Golden Okoye | United Kingdom
Of all the family relationships you have, your spouse is the only one you get to choose. You cannot choose your parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, or your own children. Nature makes these choices for you. However, nature gives you an opportunity to choose who you will start a new family with. The marriage relationship is the relationship that forms the foundation of a new family; and, in most cases, extends the family tree to create an entirely new generation. Unfortunately, most cultures deny women the opportunity to choose a life partner.
Choosing the right partner for yourself to navigate life and create a new family is so important for many reasons. Firstly, some people are born into families where they feel out of place, like a fish out of water; some come from families with toxic traits; others grow out of the collective mindsets of their immediate families. These sorts of people may never thrive if the only family they will ever know is the family they were born into.
Shilpi Somaya Gowda once said, “At some point, the family you create is more important than the one you were born into,” and I agree with her.
Expectations, Expectations, Expectations!
A marriage relationship means different things to each party involved. To the woman, it often means a change of social status or a financial upgrade. This is because most cultures groom women from childhood to aspire for marriage while discouraging them from having lofty dreams and ambitions. From childhood, girls’ bedtime stories and folktales have always painted women as helpless, poor or lacking something. They need a prince, often in shining armour, to rescue them or give them financial freedom. These stories and training in most cultures make women look forward to marriage as a way to gain financial liberation. To the man, marriage can mean getting someone to warm his bed at night, bear his children or an unpaid maid. This is because most men have been groomed to believe that their masculinity hinges on their possession of a woman they can control, keep a home and extend their bloodline with.
Whatever may be the intentions of the parties involved, society has unequivocal expectations of women. A woman is expected to make all the sacrifices to make the marriage work, while there are minimal expectations from the man. For instance, a woman is expected to leave her city, job, and friends and move to stay with a man in another city; a woman is expected to give up her career if she gives birth to a child with special needs, even if she earns better than her husband; a woman is expected to forgive a cheating husband and not divorce, while it is socially acceptable for a husband to never forgive a cheating wife. Society speaks ill of women that have refused to make these expected sacrifices. Unfortunately, these societal expectations affect men so much that they subconsciously enter marriage without the intention to put in any effort to make the marriage work.
Is Love Enough?
I personally believe that the primary reason for marriage should be companionship. Two people from two different families and sometimes different backgrounds meet, build a friendship, appreciate the company of each other, fall in love and decide they would like to experience life together forever.
One of the first things that bring two people together is interest, and if two people have a mutual interest to build a family they both dream of, it could lead to marriage. However, love is often depicted in stories and movies as what brings a man and woman together, leading to happily ever after. Even in cultures that practice arranged marriage, love is believed to be grown within the marriage even though both parties have never met before.
But, what is love? How do you know that you love someone or that someone loves you? I do not believe that love is just about being attracted to someone and having feelings for a person. I believe love is a wholesome action that should be mutually expressed by a couple intending to have a love marriage. Love is having a partner who is devoid of envy and pride, honors your love, is not easily angered, forgives easily and supports you to thrive and become better. Love is trust, patience, protection, perseverance, hope. Love makes you feel happy and complete.
So, love is believed to be a common theme in marriage no matter the social, cultural or political context. In real life, the happily ever after idea sold in children’s story books and movies is simply an illusion. Most marriages end in divorce, separation and bitter cohabitation. Really, only a handful of marriages genuinely have the ‘happily ever after’ story. You’d wonder why a love so strong cannot sustain a marriage.
When Things Go Wrong
There are many factors that make a relationship, even one founded on love, turn sour. One of the reasons is personal development.
Humans grow and evolve and most times girls are put under pressure to marry in their twenties. Unfortunately, this is a period where most girls are in the midst of discovering who they are. So when a young girl enters marriage with limited self-awareness, she is bound to change and become a new version of herself throughout her marriage.
Especially as she grows into a more self-aware woman, the man she is married to may resist her personal development. This change causes friction in a once love-based relationship.
Another instance is where one partner makes effort to grow in all areas of their life especially intellectually, but the other partner refuses to make the basic effort to develop self. It often leads to a marriage between two unequal parties leading to dissatisfaction and bitterness from both parties involved. Additionally, we cannot rule out the external factors that can make a love marriage turn sour like extended family interference, financial strain, prolonged terminal illness of one party or childlessness.
A bond between a man and woman who choose each other should be the most important relationship because it fulfills both intimacy and family needs. But is love enough to build a happily-ever-after relationship? Is there something else that should be considered besides love? Should mutual respect, mutual understanding, effective communication skills, financial stability, a sense of loyalty and commitment and mental compatibility all be on our checklist when finding a partner? If all these qualities are in a partner and lead to marriage, can it thrive better than a love marriage? Will the couple be happy living the rest of their life knowing they are not in love? Will love grow within the marriage? Some may argue that a marriage that is devoid of romantic love is better as there will be no heartbreak involved, just a sense of loss and that in a love marriage when things turn sour, there will be both heartbreak and a sense of loss.
I have no answer for most of the questions raised, but I would advise any woman that wants to embark on a long-term relationship to avoid making decisions based on love alone. Who a woman marries (especially a woman with ambition) has a great impact on how her life turns out. It may be the same for men too, but more of this impact is on the woman.
I acknowledge that life happens to us despite the good choices we’ve made. However, you have to make sure that you’ve made a reasonable choice. Many women go into marriage with the mentality of ‘fixing’ their partner. However, you must consider that this is not always possible and be willing to endure this if the person never changes. It is a tough decision but if we are to have a chance at any ‘ever after’ story in our love story, then we should count our losses wisely.
Golden is an entrepreneur and self-development coach passionate about girl child education as a way for the girl child to discover her potential and break free from societal limitations. Intelligent conversation brings her out of her introvert shell. Connect with her @unlearnwithgolden on Instagram and firstname.lastname@example.org