BY LAJU IREN
(that led to the marriage of my dreams)
Somebody pinch me please! Okay don’t really, actually pinch me.
I’m just trying to say that I can’t believe I’ve been married to the absolute love of my life for five whole years. It’s like a dream! Well not entirely…I have stretch marks from having two whole kids. Lol. But sincerely, my heart is so full and thankful to God.
During my fourth year anniversary post last year, I mentioned that it was my most peaceful, most enjoyable year of my marriage. I remember saying: “I’m sure that I’d say this about the fifth year. But for now it’s true.” I haven’t edited it, so you can read it for yourself here.
When I wrote that post, that statement was absolutely true. My husband and I absolutely adore each other. See us making googley-eyes at each other in this video, How we met.
The sacrifices he’s made for me…
The way he’s supported me…
The way he loves me!
But we both have strong personalities and quite different upbringings. These made for quite a number of intense conversations during the course of our marriage. (I say this because people say that pastors and their wives don’t argue, they have intense conversations, lol).
I’m going to get back to that gist in a bit, but I honestly believe that this post will do you the most good if you read its predecessors.
I don’t claim to know everything. In fact, the more you read, the more you’ll realise that I still have a lot to learn. Check them all out here:
Lessons learned in three months of marriage, two years of marriage, three years of marriage, fourth year of marriage.
The lessons there are incredibly important, and if not that I’m trying to finish up so that I have no reason to work when my mini-vacation begins tomorrow, I would have repeated them all here. I’m also pressed for time, because I really desire to do a video with this same topic. I have a feeling that, I’d be mentioning some things in that video that I didn’t mention in this post.
(Note, I finally did the video, you can watch it here.)
So back to our gist on intense conversations. We used to have a whole lot of them. We would be lovey-dovey one moment, and the next we would be so upset at each other because one person used another person’s charger and the other person woke that person from sleep to complain about it. When all was said and done, and a whole lot used to be said and done, my husband would feel like I did not respect him and I would feel like he didn’t love me.
I use the word ‘feel’ because somewhere deep down, we kind of knew that we loved each other, but we at different points in time, doubted that we would have the marriage we most dreamed about.
Even after you settle some fights, the aftershock does something to your relationship. You become less trusting, more defensive, less forgiving, less patient and more guarded. The next misunderstanding then becomes more about the unfinished business in the last ten conflicts than the issue at hand.
Something happened few months to my fourth anniversary, before I wrote last year’s post. My husband may not be perfect, although there are times I think he is (bats love-filled lashes), but if there is an area you can’t fault him, it’s that he listens to God. Before I go on, I want to beg you to choose a spouse who listens to the Holy Spirit. If you marry someone who genuinely fears the Lord, then you have nothing to fear.
My husband was on a trip when the Lord corrected him on some areas he could do better in our marriage. He came back home and told me. He had always been a good husband. But this time, his demeanour was different, he was more patient, more understanding.
I was happy. But looking back now, I realise that a part of me felt justified.
I never said it out loud, but I truly felt vindicated.
I thought: So he was the problem all along, so much so that God even had to tell him!
My husband might just read this post, so let me be clear.
It wasn’t as if I became a horrible wife since God had singled out my husband in correction.
But I worked under the assumption that he had the bulk of the work to do in making the marriage work.
It was my time to reap the fruits of my labour. I was elated!
Months past, I can’t help but imagine how better things would have been if I had let the Holy Ghost work on me at the same time he was working on my husband. But I did not. I embraced my entitlement mentality…most of the time.
I was frustrating the improvements he was making as a husband because I felt that he owed it to God. There were times when I forgot that I also owed it to God to act in a particular way.
My husband began to make statements about how I was taking advantage of the fact that he had changed from old habits to disrespect him. His old habits didn’t border on unfaithfulness or physical abuse or name calling or the other vices you see in the movies (and sadly in some real life situations).
Instead of understanding that change from one partner should lead to positive, corresponding change from the other partner, I got angry.
It irked me to no end. Was it not God that told you to change? Why are you now rubbing it in my face?
It became a frustrating cycle. We had been doing so well, but all of a sudden we began to have arguments again. In a way, we seemed to grow more and more apart.
Have you noticed that I mentioned my first mistake already…it’s difficult to put into a few words, but you can call it the:
Mistake 1: Perfect-spouse- Entitlement- I’ve-done-all-I-need-to-do-in-the-past-you-are-the-problem-mentality
It made my husband regret being vulnerable with me. He never actually said it, but I could see it in his eyes.
God didn’t start a work in his heart so that I would begin to win arguments instead of my husband. God’s desire was for us to fight together, not each other. By being on my side, God’s intention was to be on our side. Not to vindicate me and move me over to the winning side while my marriage was losing.
I told couples during pre-marital counselling this year, if you act like you’re in marriage to fight for your rights, you’ll keep scoring own goals, and think you’re winning!
I think I mentioned this in the YouTube video, you should watch it once you’re done with the post. Click here to watch.
But back to the point.
For those of you who like me, know next to nothing about football, an own-goal is when a player scores against his own team. It’s a legitimate goal. It might be a clean shot, but it will count against the team. You and your spouse are on the same side.
And like my friend Secret Place Wife will say, marriage is more about oneness than equality.
She and I did an eye-opening webinar a few months ago, Date Intelligently, Marry Wisely, you can catch the replay here.
There were other areas I felt entitled as well. I had left Lagos the year before, my family, old friends and even my PhD Programme to begin a new church with my husband in Abuja.
And although I was a hundred percent sure that God wanted me here, as time went on, I expected my husband to reward me.
You have to understand. I’m married to a good provider. Coming here to Abuja was actually good for me. I’ve published three or is it four books in the two years I’ve been here. It’s been so good in fact, that I talked about it in my new book, Mirror, Mirror and in this old video where I mentioned the lessons I learned in 2018. But… I won’t give more details, however it ate me up.
I was consumed with the idea that I wasn’t appreciated enough.
Then one day, my husband called me ‘entitled.’
Me! After all I’ve done. I began to name all the good things I had done, so he could take his words back…but the more I spoke, the more I proved how entitled I felt…
I finally brought it up with my marriage counsellor, fuming at the ears as I spoke to her over the phone…
You heard me right. It was this year that I finally spoke to a marriage counsellor for the first time.
That’s another mistake I finally stopped making:
Mistake 2: Not getting a marriage counsellor much earlier.
Doctors make the worst patients, largely because they like to self-medicate.
Many people who know me, probably know my book, Dating Intelligently. I kid you not, it’s one of the most sensible relationship books you’ll ever read. It’s scripture founded, common-sense laced knowledge for singles and dating couples. If you haven’t read it, there is an anniversary flash sale for the ebook here, or you can get to the hard copy here.
When I published it in 2018, I dedicated Dating Intelligently to my husband and wrote, to my most intelligent decision after Christ. I made the right decision in choosing this guy. I always say that Courtship is the time to love intelligently and marriage is the time to love blindly. It you Date Intelligently, then you can love blindly in marriage without fear. If you don’t date intelligently, there are some pieces of marriage advice that would be much more difficult for you. But Dating Intelligently is like enrolling in a good school. Even after you’re with the right person, you still need to work to make it work.
But back to the point. I don’t mind listening to people about their relationships, but talking to people about mine? No. No. Em…No.
There were many reasons for that, chief being that I’m a pastor’s wife. No matter how much the guy annoyed me, his ministry, our ministry was and is important to me. Absolutely nothing was worth hearing our gist outside, or people looking at my husband somehow!
But mehn, we needed to talk to someone. So we found someone who loved us. Who we could trust to be discreet and objective, whose foundation was the word and who herself had a good marriage spanning nearly three decades.
You see all the things I mentioned above, they are very important when choosing a counsellor.
There is actually safety in wise counsel..
Marriage counselling made scales fall off my eyes!
With my counsellor, it was never a blame game party.
“I will tell you what you need to do, and I will tell your husband what he needs to do,” she would say.
I would feel like asking: “Eskis ma, whose fault o? Who won this round? Was I wrong, was he wrong?”
But I think she realised very early enough the ‘own goal’ thing I talked about earlier.
Another thing about counselling is that it clears your head. Sometimes you think you need to talk to your spouse, but what you actually need to do is talk. To talk to someone who understands. Or to hear what you’re saying out loud and realise that maybe your argument had no head. Maybe you’re actually wrong. Maybe you could have handled it better. Counselling gives you the benefit of unburdening yourself without burdening your partner with hurts that he or she might not recover from in a hurry.
So back to the entitlement thing in Number 1.
I was like, “can you imagine he called me entitled?”
And she said: “You’re entitled Laju, you are!”
This was a neutral person talking. She wasn’t an angry husband trying to get back at me. It was then I actually listened. And it turned out that maybe I hadn’t really been listening to this husband of mine all along. Maybe I was so fixed on doing things my own way, and having my say. It marked the beginning of the end of my next mistake…
MISTAKE 3: Wanting to have my own way and forgetting that God was/is my rewarder
It was after I stopped making this mistake that you’d find a very heart-warming video of my husband surprising me on my birthday in August.
If you’re reading this, and thinking that your spouse needs to learn this, then you aren’t really learning anything. This is something you really have to learn for yourself. I didn’t write this post for people who want to judge matter as we say in Warri.
That’s why my focus is on my mistakes and my lessons here. Because I’ve realised that too many of us keep focusing on what your partner isn’t doing right, that you don’t focus on the person you can actually change- YOURSELF.
Before I get to this point, I need to do a back story.
I wanted to go back to when my husband and I first started dating, but I think I’d go farther than that. To when I was a little girl, the last born of my doting parents. Even when my parents didn’t have much, my birthdays were always something special.
Every birthday in my house, everyone would wake up by 12 midnight and sing for the celebrant. I loved it!
But like I said earlier, my husband and I have had different upbringings. My first birthday after we began dating, I didn’t get my midnight call and largely because of his ministry work I didn’t always have him present on my big days.
2011 was my first birthday with a boyfriend. My parents decided that since I had a boyfriend, they would not take away his shine. My husband who was my boyfriend at the time and I made plans, but we had to cancel last minute as a result of ministry duties. I was bitter for a long time after that. I let him know in comments, jokes and hints every year when my birthday drew closer… especially the year he was sleeping when the clock chimed 12 am.
After a while, he knew the drill. Get a cake, be awake by 12 am, get a present…
He actually got so much better!
But I was still anxious whenever my birthday was approaching. I never told him, but in my mind, I was like, am I not even worth a surprise party?
I will be back to the birthday gist in a while, but let me mention something.
It occurs to me now that I’ve written over 2,000 brutally honest words. Why am I doing this? Because I also want you to be honest with yourself about your relationships, and your role in them. I know your spouse or partner may have their own issues, but what about you? What fears, mind sets, past disappointments and preconceived notions are living with you in that relationship every single day? It is these insecurities that cause us to be controlling.
You’re shouting at the top of your lungs at your partner. But inside you’re crying:
I’ve been hurt before so let’s just do everything my way to be on the safe side.
Anyway, I made a decision to be okay with not having my way. My God! The wonders it did for my marriage! I can’t share all the examples here. But believe me; there are some areas where you need to let go and let God. Where you need to say, even if my spouse never agrees to this, I’ll be alright.
Please note that the person who is writing this is an advocate for dating intelligently. I always say that courtship is a time to love intelligently and marriage is the time to love blindly. So I am not talking to people in unhealthy relationships. I’m not saying your boyfriend is cheating, let go and let God. Or you have a girlfriend that slaps you, let go and let God. Or you have an abusive spouse, let go and let God. In some situations, you have to be proactive.
But for the bulk of marriages, this advice will literally change your life.
It is the person who is not holding firmly to the reins that Jesus can take the wheel from.
This advice is for everyone, but I want to relate it first to wives because God has ordained that the husband be the leader in the relationship.
Get to the point where it’s okay not to have your way.
Not, “okay, but I’ll still say I told you so if anything goes wrong.”
Not, “okay, but I’ll still frown my face through out the day.”
But “okay. I’ll have faith in you, and agree to make your way our way…”
It will give you a pleasurable home.
If you’re a man reading this, don’t rush and call your wife just yet.
Apply this too.
She could be right about that investment.
About that friend…
About that neighbour…
About the colour of the apartment…
About you not taking that job offer…
Do for the other person what you want done for yourself.
Fight for their idea the way you would fight for yours.
And it may be difficult to believe, but NAGGING DOESN’T MAKE THE OTHER PERSON HEAR BETTER!
But how does all this lead to my birthday surprise?
I’ll tell you.
We were having the time of our lives in August. Actually enjoying each other’s company largely because of all the things I’ve mentioned and another reason I’ll mention in the next subtopic, when my husband mentioned something in passing.
He was going to be in Lagos and make it back the day before my birthday. But then, he said:
“Imagine, they invited me for so and so on the day of your birthday! I’ve already told them I’m not coming.”
You have to understand. My husband had changed too!
He said no to a great opportunity because it fell on my birthday without even talking to me about it!
Wow. But why should God only be working on his heart? Remember point one. How about my own heart?
This is how to compete in marriage. To outdo one another in love and in good works, not by who won what argument.
So I said: “Ah, you must go o! It’s a good opportunity for you and for the ministry. There will be other birthdays”
He lifted his head from my embrace and looked at me.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “Who are you and what did you do with my wife?”
I wasn’t asking him to go so that he would say no. I sincerely wanted him to go.
He wasn’t asking my permission. He sincerely wanted to stay!
But I insisted. So off he went and I resigned by fate to a husband-less birthday.
Then I got a call from him that some people were coming to sing for me that morning.
“Have your bath and dress up o,” he said.
An hour later, I hear a knock on the door.
“It’s Peter,” says my husband’s P.A.
Then I open the door to see my husband standing with a bouquet of roses.
The programme had been cancelled. But he didn’t just want to tell me over the phone.
My selflessness inspired selflessness in him, but it was his selflessness that inspired my own selflessness, which was inspired by… Wow! That’s the kind of cycle I want in my home.
A few years ago, I would have seen that video on someone else’s timeline and dm’d my husband with the caption, “See your mate.” I wouldn’t have said those exact words, but I would have communicated them.
I’m good with words like that.
There are so many other examples. But some things are best kept private. Like I told my husband, when I asked him to read through and approve this, the marriage is more important than the post about marriage.
Phew. You don’t have to control everything. Do your best and trust God. He rewards.
MISTAKE 4A: Please figure out my old mistakes from this Amala scenario
The truth is, I’m not a hundred percent sure how to frame some of the mistakes I stopped making, but this Amala story is packed with lots of them as well as the remedies for them.
My husband and I travel a lot for ministry. We try to take turns travelling so that we don’t leave the kids without a parent in town per time. In the month of May, I went on a number of trips, so did he. One time, he was on his way back from a trip and I went out of my way to prepare Amala and Ewedu with gbegiri and goat meat. I wanted him to know how glad we were to have him back.
Then I heard a whisper:
“Last week, he travelled, you made Afang soup, today, Amala.
See how you’re slaving away, cooking for him. Has he ever cooked for you since you’ve been travelling and coming back?
Has he ever cooked for you at all? Are you a cook?”
I suddenly became upset and agitated. Something I was doing with so much joy just one moment before immediately began to annoy me. I had been in similar situations before, usually the next thing that would follow would be a fight over something small and inconsequential because I had already began an argument in my mind when the guy wasn’t even there.
But thank God for the Holy spirit.
He reminded me about all the times I travelled and my husband came to pick me up from the airport. He was also the one who took me to the airport every single time.
Have you ever driven him to the airport?
Have you ever picked him up from the airport?
My answer was No.
I laughed and returned to making ewedu for the love of my life.
Devil, not today.
Let me be a cook for the man who has made himself my driver. I will outdo him in love and honour.
Your spouse may not be good in some areas. But what areas are they good at?
Many disagreements in relationships are simply a matter of perspective.
Before you blow up, think.
Before you argue, remember.
Before you compare, know this:
Every relationship is different.
The underlying principles are the same, but no two relationships are the same.
And before you walk away in anger, put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Ps: Solve those issues in your mind with the word of God and with prayer before they materialize on the outside.
4B: Glean some more from this old instagram post: The ‘When are we going out’ scenario
When are we spending time together?
I would ask this question defensively my heart racing, my mouth prepared to pounce if I didn’t get the response I desired. Why was I the only one always asking sef? Doesn’t he want to spend time with me?
He would say: Let me think about it. Or it’s a busy week. Or when do you want us to go out? Or Maybe we can do Thursday.
Whatever the response, I would rarely be satisfied. Why didn’t he think about it first? Why pressing his phone and being silent for so long before answering?
It’s a busy week, but isn’t your marriage supposed to be priority? Then we would argue. A desire to spend time together would turn into a fight that ensured we did not spend time together. Sometimes it would last for days, like a wound that opens up older ones, we would not remember why we were even angry in the first place. Things are different now. Thanks to;
- Marriage counselling. You don’t know everything. Even when it feels like you do, you have a lot to learn. The right counsel changes every thing.
- Remembering that I am forever satisfied in Christ first. Hubby loves me, but it puts too much strain on one man to expect my satisfaction to come from him. A woman satisfied in Christ is much easier to be around. I talk a whole lot about understanding who you are in Christ in my new book Mirror Mirror. If you’re reading this on November 1st, then you’re in luck, the e-version is available on okadabooks.com at a forty percent discount. Get it here.
- Trusting each other’s motives. A part of me used to feel like: He doesn’t really like spending time with me. So my defensiveness came from that. And that attitude made spending time with me less desirable. But I learned to understand that he actually does, and now I make the excuses for him when he can’t. Before it was, if you love me, then you should be able to do this. Now it’s: you love me, so if you can’t do it, it’s for a reason.
- Communication: It turns out that this is more about the bigger picture than getting your point across. There were things I nagged about that finally became mine when I let go. Behind sincere comms is being okay if you don’t have your way. Let God into your comms! The goal is unity, love and submission and not: what I want, what I need, what I feel.” I learned to actually listen, let go, say what I meant without emotional gra, gra..
- Hubby. Thank you.
Mistake 5: Keeping my eyes off the big picture
I’m going to share a story with you that I rarely share.
I rarely share it because I believe that God chooses your spouse with and not for you.
I rarely share this story because I believe that when it comes to relationships, the supernatural nature of your meeting is not as important as the commitment of both of you to making it work.
If you don’t understand what I mean, you need to read my book, Dating Intelligently or watch this video, Love Versus God said.
So back to the story; around the time I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to date my husband eight years ago, I saw a vision. A vision of myself ministering at the seventh anniversary of a church pastored by both of us. I saw two children in the pews and knew they were ours.
Celebration Church turns seven on November 11 by the way, you should come celebrate with us if you’re in Lagos or Abuja.
But that was my big picture. I was going to do ministry and family with this man. It was exciting, it was beautiful, it was possible.
But with every disagreement, I began to get carried away. To make it about the issue at hand.
I felt it was time to wake up and smell the coffee, maybe the marriage of my dreams was just a dream.
Reality had stepped in.
But who is life to determine my reality?
Who is the devil to tell me that what God showed me was unrealistic?
I decided to see the big picture. I realised that my husband wanted it too.
When there is a disagreement, remember the big picture. Remember that you want to do life with this person. No matter what life throws at you, this person, this partner is the constant variable. The vision you both have of the future is the constant variable.
I’ve been married five years, I’ll probably make some more mistakes, but my focus isn’t “no one is perfect, everyone couple must have misunderstandings.” My focus is on the marriage of my dreams. By God’s grace, we’re closer to it than we have ever been. Not just by faith, but in actuality and it will only get better.
Ps: I don’t know if I emphasised this enough, but please always trust the Holy Spirit. Let him lead, guide and direct you.
This post has been as long as a mini-book. If you read through, please drop a comment and share with your friends. Don’t forget to say a word of prayer for the hubs and I.
Ps: Which of these mistakes do we have in common and how are you going to do better going forward?
Embrace Christ’s Love, Live a Life of Purpose, and remain dauntless in Faith,