Rev. Kehinde Daniel Gbenle, the Local Overseer of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) and Senior Pastor of its Ijanikin Lagos branch and his wife, Esther, got married two-and-a-half decades ago. Since then, they have lived together despite challenges. In this interview with BIANCA IBOMA-EMEFU, they share their marital experiences in which they pointed out mutual love, understanding, faith and deep personal commitment as the saving graces of their marital relationship. Excerpt:
Can we have brief details into your backgrounds?
Husband: I was born in Oke-Ode in Ifelodun Local Government Area in Kwara State. After my primary and secondary education, I moved to Ilorin where I became an apprentice as a furniture maker. My boss then was a Christian and encouraged me so much. After my encounter with Christ Jesus, I joined the Evangelim team where we traveled with other members of the group to different states.
Wife: I was born in Idofin – lgbana in Oke Ero LGA, Kwara State although I grew up in Ilorin where I visited home whenever I had the chance. After my secondary education, I came back home because there was no money to further my education and I was praying to marry an engineer, doctor, lawyer or any enterprising career man.
How did you meet your spouse?
Husband: I met her through the gospel. Every 15 days we go for missions and before the activity that usually took us out of Kwara, to different locations, we normally had vigils prior to the evangelical work. On a particular Sunday that we were free, I decided to pay a friend and team member a visit. On my way, I saw her and I admired her immediately I set my eyes on her. Unknown to me, she was a sister to one of the brothers that was part of the team. She came to where that brother was and I saw her again and made enquiry from the brother who told me she was highly responsible.
Wife: I met him through a friend of mine that I had known for a long time.
What was the attraction and how did he propose?
Husband: It was love at first sight. She was attracted to me. My friend introduced us in an organised meeting before I spoke to her. I left her with an instruction, “Go and pray.”
Wife: Usually, whenever I prayed for a life-partner, I asked God to give me a man that would enable me fulfil my destiny and my purpose in life, but when I was introduced to him, I hesitated because I felt he was just a furniture maker.
What was your spouse’s reaction?
Husband: Her facial expression made me to be persistent
Wife: I had mixed feelings. I needed someone who can assist me to further my education not him who was just a furniture maker. But when I started praying over it as instructed by the spirit of God, I accepted him.
What were your initial struggles considering the different backgrounds, and how were you able to surmount them?
Husband: I love my wife more than I ever dreamed of. And it’s also been a totally different experience than either of us thought it would be. I love the picture of us leaving our wedding reception, because in many ways it showed us stepping out into the world when we honestly had no idea, what life would bring us. We just had hopes and dreams. We had several issues initially, but never did we invite a third party to our challenges. Till date our differences remain with us. There was an incident that occurred when we were living in one- room apartment at Oworonshoki, Lagos. I gave her money to buy a curtain material. She bought it but I became furious when I saw it. “Is this what you but with the money I gave you?”I scolded her because I was furious. But when I realized that she was hurt by my attitude I had to apologise to her.
Wife: The truth is, that marriage is work; hard work. But it’s a wonderful hard work. Ofences are bound but you have to apply wisdom at every point in time. My husband gave me N600 then to buy curtain. When I got to Oshodi market I walked around trying to get a good quality, but the money could not provide the type he wanted me to buy. I had to settle for a lesser one that the cash he gave me could carry. When I got home my husband scolded me like a baby and I wept, because I was hurt after all the trouble I went through in the market. And there were times that I did things that would hurt him too. When we got married, we were told not to invite third party to our matter.
Both of us have felt more pain than we ever knew was possible and deeper joy than we ever realized existed. I love him more than I have ever loved anyone or anything (except Christ, of course.
Our love has grown richer and better overtime, but we have also had few seasons when we wondered whether love had vaporized. There were seasons when the only reason it wasn’t over is because Jesus said it wasn’t over.
So we stayed. And our emotions eventually caught up with our obedience.Through it all, Christ has kept us together and brought us a more wonderful, fulfilling relationship than either of us knew was possible.
What are some of the tips that made your marriage successful?
Husband: Faith. We both have faith because it is not an easy task.True love is a decision, a decision to place someone else’s well-being above yours; to stick through the tough times; to love when you don’t feel loved. God is not thrilled with you all the time, yet He loves you. Love is a decision, not an emotion.
Wife: I believe God has called me to stay married to one man for life, and my husband equally believes God has called him to stay married to one woman for life. And in the process of being obedient, we both discovered something incredible: our emotions eventually caught up with obedience. I have faith in my husband. I have not said he would not make mistakes. I will be with him in it all through. A woman should be like Esther, Ruth and even Deborah in the Bible. No matter the character a man possesses, it’s a woman’s decision to build her home. Deborah stood firm to defend her husband. Women need to humble themselves and should be able to manage crisis in the home when it arises. I understand my husband no matter what happens. I ensure knowledge is available.The key things in marriage are: prayer, love, communication, respectand mutual understanding.
There has been rise in the number of divorce cases, yet you still find couples who believe in the marriage institution?
Husband: Even the most romantic and loving marriage can fall apart if the commitment isn’t there. Couples need to have a firm commitment by sticking with their spouses through good times and bad times. When problems strike, when life feels difficult or when unexpected roadblocks appear, the knowledge that you plan to stay the course matters. With a firm commitment to each other, they can make it through the other side.
Wife: Every couple has disagreements, sometimes big ones, but the ability to manage the situation matters a lot. As time passes, we are likely to meet with these issues again and again, but it’s not the fact that there are disagreements or that there can be a problem, but how we handle them when it arises. Learning to fight fair and to use conflict constructively can get the two of you through it.
What is your advice to younger couples especially with regard to conflict resolution?
Husband: Temperance, tolerance, love and endurance does the magic. There may be some issues that have stayed long and the two of you would continue to have conflict about it for years maybe even throughout your relationship. This might sound like a concern, but in reality, it’s normal. It is not “fixing” every problem that matters, but treating each other with respect and kindness, even when you disagree.
Wife: Every day, we have choices to make about how we behave in our marriage. Can we do a small favour for our spouse? Is there a moment in our days to sit down together and talk? What about sending a loving text or writing a short note? Women please stop going through your husband’s phone if he doesn’t permit you. Don’t pokenose about; rather look for ways to improve the relationship.Small acts of kindness and communication will help keep the connection between you and your spouse strong through all kinds of changes. They should also build new memories and create new positive moments together. The two of you can and will change over the years, but remember to spend time together and reach out. It will keep the marriage strong.
How can couples unwind?
Husband: From the beginning of their marriage, they should learn to do things together. They should eat together, sleep together on one bed. They should also attend social functions together. Togetherness should be their watchword.
Wife: There are many ways depending on individuals and the nature of their jobs. Any method a couple chooses let it be accepted by both parties: be it playing Ludo games, watching films, outing, or working at home.