After 33 years of marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Ebe have come to the conclusion that though marriage is not a bed of roses it is definitely not a field of thorns either. In this interview with Saturday Sun, the couple who is blessed with four children, reveals what it took to make their marriage work in spite of challenges. They spoke with ROSE EJEMBI in Makurdi.
Can you tell us about yourselves?
Husband: My name is Jack Ebe. I am from Etulo and I speak Etulo, English and a little Tiv. I was born on November 16, 1956. I did my primary school after which I went to secondary school at Kings Commercial College. After completing my secondary education, I worked for nine months before proceeding to Kaduna Polytechnic where I had my OND and HND in Purchasing and Supply. I graduated in 1981 and then did my NYSC after which I came to Benue State and worked briefly with the state Ministry of Finance. Between the year I left for further studies in Managerial Psychology, at the University of Ibadan, and the year 2016 when I fully retired from public service I worked at the Federal University of Technology, Makurdi (now University of Agriculture, Makurdi), read and obtained for two more masters degrees, in Political Science, Business Administration, respectively, in addition to the first. In 2011 I voluntarily retired as Chief Purchasing Officer and left for Federal University, Dutsima in November, 2011 as Deputy Director, Procurement. While, there, I was promoted to Director of Procurement. I was there for five years. I got married to my wife, Nora on 3rd August, 1985 and the relationship is blessed with four children, all girls. Our first child, Joyce is married and based in Abuja with her husband. The others are Grace, Ruth and Ann. All four girls are graduates except our last, Ann who is an undergraduate studying Mass Communication at the University of Mkar. My wife has been outstanding in every way of womanhood since I got married to her. We have been together since that 1985. I am proud of her and she is also proud of me.
Wife: My name is Nora Ebe. I am an indigene of Bassange in Kogi State. My village is called Ate and I come from a family of seven. My parents are late. I had my primary education at All Saints Anglican Primary School, Samaru in Zaria. Thereafter, I went to the renowned Government Girls Secondary School in Kwoi, Kaduna State. I then had a break for a while until 2007 when I secured admission to for my first degree (B.Ed English) at the Benue State University. I also went in for a Masters programme in Public Administration in the same university. I work as a Counsellor at Government College, Makurdi. I am also a Deputy Director with the Benue State Teaching Service Board.
How did you meet?
Wife: Well, by virtue of my father’s transfer from ABU Zaria to Benue State Civil Service in 1980, when we moved to Makurdi, we began to worship at ECWA Church, Barracks Road. And that was where we started seeing each other. But prior to that time, I worked also in the Ministry of Finance briefly between 1980 and 1983. He was then with the Ministry of Finance but seconded to the Ministry of Education.
Husband: Actually, we were together in the Youth Fellowship. I used to see her but I had no feelings that this was somebody that I was going to marry because at that time, I wasn’t even thinking about marriage at all. It was not until when two of my cousins drew my attention to the fact that I was already ripe for marriage by virtue of the fact that I was working and doing well that I started thinking about marriage. They then told me about this sister in the Youth Fellowship and asked if I had noticed her. I just laughed and waved it off. It didn’t dawn on me that I was going to begin to think seriously about her until sometime later when I prayed and sought the face of God about marriage. God led me to her and I approached her. Before I approached her, seven other people had done so and I was the eighth man. After I made my intention known to her, she didn’t say anything to me as to whether she accepted or not. When the pressure on her from all the brothers who had approached her became too much, she left Makurdi to Maiduguri and it was from there that she sent for me to come. I traveled to Maiduguri with another brother in the church. That was how the deal was sealed. We came back and started the relationship and eventually got married.
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Your husband just said that there were about eight of them who asked for your hand in marriage. Why did you single him out among all of them for marriage?
Wife: To a large extent, God had prepared us for each other, or else, there was a likelihood that I would have given in to those other persons. And, of course, I really didn’t have a desire to marry any of them.
How did you propose to her?
Husband (Laughs). I told her straight ahead that I love her and that if it is God’s desire for us to marry, I wished we could come together as husband and wife. She just told me she was going to pray about it. And while she was doing so, she left Makurdi for Maiduguri. I think she prayed through before she decided to send for me. She said she had informed her parents about it and the parents had consented to her choice. So, I came back from Maiduguri rejoicing.
What was your initial reaction the first day that he proposed to you, how did you react? Were you expecting it?
Wife: I think I bluntly told him that I was not prepared. It was in his house in Kararafa Quarters that he summoned me. Before then, I could see his intention because he was doing some underground things like visiting me and bringing things I loved to my office. I foresaw that he had something in mind. When he finally let it out, I told him that he should give me time that I was actually not really interested in marriage at that time. It took sometime before I gave in to his proposal.
After the marriage, what were the initial challenges that you faced?
Wife: The first challenge I had was coping with so many people in the home. I was not used to that kind of life because from where I was coming from, I was used to my nuclear family alone, with the exception of holidays, when we usually have my cousins around. So, I had the problem of coping with too many people in the house. At that time, I had not understood their language. He had his own house in High Level where we stayed after marriage. But there were Etulo people around us there and two of his siblings were also living with us. He is a man of the people, so they were always coming around. So many others that I didn’t know were always coming around. In fact, my home was having traffic as at that time. So, I had problem. The other challenge I had was that even the youngest person in the family would call him by his name and that irritated me so much. I found that strange because in my place, we don’t do like that. Once you are an adult, nobody calls you by your name. To him, it didn’t mean anything but to me it did. But God has helped us.
Husband: As she rightly said, I am well loved by people and I like people around me. So as people were visiting us after our wedding, I could see signs of withdrawal in her. I could read her face and her mood whenever people, came around and all I kept doing was to keep praying that God would help us understand each other. I thank God that we overcame that. The issue of language is not a problem because now she can speak my language. Sometimes when visitors come and I don’t want them to hear what we are discussing, I would communicate to her in my language and she would pick. She adjusted very fast and I appreciate her for that.
What are some of the values and recipes that have sustained your marriage over the years?
Husband: The first recipe is love. If love is genuine in your relationship, there is nothing your partner will do that will make you stop loving her. But as a human being, you may be angry once in a while but the Bible says you should not allow the sun go down on your anger. Second recipe is acceptability. You have to accept the fact that both of you are from different backgrounds and it will take some time to blend. The third recipe is forgiveness. These are paramount in marriage. For me, one thing that has helped us to stay together for 33 years and still counting is that anytime she’s not happy with me, I would know it no matter how she tries to conceal it. I know her mannerism, her gestures and all such that as soon as I notice that she’s not happy with me, I would pray and God would minster to her and to me and we would resolve the issue, come back together and start smiling.
Wife: Like he said, one of the ingredients is acceptability. Accepting him for who he is and dwelling with him as such. In marriage, you begin to know other things about your spouse that maybe did not show up during the courtship. The other aspect is prayer; getting back to God even though sometimes, it is a little bit difficult to do so. But I think, basically, prayers have actually helped us in trying to adapt to each other. And then, opening up to each other things you don’t like in him or her instead of concealing hurts. When you conceal, the problems continues to go on but when you open up and talk about it and you consciously try to avoid those things that can bring problems between you even if they don’t mean anything to you. But because you are staying with another person and it could mean a lot to the other person. These are some of the things that have actually helped us.
What do you think is the role of communication in marriage?
Wife: Communication is a very vital tool in marriage relationship between husband and wife because if you don’t communicate, you may misconstrue a lot of actions. But if there is communication between the two of you, most of the misunderstanding that you have may not be there. When you learn to say things the way you feel to your spouse and your spouse also learns to give you a listening ear and attention and take action, I think most times, some of these problems in marriages that usually escalate or snowball into divorce or separation as the case may be wouldn’t be there. What a woman really wants and I pray men will understand is, give your wife a listening ear no matter how busy you are. The men are always in a rush. It is always good that when a man and his wife are together especially when there is a problem, let the man have the patience to listen to all the rubbish that the woman may want to vomit and then as a man, you know where to come in.
Husband: To me, communication in marriage simply means understanding each other. It means passing the right information at the right time and at the right place. It means understanding the other party. Again, like the Bible says, love covers all sins. If you love your spouse, no matter the misunderstanding, you will love him or her still. One thing with me and I think with many couples is that I will never intentionally do anything that will hurt my wife. There are times that I would do something and then when she points it out to me, I would look at it and then say, ‘I didn’t mean it that way’. So, when I realize these things, I don’t hesitate to say sorry to her and she’s also never tired of accepting my apologies and forgiving me.
After over 30 years of marriage, can you honestly say you still love yourselves?
Wife: Yeah, there are so many things I can say about him in these 33 years of marriage. One is that he has been standing in for me and our children. In fact, it’s like without him, nothing moves for us. He provides for us adequately well. There are so many instances that he has risen to challenges that have come to us as individuals and as a family that I feel truly, nobody can really stand in his place.
What will be your advice to younger couples?
Wife: When you marry somebody who truly loves God, you will be able to cope with some of the challenges in marriage. It’s not as if divorce or separation will not come because you will meet certain situations that you will just wonder whether it is this same man that had said he loves you that is behaving towards you like that? But when you have Christ, even if you find yourself in such situation, because both of you are children of God and you know your source of power, you will go back there, before you know it, the issue is resolved. So, for younger people, I would advise that they shouldn’t rush into marriage. Marriage is an institution that when you get in there, you remain there until death do you part. Younger people are looking at the glamour of their weddings not knowing there is a lot of work in marriage.