How did you meet your spouse?
Christopher: I met my wife at the hospital where we both worked. I was a medical doctor and she was a practising mid-wife at the same hospital.
Funmi: I met my husband at the hospital where we used to work as colleagues. I was a midwife while he worked as a medical doctor at the hospital. We got talking and the rest is history.
How did you propose to your wife?
Christopher: The first time that l saw her, l asked her if she would like to be Mrs. Esema?
How did your husband proposed to you?
Funmi: The first time he saw me, he asked if I would like to be Mrs. Esema. I was so amazed that I didn’t respond. It took me some time to process the information because I was not expecting such. It was a scene to remember, sweet memories.
What was the attraction?
Christopher: I discovered that she was a believer who is devoted and very committed to Christian activities. She got involved in all activities of the church, and she is time-cautious when it comes to anything church. Her physical features that attracted me include her height and appearance. She is tall and beautiful, equally very honest.
Funmi: I noticed that he was honest, handsome, zealous for God and he is a medical doctor, someone in my line of profession.
What was your reaction when he proposed?
Funmi: I was scared since l did not know much of him and we are not from the same tribe. I am from Yoruba, Ekiti, and he is an Ibibio man. I went to God’s presence to pray for guidance and committed it into His hand. l also asked my committed mature friends to pray along with me.
How did you manage her reaction?
Christopher: I felt blessed and favoured for God to allow me share my future with her and it accorded me with a lot of responsibility. I trusted God also to keep to His word.
Considering differences in your background, what were some of the marital difficulties that you encountered at the initial stage of your marriage and how you were able to cope?
Christopher: You know, my wife and I came from different ethnic backgrounds. So we had to learn certain things from our cultures. That included values, norms and morals. I taught my wife how to communicate with our dialect and also how eat meals from Akwa-Ibom. I employed the services of a lady from Akwa-Ibom to teach her how to make those dishes. She was willing and learnt from the woman. It took her some time to cope with my family. But with the grace of God, she was able to manage the situation.
Funmi: The marital differences we encountered at the early stage of our marriage included language barrier even though he speaks Yoruba very well. But l wanted to impress my in-laws in speaking their language but I was not fluent. l found it difficult then, though my husband was teaching me. I later learnt quite some. I can now communicate with it. Another difference was the food. Since our meals are different, my husband approached a lady to write a recipe book for me to cook. l usually take the book to Otto market whenever l want to shop and buy the ingredients there. When l want to cook l close the kitchen door and follow the steps. l later became a great cook in all the Ibibio foods. I had some challenges with my mother-in-law initially. My experience was not palatable. But I had to try to make peace as a child of God. I was able to overcome it. l took it to God in prayers and l became the best of friend to my mother-in-law before she went to be with the lord. In the local church we were attending (Victory Christian Centre), the late Bishop Hayford Anayo Iloputaife was an instrument used by God to guide us.
How do you handle conflicts and keep your cool when you are misunderstood over issues?
Christopher: As Christians, we allow the Word of God to guide us. We do not leave God out of the union. Since He is the Author, we cannot read or live a chapter without Him. We allow the fruit of the Spirit to work. I keep quiet first, seek for a better time to discuss it with my wife. l speak to God about it, asking Him to prevail and thereafter l see wonders as God speaks to her. Whenever there is an offence, I equally apologize to her first so we don’t have a prolonged misunderstanding.
Funmi: My husband apologizes as many times as he can, not because he is weak but because of the Word of God commanding us not to allow the sun to go down on our wrath (Ephesians 4: 26 & 27). We do not keep an archive of wrongs done. No record. Once he apologizes, that offence is gone and we don’t make reference to it.
Do you still argue about irrelevant things despite the long years together?
Christopher: Certainly, we argue and derive pleasure from it whenever there is an argument. We can make fun and end up laughing over the incident. Marriage is enjoyable if the parties involved take time to work things out.
Funmi: Yes many times because we are of different minds and our opinions may not be the same many times. But as his wife l just defer to him and accept even though later he might decide to tow my line of reasoning.
What more do you want to know about marriage despite your wealth of knowledge?
Christopher: A whole lot. According to God’s principle, you keep learning from the institution called marriage. You can never know too much from this sacred institution called marriage.
Funmi: We can never know it all. We daily ask God to help us to navigate through.
There had been cases where some secrets revealed in a marriage made it collapse. In light of this fact, do you think couples should open up to their partners on everything?
Christopher: If the couples are friends, they will share everything and not keep a secret. When you have situations like that, it seems they are no longer friends because if they are close, there would be no secret.
Funmi: What secret can someone have when you want to live your entire life with the person? There should be openness and they should be able to talk things over. It’s better you know now than to hide it. Trust will be at stake if what you are trying to hide eventually comes to light. There shouldn’t be any secret. If there was one, pray about it for God to create a better time to discuss it.
What is the greatest threat to harmonious living in marriage?
Christopher: When couples yell and scream at each other, when they speak poorly about each other, they let everyone know of their contempt for their spouse, when they become violent with each other, it is a threat to the relationship as there will be no romance in their midst. Nobody would want to use soft words anymore. Even their responses and attitude will become disrespectful.
Funmi: Violence is a great threat to marriage. In any home where there is no peace but constant quarrels and other violent acts between couples they usually lead to separation.
Could you share with our readers the 31 lessons you’ve learnt for your 31 years of marriage?
Christopher: Though I may not be able to itemise them, but for 31 years we’ve been together, my spouse and I have to come to figure out that marriage takes a team work. We tackle problems side by side. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you and your spouse are in the same team. In every hardship, every trial, you should work together and not in opposition to each other. Nothing pretty ever grows in the soil of selfishness. God desires that we produce a crop of far more beautiful fruit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23)– but He must amend our soil before that can happen. Marriage is one means b.
Funmi: Thirty-one lessons from our 31 years of marriage? Waoh, every year is a lesson. In honour of those 31 blissful years of marriage, we can share 31 secrets of our marital success. To start with, I chose my spouse wisely. Pledging our lives and love to each other was one of the best decisions we made.
The divorce rate is quite high in our generation, most times owing to infidelity and domestic violence. How may we balance marital love to avoid this?
Christopher: Submission on the part of the wife and love on the part of the man. A woman should respect her husband and talk to him with manners. Some women are not courteous in their dealings.
Funmi: The rate of divorce is increasing because men are kneeling before women to propose and not before God. When the fear of God rules our life, we will know that whatever we do to our spouse, we do to Christ. Divorce also happens because of financial strains. I will therefore urge both husband and wife to look for how to make it in life. Poverty causes fight. Also the issue of side chicks or whatever is becoming a phenomenon. Wives should therefore take good care of themselves physically, look presentable and not look like old women. They should keep fit and trendy too. Moreover, they should pray against the intrusion of “strange woman” in their marriage.
What’s your advice for intending couples who aspire to have their union last as long as yours has lasted?
Christopher: Love each other. The person you married will change and you will change too. But if you stay focused on the essence of what you love about your spouse, you can roll with the changes and stay in love.
Funmi: Marriage is more about being faithful than being happy. Happiness is a byproduct of faithful, committed, caring love. Take care of the faithfulness, and happiness will find you.
My folks say feelings can run. Truly, you can’t make reasonable decisions based on temporary feeling. Commitment is always the touchstone. Don’t just wed; be married. Let Christ be the centre of the marriage. Be patient with each other and learn how to pray together. Keep dating and show affection to each other. Also keep trendy for each other. And don’t live your life for social media.