Dr. Chijioke Peter Ndeche, an evangelist with the Anglican Church and his wife, Mrs. Ifeyinwa Esther, both from Agulu Town in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, had had their fair share of marital challenges. But after 31 years in marriage, they have continued to maintain a good testimony for their union. Wedded on the 26th of November, 1988, at Our Saviour’s Anglican Church, Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos, they are blessed with five children: three girls and two boys. They spoke to GLORIA IKEGBULE on what it takes to keep a happy home. Excerpts:
It is often said that marriage is beautiful. Do you share this view?
Husband: Marriage, the one I have experienced, is beautiful. I say this because I married a woman of my dream. Marriage is beautiful when you see someone you can share your secrets with and who can make you happy. There can be some downturns and disagreement, but the experience is very beautiful. For me, marriage is something every man must experience. It is very beautiful.
Wife: I agree with him. Marriage is beautiful if you marry your dream man. Marriage is beautiful if you marry your friend. If you understand the person you want to marry, you will not have any problem. Before I met him, I had other suitors. The first suitor I had was his cousin but I didn’t know. I knew after we got married. I rejected him because he was very proud and looked down on other people. I told God that I can’t cope with this person. I wanted someone that would take me for who I am. When I saw him, I didn’t need a prophet to tell me. My heart agreed that he was the one.
Was your marriage love at first sight?
Wife: Yes! It was more than that. My heart accepted him without anybody preaching to me. Unlike his cousin that came, he lived in Lagos and was wealthy but his attitude made me realize I would not cope with him. I was not up to 20 years then but I knew what I wanted and I went for it. When my husband came, he was very kind and calm. I said within myself, this is the kind of person I would like to share my life with.
Husband: How I knew it was God that was leading me is that I am someone who is very choosy, critical and careful with detail. Hence, I was always finding fault in the ladies that my mother brought to me. The ladies may come from wealthy families or were very educated, yet I would always find fault. I was working in Lagos and hardly travelled to the village. But the moment my mother found my would-be wife and I saw her, almost every weekend I was going to the village. Amazingly, I was not thinking of marriage then but when I saw her, I was in a hurry to marry. I was also intrigued that she accepted me for who I was. One of the ladies from Nnewi was happy that I wanted to marry her because I was educated. She lamented that all the men coming for her hand in marriage were traders who could not express themselves but she saw in me someone that could measure up to her educational status. I told her I liked her but I would not marry someone who I would not have genuine love for. Another lady I would have married before I met my wife was discouraged by her mother. We were even making arrangement for the wedding when the mother of the lady found out that I was driving taxi in Lagos. But when I found my wife, everything went smoothly. I was not thinking of them being rich or poor or whether she was educated or not; I have seen the picture I wanted: someone beautiful and who has good legs. The woman who stopped her daughter from marrying me came to our house in the village a day after my traditional marriage. She cried profusely rolling herself on the floor. She heard how I lavished money during the wedding in my wife’s village. She confessed that her enemies were at work when they told her that I was a taxi driver. Now, what should have come to her had been taken by another.
What motivated you to marry him knowing he was a taxi driver?
Wife: Aside that he comes from a humble family, I have always admired the love that existed between his parents long before I knew he was their son. On two occasions I had sat together on the same pew with his parents, I saw how they treated each other, and again, they were always together. I told God I wanted a marriage in which my husband and I are going to always do things together. I didn’t really know his parents, prior to our meeting but it was their relationship that made me to marry my husband.
Should finance play a huge role in the choice of a spouse?
Husband: Money is very important but it shouldn’t play the ultimate role in the choice of a partner. When I married my wife, I didn’t have too much money. If you have all the money and you do not have feelings and love for the person you are going to marry, that marriage will not go far. In marriage, marry the person, not the money, connection or certificate. Nonetheless, money is important in marriage. I have daughters and wouldn’t want a person who does not have anything or is struggling to have to come and marry my daughters.
Wife: I didn’t marry because of money but out of love and his nature. I had friends who got married to wealthy men; I know how they were being treated. If I looked out for those that had money, I wouldn’t have married him. I married him as a taxi driver without knowing he had other things he was doing to get money.
What do you mean by ‘marry the person’?
Husband: Marrying the person means marry the personality, character or disposition of your would-be spouse. If you want to have peace in your home, marry someone with a peaceful disposition. If you marry because the person is rich, wealth is different from the person. In other words, marry for who the person is and not for what he has.
How has your marital journey together been?
Husband: With what I see in the world today, I would say our marriage was made in heaven. I can boldly say that the hand of God has been on our union. We are on good term with our extended families and we have not struggled with anything, including childbearing. The only issue was that I had a protective mother who was always looking out for me because I was her first son. I had to bring her to order.
Wife: It has not been easy especially, in Igbo land, you don’t marry only the man, you marry the family. The way I grew up, whatever you cook, you share equally. His family thought I was being wasteful giving equal meat to everyone. My husband got to understand me and directed his family especially his mother to get in touch with him first on any issue they had with me. That settled the issue. I would say that my marriage is made in heaven if there is anything like that. In my next world, I would still marry him. He only needs to adjust in some areas.
How did you meet?
Husband: It was my mother that found her. Immediately I saw her, the picture I had in mind came alive. Marriage was not on my mind to marry but my mother was worrying me that I should get married. She felt I had started making some money and being in Lagos, all the Lagos girls could snatch me away. I told her I would get married if she found someone I liked. Within one week, she had found five women. But all the women she brought did not appeal to me. I had to describe for her the kind of person I wanted to marry. I wanted a beautiful woman with good legs. My wife is from her village. The moment she saw my wife, she felt she was the person whose picture I painted for her. She told me she had found somebody and we went to see her. When I saw her, I said, ‘Ahhhh… this is it!’ My spirit clicked with hers from that first day of meeting her.
Wife: My mother-in-law saw me one evening my mother sent me on an errand. I greeted her. She walked past, and called me back. She asked me who my father was, I told her. She said, “When your father died we were there but I did not see you”. I said maybe I was not there. One early morning, the mother, Peter and an uncle of his came to our house. They said they came to drink water. In fact, I was still in my nightwear and I wondered why some people would come to someone’s house early in the morning only to come and drink water. I brought the water but only the uncle drank. They left without saying anything. After that amazing visit, Peter kept coming to our house. On each visit, he came with gifts. My mother had not decided then if I was going to marry him but my mind was made up to marry him seeing all the gifts he gives me. I said to my mother when she was asking me to wait for us to find out about him, ‘Mama, me I must follow this man oohh.’
Husband: You see why it is good to have money?
What do you cherish most about your union?
Husband: I cherish our sincerity. We have our faults and don’t try to fake anything. In a situation where anything goes wrong, we discuss and find a way to solve it. I don’t compare my marriage with anyone’s because I don’t see any marriage that is better than mine. By my profession and calling, I meet a lot of women but I can’t live with any if not my wife. I am somebody who gets tired easily with people but I have been living with my wife for over 30 years and it’s just like yesterday. My wife is humble and does her things in a humble manner.
Wife: Everything! He is an easy-going somebody. He may have his faults but that playful attitude makes him a delight. He can come down to your level. He doesn’t discriminate and, he takes you for who you are. He is someone that likes being with me, takes care of me and whatever he has he shares
Husband: I am very generous too. When I married her I took her out and spoilt her with gifts.
What are the keys of a happy union?
Husband: Be yourself. Be sincere. Accept the person for who he or she is. By this, you can always manage your challenges. Don’t live a false life. When I came for the wine carrying, she knew the car I used to carry her was not my own. Work on yourself. Try to improve yourself. More so, complement and correct each other in love.
Wife: Make up your mind that you want to settle down and go into the marriage with your whole heart. Be sincere. Even if you have made a mistake in the past, be open. One day, my husband came home and he misplaced a huge amount of money. I kept the money. When there was a need in the house after a year, I brought out the money and explained to him that the money belonged to him. That money was useful in paying our house rent.
Many marriages are on the verge of break-up. Why do marriages struggle to the extent of breaking up?
Husband: A lot of marriages struggle because the people involved are not real and don’t tell themselves the truth. Although there are challenges in marriage, if the couple is sincere, they can work things out together. There are bad habits picked up from the family, like pride, anger that if not dropped may affect the union. With regard to wealth and wellbeing, couples should live within their means. Wives especially should not force their husbands to live above their income. Be happy with whom you married and, don’t try to compare yourselves or find your happiness in other people’s lives.
Wife: Some marriages struggle because the people involved are selfish and wicked. The couple is not sincere. When there is a need in the family, you know of the need but you choose to send money to your family in the village without the knowledge of your spouse. Marriages also struggle because the couple involved has not come to become one as they were pronounced by God. They see and do things differently.