Nigeria, today, is divided along ethnic and religious fault lines. But love conquers all. For Pastor David Asehon from Edo State and Mrs. Ijeoma Asehon, an Igbo from Imo State, it has been a journey of faith in the past 31 years. Hence they have been able to surmount many attendant challenges. Even though they come from different tribes, they were committed to making the marriage work against all odds. In this interview with BIANCA IBOMA-EMEFU, the couples revealed some useful tips for a successful marriage, especially for couples married from different tribes.
How was your childhood like?
Pastor David: I grew up in Lagos but I hail from Emu community in Esan South-East Local Government Area of Edo State.
Mrs. Ijeoma: I am from Mgbele, Oguta, Imo State. But like him, I also grew up in Lagos.
How did you meet?
Pastor David: I met my wife in the church at Powerline Bible Church, Ikotun, Lagos. We belonged to the youths’ fellowship arm of the church. I was close to everyone because I was the leader of the youths.
Mrs. Ijeoma: He is correct. He was close to almost everybody.
What was the attraction?
Pastor David: I was in a relationship with one of the sisters. But it did not work out. Almost the entire church knew about our relationship. Though I had recognised in Sister Ije some good qualities that could make her attractive to any young man, I didn’t look in her direction. A few months after my failed relationship, my late cousin of blessed memory asked me a very soul-searching question: “How long are you going to stay waiting since your relationship with Sister X had failed?” It came to me like the Voice of God to Prophet Samuel after God has rejected Saul as King of Israel. I decided to go to God in prayers. It soon became clear that God had been waiting for me. And He revealed Himself to me in a dimension I never knew. And when eventually He brought the vivid picture of my wife to me that night, all my previous misgivings about her height melted and I had great peace within.
Mrs. Ijeoma: I never knew he recognised in me some good qualities that could lead to a bosom relationship with him. But what attracted me to him was his charisma.
How did you propose?
Pastor David: A few days later, following my encounter, I decided to send her a non-committal card, simply to test the waters. And the rest is history.
Mrs. Ijeoma: Gradually, the relationship blossomed. Before I could say anything, our journey into marital bliss began.
So how would you describe your marital relationship, considering the fact that it’s a journey that began 31 years ago with a step?
Pastor David: Our journey together has been by faith. The experience has been both thrilling and trying. When we started out, we were socio-economically stable to a large extent. To the Glory of God, today we are blessed with five biological children, and an adopted, child. Amazingly, they are all university graduates.
Mrs. Ijeoma: Years ago, I realised that my husband is not perfect because everyone has flaws. But it is easier to focus on a spouse’s imperfections rather than their strengths. I never looked at my spouse’s shortcomings because we are a work in progress. When my partner does something that drives me nuts, I think about the 90 per cent of him that is, actually, quite perfect.
You have been married for over 30 years and have stayed the course. Could you share the secrets that have made your marriage to thrive for more than three decades?
Pastor David: Cherish your spouse and have a deeper connection with him or her. Couples should learn that trying to change their spouse is like trying to push a rope. It is almost impossible. Oftentimes, the only person we can change in our marriage is ourselves.
Mrs Ijeoma: Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears. Spouses in a successful marriage should learn to resist holding grudges and bringing up the past. They should remember that they married an imperfect person. A crisis doesn’t mean that the marriage is over. Crises are like storms: loud, scary and dangerous. But to get through a storm you have to keep driving. A crisis can be a new beginning. It’s out of pain that great people and marriages are produced.
What were some of the challenges you encountered in your marital journey, especially socio-economic?
Pastor David: Truly, when we began our own ministry, God led us to step out to pioneer an independent ministry with all our children. There were no significant savings and no regular source of income. Another journey of faith at a higher level began for us. During this period, God literally removed all the socio-economic props and support, leaving us to trust Him for everything. It included the next meal to the next school fees and the next house rent etc. In all of this, He proved Himself to be more than faithful! Our faith in Him grew.
Mrs Ijeoma: It was the most challenging period for my family. But through it all, God showed up for us. It was an intensive learning curve in our family life. Nothing could be farther from the truth to claim that any of us understood or managed the circumstance of the period perfectly well. But the sure mercies of David saw us through, and we have continued to enjoy His unfailing love to date.
What has kept the marriage going despite odds?
Pastor David: One thing is that sure, despite the challenges we faced, my spouse and I made up our mind that this marriage will work and it worked. We are still together because we are committed to it. We prayed, spoke the Word, and applied our faith. The journey has been tough but God has remained faithful.
Mrs Ijeoma: I believe God has ordained every marriage to succeed. But for a marriage to succeed, someone has to pay the sacrifice. But I must tell you that it has not been easy. But God’s grace has kept us thus far. There were times that I got fed up with this marriage and wanted to call it quits. But then I would run to one of our Pastors, Pastor Ben and Pastor Mrs. Nwaobodo who were both like spiritual fathers and mothers to me. Many times I had to run to their office crying, telling them that I was tired of this whole thing. But their words of encouragement have kept me going. They made me to understand that it can work. And it worked.
Can you give us some tips for a successful marriage?
Pastor David: Love, affection and forgiveness. Above all, communicate regularly because if there is a communication gap it would affect the bliss in your relationship.
Mrs Ijeoma: Study your husband, know his likes and dislikes. There is no perfect person in any marriage. But you must be ready to accommodate each other. As a wife, you must be ready to put in all your efforts. You will quarrel and you’ll settle it. Study the character and lifestyle of your husband. More importantly, communication is key to a successful marriage.
What are some of the causes of divorce?
Pastor David: Most couples lack respect in their relationship. No matter the age, no matter the generation, man is still man, and God is still God. Technology, and social media may come, but the core issues about life remain fundamental.
Mrs Ijeoma: One thing, I have discovered is that the confession of love for each other also has the power to sustain a marriage. This is because that kind of love is very special. It is motivated by something. But people still need to discover the essential values of life. Things that are more permanent in life are the values that we cherish. Today’s generation lacks these values; people just fancy things. They place more importance on things of lesser value. There is no stability at the personal level, let alone in marriage. For a marriage to be successful you need God; you can’t take God out of your life and find direction in life. The best thing a man can desire is to be in the presence of God.
What is that favourite thing both of you do together?
Pastor David: We eat together.
Mrs. Ijeoma: Yes, from the same plate.
Do you have any advice for the younger generation?
Pastor David: Of course, I wish them happiness and hope their relationships develop into strong marriages. A piece of advice I occasionally give and continues to apply at all times is: to keep your attention focused on forming and sustaining a marriage rather than on planning a wedding.
What is something you have learned about love over the years?
Pastor David: Don’t fall because you are in love. Instead, fall because both of you are in love. The take here is: stay with someone who loves you as much as you love him or her. Don’t fall for shape or physique. Chasing after curves or six packs will only lead to heartaches and pains. Forget the body and follow the person inside the body. Love should be what sustains us from birth to death.
Mrs. Ijeoma: When it comes to love, avoid the following mistakes: don’t fall for beauty. There’s always something deeper than just looks. There are attitudes and personalities. Don’t fall for wealth or affluence. Most times a wealthy partner will take you for granted as they may feel you came for the dough. Don’t fall if it doesn’t fit. Some people fall in love knowing that things are not ok. Don’t compromise. If it looks like it won’t work, don’t even start. Always choose compatibility over love. Couples who are compatible have a better chance at succeeding in marriage. Marriage is hard work and you must work hard if you want things to work.