Yinka is an up and coming professional, she has just made partner in her place of work and is married to Layi an established Engineer. They have been married for 3 years, though they have no children yet, all is rosy in their relationship. One morning, Yinka wakes up to find the policeman banging at their door. After an embarrassing arrest in the presence of their gawking neighbors, she discovers to her shame that Layi was involved in some fraudulent act at work. A public trial takes place and although she cringed every time she went to the court, she stayed by his side. When Layi was found guilty and convicted, something broke in Yinka and she told Layi she was unable to come visit him in prison and didn’t think she could remain in the marriage anymore. Despite Layi’s claims that he committed the offense so they could live a better life and that she was all he had, Yinka filed for divorce, two years after Layi went to prison.
Lekan is married to Susan, they have three lovely children, the last child in his teens and in the university. The mortgage is fully paid and he is looking forward to nonpayment of school fees, then he gets a call that changes his life. Asake his childhood sweetheart calls him up for a meeting and introduces a man to him as his son. Apparently, their chance meeting at a hotel some years back produced a son and Asake in her wisdom thought it wise not to let him know as he had just gotten married and she wasn’t prepared to abort the pregnancy because of a prophecy given to her. Lekan is betwixt himself because Susan had repeatedly told him her deal breaker would be the discovery that her husband has a child outside the marriage.
Peter and Jane are in their mid-thirties and have decided to emigrate to greener pastures. All is going well and their applications have been approved, the mandatory medical examinations have been conducted but alas tests reveal the first child of the marriage is not Peter’s.
Titi had been suspecting her husband Okoro of infidelity for sometime now but hasn’t been able to get concrete evidence against him. Following her friend’s advice, she plants a recording device in his car and is not surprised when she discovers recordings of a telephone conversation with a colleague of his describing their explicit sexual acts . She has moved out with their two children and though Okoro has been contrite, remorseful and thoroughly penitent, pleading for a second chance and vowing never to cheat on her again, she has filed for divorce.
Pelumi and Timothy were the classic example of Romeo and Juliet, they got married soon after their university education and for the first ten years of their married life, all was smooth and lovely. However, Timothy began to stray from the marriage and have affairs, as if that was not enough, he stopped being financially responsible even though he had a lucrative job, owed monies to several credit outfits and Pelumi suddenly found herself having to fend for the family and pay up Timothy ‘s outstanding loans following several calls and harassments from loan sharks. After 5 years of living irresponsibly and two weeks after he moved out of the matrimonial home,Timothy fell ill and was diagnosed with a terminal disease at its final stage. Pelumi is being urged by family and friends to allow him come back to their home so he can receive adequate care before he dies.
I am sure that the stories enumerated are not strange to any of us, we have heard several versions of them and just recently, there was a trending story in the social media surrounding the death of a young man who is said to have died of a broken heart following the revelation that the children of his marriage are not biologically his.
When I hear stories like the ones enumerated above, my sympathy has typically always been with the offended spouse who suffers from the actions of someone who claimed to love them. I often put myself in their shoes and wonder what they may be going through. I also have had cause to ask myself what I would have done if I were in their shoes. After deep introspection, I must admit that I am not sure what my reaction to such issues would be. If I had been asked some years back before I got married or when I was newly married I would have been very categorical with my answer in that , -once a party breaks the vows of fidelity or behaves in such a way that brings shame to the family name, the other party is justified in moving on with their lives and living a separate life but today’s Tara will have to think deeply, weighing many things before answering the question.
The reason for my introspection has been my reflection on the vows I and many others took- “for better or for worse, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health as long as we both shall live.” I have wondered at the gravity of those words we glibly uttered at the altar. What do they really mean?
I know of a truth that when I and others uttered them we did not think of possibilities such as the ones in the stories I have told, I certainly did not think of heartache, sickness, infertility, joblessness, mental sickness, in-law interference and all the things marriages go through. All I and many others thought of, were the joys of becoming one with my lover and the fun-times we would have together.
I know some may say they didn’t exchange those specific vows but no matter what vows you took and no matter how flowery or lovey- dovey they were, the truth is that you both promised to be committed to your partners through the good and bad times.
So what does for better for worse really mean?
Is a person obligated to stay with their spouse through thick and thin, no matter the circumstances, barring harm to their bodies or emotions? Can I be justified when I walk out on a person who I had promised to be committed to both in the good and bad times? These are tough questions but they need to be asked especially today when people walk out of their marriages at the flimsiest of excuses demanding perfection from their spouses when they themselves are not perfect.
I know to some extent the hurt and pain some partners have suffered in their marriages and whilst some people need to walk out on their vows especially where the other party is not repentant, is capable of causing them physical or emotional harm, I am also of the view that some marriages can be redeemed even in the face of serious damage such as the ones in the stories I have told.
The truth is that our spouses make mistakes and/or do stupid things at times but where a person is intrinsically good but has a major character flaw do we cast them aside and forget about their good parts? Do we close our eyes to the good they have done to us in the past and forget how it was before? Do we think it foolish to forgive someone who has made a mistake and is sorry about it though we have been deeply hurt and affected by their actions.
As far as I am concerned, “For better for worse” is about commitment to a person in-spite of their behavior. A commitment to the fact that you will do the right thing whether or not your spouse is deserving of your action. It is a mindset, an attitude, a way of thinking that will enable you and your spouse to navigate through the still waters and the storms of a marriage. It is what Pelumi thought about when she agreed to take care of dying Timothy because it was the right thing to do even though he had hurt her badly because she couldn’t forget the good times they had had together. It is why Susan forgave Lekan because although she was confronted with the evidence of his adulterous affair, he was a good man and a husband and she had no cause to doubt his love for her in spite of it all. It is why Peter choose to forgive Jane’s passing off another man’s son as his because he had couldn’t deny that she was a good wife, friend and partner.
The truth is that we all yearn to be forgiven, understood and loved in spite of ourselves and especially when we mess up. We all need someone who can see the good in us in spite of our bad behavior, who will be willingly to give us their precious gifts of forgiveness, unconditional understanding and acceptance especially when we don’t deserve it. We all need people who will do the right thing by us when it is the most difficult thing to do.
Commitment- it makes a whole lot of difference especially when we face the inevitable conflicts that come in any marriage.