Michael Bosede Dania, Retired Commander of the Nigerian Navy has been married to his wife, Apostle Helen Dania, General Overseer of Royal Triumphant Church International, Lagos, for 38 years. Incidentally, the woman who celebrated her 60th birthday recently (she was born on September 23, 1960) is an Independent Child, having been born the same year that Nigeria had her independence from Britain. In this interview with BIANCA IBOMA-EMEFU, Michael who hails from Ikun-Akoko, Akoko South West, Ondo State, and Helen, a blue-blooded princess, born into the royal family of Harrison Hanson Asanga of Ikot Ebo in Etinan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, shared their experiences on their marital challenges and how they overcame. They also offered some useful pieces of advice to other couples on how to nurse a strong, enduring marital relationship. Excerpts:
How did you meet your spouse and what was the attraction?
Husband: I met my wife in Cross Rivers, Calabar to be precise, at the staff canteen. I was serving there at that time. Fortunately for me then, she was working at our headquarters base as a clerical officer when I ran into her at the canteen. Immediately I saw her, I developed interest in her. It was love at first sight. It was God’s grace because the time I met her she was about travelling abroad for further studies and she eventually did. She spent about three years before returning. Fortunately, for me I was still in Calabar. She was informed at the Ikeja airport by some regular Naval personnel that I was still in Calabar. She sent her brother to come and take me to their house. When I saw her we embraced each other and spoke about things. When she returned I was the first person she came to see. That’s how the relationship continued.
Wife: I loved his look then, his attitude. He was humane.
How did you propose?
Husband: I had travelled to India and bought some clothing materials. Then I told her I was selling and also the cost. When she came to the house to see the material, I gave them to her and she accepted. Though initially, she was reluctant, she accepted it after I made my intention known to her.
Wife: He proposed. We were friends and along the line he asked me if I would like to spend the rest of my life with him. I accepted.
What was the attraction?
Husband: There are certain qualities a man desires in a woman and I discovered she met all the criteria l wanted in a lady.
Wife: First it was his looks and later his humane behaviour.
What was her reaction when you proposed?
Husband: Initially, she was reluctant because of the tribe issue but as time went by, we became more intimate and indispensable to each other. Also, I believed I met the criteria of the kind of man she wanted.
Wife: I hesitated initially because it was sudden. I didn’t expect him to propose at the time he did.
How did you cope initially considering the differences in background and culture?
Husband: Both of us never had serious problem, but we had some challenges from both families. The two families were not comfortable with our marital relationship because of tribal differences. It took them time to accept us. But they had no choice than to throw in the towel as two of us remained unbreakable. I learned how to eat her food because of my long stay in Calabar. As for clothes, I accepted her traditional attire the same way she did my cultural outfit. We had to cope with each other. She later came to join me in Lagos where I was posted; she had to leave her place. You know, the initial marriage is always tough, two people with different backgrounds. And, also youthful vibrancy was always on display. I was Sunny Ade’s fan. There was nowhere he would be playing that I won’t be there. I always left her behind at home. But as time went on, I started feeling guilty and later amended things. What she endured, women from my place would not accept it.
Wife: At the early stage of my marriage, the challenge I faced was women who wanted to share my husband with me. You know, he was a very handsome young man and still is. He knows how to take care of his looks. This attracted lots of women to him. But in all, God saw me through that stage. It was the love we have for each other that helped and sustained our marriage till today.
What has contributed to the success of your marriage?
Husband: Basically, tolerance is the watchword. My spouse and I have always tried to employ tolerance in all cases. My wife is very patient and this helped a lot. Understanding and tolerance can win everything.
Wife: Fortunately, I am a marriage counsellor. I bring my experience in marriage over time and Biblical counselling to young men and women who want to make their marriage successful as mine. Be patient and tolerant of each other. No short cut to staying married.
What has life taught both of you as she celebrates 60 years?
Husband: Her life has taught me that it is payable or reward-able for a woman to endure at the initial time of marriage as future might likely be rosy. My wife really tolerated me and that’s what she is enjoying today. We have peace of mind.
Wife: There are lessons I have learned over the years. That includes patience and endurance. Also, being committed to my home made the marriage work. Again, I believe in God. I am a minister of the word so can’t do otherwise.
What are your wishes for her as she celebrates 60 years of existence?
Husband: My wish for her at 60 is long life, and more of this joyful day on earth with good health in Jesus mighty name. May she continue to enjoy the fruit of her labour. We had our wedding in September, 1982 and my wife was born in September. So it is double celebration for us as a couple.
Wife: I thanked God for granting me 60 years of good health especially with COVID 19 pandemic that came with untold hardship. I pray that God Almighty should set me apart for mercy, favour, protection and to give me a reason to rejoice always. I thank God, as a couple we are celebrating 38 years as well as my birthday. We had the marriage at my birth month. We are blessed with four children: three girls and a boy.
A lot of homes are on the verge of collapse due to violence. What is your take on this?
Wife: It takes effort to protect, nurture, and grow a marriage. Between work schedules, children, and other obligations, sometimes it can seem impossible to maintain that partnership. When problems arise, some couples find that it is healthier to divorce and go their separate ways, which can be avoided.
Husband: People inevitably change over time. Understanding, appreciating, and adapting to those changes is critical for any relationship.
What are the major challenges in marriage that couple need pay attention to so they don’t get violent?
Husband: Unresolved disagreement, disrespect and anger should be avoided. Partners should know the best way to handle their partners’ weakness. Violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form of physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal abuse is sinful; often it is a crime as well.
Wife: In marriages, people are unlikely to change no matter how much their spouses demand it, so you must understand and learn to live with your spouse. People cannot change their basic essence even if they try. To love and marry someone, you must accept the essence of the other person; you must accept who he or she is.
How can a couple manage their home to have a lasting peace?
Husband: Many marriages are fraught with disagreements due to things they can ordinarily address. Honesty and trust are vital to the success of a marriage. It’s a thin line between what secrets are acceptable and which ones will haunt an individual and hurt a marriage. As a couple whenever we are working on something, we make it a point to ask the other person: ‘Can I help?’ It is so simple, but often people assume that their spouse will automatically know what they need. You have to say it. It is hard to feel resentful towards the other person if you start the conversation with those words.
Wife: Couples need to tolerate each other and learn to forgive when one is offended. Love and care for each other’s well-being helps a lot in marriage. Living a give-and-take life is worth emulating. Love and forgiving one another is the key to long-lasting relationship in marriage. People often say, ‘marriage is hard work,’ but I have found it to be pretty easy, because we are such good friends. Sometimes, we are just like two teenagers away at camp, up late talking and laughing. We have inside jokes and hand-and-eye signals. We can talk to each other about everything, and we can have a whole conversation without actually saying a word. And when times have gotten tough, we have held on together.
What’s your advice for couples?
Husband: Marriage demands collective hard work and togetherness. It is a place of divine settlement and visitation. The Bible says can two walk together except they agree? A time to enjoy marriage at its fullest is when both couples agree and thus look over little things that may want to cause big problems.
Wife: Marriage can actually be very challenging; a lot of married women started their marriage with the desire to build a home with their husbands, but ended with both parties going their separate ways for one reason or the other.