations

My dear Jil, if there’s a prayer every father should pray for his daughter, it is, “May you not know a bad marriage.” The trauma of a bad marriage is unimaginable. And there are different layers to that trauma.

There’s the trauma of a widening rift in the family till it gets to the point in which communication becomes muted like on WhatsApp. There’s the trauma of disappointed expectations. Everyone goes into marriage with a set of dreams and expectations. There’s the trauma of deeply hurt feelings as the marriage becomes disembowelled. It’s civil brutalism. There’s the trauma of people who were lovers now turned into haters of themselves. They can no longer tolerate each other. Then there’s the trauma of seeking to maintain fidelity in a marriage in which sexual relations have been terminated. The unwritten termination exposes both parties to all sorts of possibilities, including blackmail and venereal disease. Then there’s the trauma of impotence in arresting the slide of the marriage. That impotence is sometimes powered by pride.

In some cases there’s the trauma of not even knowing what the problem in the marriage is. The party on the receiving end is completely clueless about what to do. Then there’s the trauma of transformation – becoming a bitter person, or a deeply hurt person because of the bad marriage. Some become seriously psychologically damaged.

In some cases there’s the trauma of emotional abuse. That is very high up there with physical abuse if not worse. Self-esteem is completely damaged. Then there’s the trauma of exposure of your affairs to society. When you have a bad marriage you become gossip fodder. If you’re the private type that can be painful. And everyone talks behind your back.

For some there’s the trauma of exposure on social media as well. You become digitalised gossip. You go viral without seeking fame. Then there’s the trauma of betrayal of friends. You soon discover some people you stood by in their hour of need will not stand by you. And some of your friends will turn into adversaries. Divorce exposes people’s hearts towards you. Then there’s the trauma of trying to open a new chapter in your life – starting all over again. Where do you start from you seriously wonder! Then there’s the loneliness occasioned by the state of the bad marriage. You become emotionally lonely.

Another thing a bad marriage does is that it turns you into a voyeuristic target. Some will seek to take advantage of you and your circumstance. At some point you won’t know who to trust. You don’t know who loves you for you and who’s a gossip-gathering hypocrite in these circumstances. Then there are those who will judge and condemn you. It matters little to them if you’re going through horror. It’s their opportunity to crush you. You’re weakened. And there’ll be those who’ll no longer talk to you. They will seek to avoid you. There’s also the disappointment of those you expect to stand by you, stand for you and defend you but who suddenly go missing. Then there’s the trauma of not been able to salvage the marriage. It’s like a man who sees himself falling into a ditch in slow motion yet can do nothing to halt the descent.

And some marriage failures are so traumatic some end up in the psychiatric ward. Something gets broken deep inside the cranium. Some have to see therapists for years. And some don’t ever recover from a bad marital experience. The wound is so deep, the anger is so much they just can’t move on. They inhabit the pain and the past. A bad marriage can be that bad. In one or two cases some then turn themselves into marriage wreckers, seeking to inflict on innocent others what they went through. They go after other women’s men. May you not have a bad marriage.

Then there’s the lack of sympathy in some – a total display of insensitivity that borders on hatred. Animosity is executed. And then comes the process of disentanglement of the marriage. The longer the marriage the more difficult this can be. And the deeper the bitterness.

It is for these and other uncatalogued pain and trauma that you do all you can to have a good marriage. Human language lacks the capacity to express the depth of pain of a bad marriage. Don’t joke with your marriage. Marriage is a very powerful social and spiritual institution. To get out of one there’s a price to pay. Most times the price is heavy.

You need maturity for marriage. Marriage assumes the parties have maturity. Marriage deals with you on assumed maturity. For example marriage does not expect you to throw tantrums like a child. It expects you to deal with your issues like adults. Marriage does not expect minor disagreements to escalate, being inflated on the helium of pride. Marriage insists both parties must be humble. Marriage expects continuous learning about your partner, till you die. It’s a life-long institution. Marriage expects quarrels to be resolved. Non resolved quarrels destroy marriage. Marriage expects communication. Or how can two people be married and not communicate with each other? Marriage expects understanding. Misunderstandings have the potential to destroy marriage.

Marriage expects accommodation. Two imperfect people cannot dwell together without accommodation. Marriage expects the keeping of secrets. You don’t broadcast private facts to third parties and expect trust. Marriage expects trust between parties. Or how can you continually expose yourself to someone you don’t trust. Marriage expects mutual respect by both parties. Why would you marry someone you can’t respect? Why would you marry someone who has no regard for you? Marriage expects sensitivity. There are things one shouldn’t say to one’s partner.

Marriage expects the togetherness of a couple. Two cannot work together except they’re in agreement. Marriage expects a sense of responsibility. You cannot be irresponsible in marriage. There are duties and obligations. Marriage expects selflessness. The display of selfishness in marriage works against the concept of union. Marriage expects sacrifice. Love is meaningless without sacrifice.

The primary resource of marriage is your life. Marriage uses your life. It’s one of the reasons divorce is traumatic. Divorce is not external to you. Marriage is woven round the fabric of your life. A bad marriage is a chunk of your life. It’s something you seek to subtract and excise. Whereas a good marriage is life continuum. It’s something you wish continues.

You must strive for happiness in marriage. Happiness is important. And it’s attainable. Marriage without happiness is present continuous trauma. Peace is non-negotiable in marriage. If there’s no peace there’s no good marriage. Without peace marriage becomes a passive war zone. The parties become enemy combatants using every civil tech to go after each other including silence. There’s always the danger of escalation. Dragging a quarrel itself is escalation, even if done silently. When there’s problem in a marriage the marriage bed becomes DMZ – a de-militarized zone in which parties are heavily armed on either side, ready for war.

A bad marriage is not worth it. Avoid it. It’s a waste of life. It’s a laboratory of pain. If the indices are pointing towards a bad marriage don’t go into it. You don’t want marital trauma. Will you be happy? Will there be love? Will there be peace? Three critical questions to ask when considering marriage. If you can’t answer these three questions in the affirmative don’t do it. May you not have a bad marriage.

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder |

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Tags : Divorce, bad marriage, expectations in marriage

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