What causes a marriage to thrive?

Old couple

Love. It means choosing to consistently uphold and build your spouse. It means to argue, then makeup, agree to disagree and to learn to empathise, to see a point from your spouse’s viewpoint.

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Ezekiel, 28, engaged and planning his wedding in December asked me, “What makes a successful marriage? I was about to respond with the first word that came to mind, ‘Love.’

But it sounded cliché. You see, love is not a noun, but a verb, an action word. Love is demonstrated in word and deed. It is the secret ingredient, but just throwing the word around makes it seem frivolous.

“Do you have the time? I can expound on some key ingredients.”

He had a whole lot of time as we were on a one-hour break from a training workshop.

“You will have a beautiful, colourful wedding day. Enjoy it.” I told him, “The only statement you must tell yourself from that day and going forward is this, ‘marriage is not the paper that legally binds me, nor is it the rings on our fingers.

Marriage is not even my new wife calling herself Mrs. Ezekiel.’” He seemed extra excited to imagine that Ivy would soon be referred to as Mrs Ezek.

“Mrs Ezekiel…” he said, with a dreamy look as the title settled in his mouth.

“Dude, focus.” I then dived into demystifying what love, the secret formula for marriage entails.

“Marriage is about the relationship you have together. A successful marriage is attained by prioritising each other.”

“That’s easy. Ivy means the world to me.” He said, indicating that I should move on to the next point. I rolled my eyes.

I remember when Hubby said the exact same thing, decades ago as our pastor sat us down for premarital counselling. We thought then that he was such a wet blanket when he said such things as, “You will not always feel so affectionate towards each other…you’ll wonder why you chose your spouse…you will think of leaving them…” Surely!

In hindsight, many are the hours that we have wished we paid closer attention to. 

“It is easy now because you are at the infatuation stage. Chemical reactions are helping you.” I told Ezekiel, hoping he would not consider me such a dumper but seeing that he already was.

What he did not know was that five, 10, 15 years of being together would either bond or break them. “Humans are innately selfish. You both must make it intentional to prioritise each other’s needs and interests, even when you don’t feel like it, which is most of the time.”

“Yea, I do that. Always.”

“Right.” I replied and continued, “do away with dogma if you want your marriage to thrive.” He looked puzzled. “Can you cook, feed your child, change their diaper?” He nodded in the affirmative the entire time. “Will you be comfortable and confident if or when your wife earns three times your income?”

He was not sure anymore. “But, as a husband, I am the provider!” I signed. “Now, that’s dogma. Since you said that yours is a Christian marriage, you should know that God is the ultimate provider. He chooses who and how to bless you, as a family, one unit.” He was not convinced so I moved on to the next point. “Question the norms. It will free you from dogma and mediocrity.” 

“Expound.” Ezekiel said.

“The happiest couples I know do not live by the norms and traditions set by society. They simply live life together, on their terms. For example, the husband who braids his wife’s hair and the couple that read the same book, for their later discussions, are not the norm.” He shook his head. “This marriage thing, it’s serious business, aye?”

I winked.

“You are catching on.”

“What else?” he asked as I laughed at his enthusiasm.

“Love. It means choosing to consistently uphold and build your spouse. It means to argue, then makeup, agree to disagree and to learn to empathise, to see a point from your spouse’s viewpoint.” He nodded. “Again, it is not easy. We mostly want to be heard, but not to hear, we listen so that we defend our viewpoint instead of to understand theirs.”

“Wow.” He was thoughtful. “It will not always be fun, and laughter and you must choose to be present all the time, not just physically but mentally.” When all is said and done, love for the other remains the cliché that makes a successful marriage.

Love does indeed cover a multitude of sins as per the Biblical quote. Can there be any other place one can find a multitude of sins other than in a marriage relationship, where adults share a bed?

Karimi is a wife who believes in marriage. [email protected]