Mr. Chijioke Nwaehie, a 62-year-old businessman is from Umueze ll, Ehime Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State. Based in Aba at the moment, he began life in Owo, Ondo State, after attending Mbaise Secondary School, in his home state. He later moved to Aba, Abia State, in 1988, to set up a shoe-production business and has remained there since. His wife, Mrs Rophina Chinyere Nwaehie (new Nmeka), from Avutu Obowo, also in Imo State, worked briefly with Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, on graduation from the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede Owerri. The couple, members of the Assemblies of God Church, has lived as husband and wife for close to 30 years. In this interview with OGBONNAYA NDUKWE, both husband and wife shared their lives’ experiences even as they revealed what had held their union together for years. They also adduced reasons marriages fail these days.
Tell us how you met before becoming husband and wife?
Chijioke: I met her in 1989 through my sister, Mrs. Stella Okwulehie (formerly Ucheoma Nwaehie). They were friends. I was watching her and observing her character. What I saw suited my idea of an ideal wife. So I told her that I would like her to be the mother of my children. The year was 1990, but she did not respond then.
Chinyere: He wrote it in a letter and sent it through his sister, Ucheoma. In the said ‘love letter’, he posed many questions including whether I would study to be a medical doctor, a nurse, and so on. The reason he asked was that Ucheoma had obtained training as an auxiliary nurse and opened a patent medicine store, where I went occasionally to assist her. So, my husband got carried away by the passion and humility with which I attended to customers that came to her sister’s shop. I didn’t respond actually to his marriage proposal by word. Rather, I monitored and watched his actions and discovered that he was serious. It was through my body language that he found out that I had accepted to marry him.
Was there any opposition from your relatives against the marriage?
Chijioke: Yes, one of her older brothers, now late, was always around during my visits either at her home or in school. He tried to convince her to dump me and go for a rich man who he felt could give her money and car. However, she always encouraged me to continue coming, saying that she was not interested in such people being recommended by her brother. We courted for three years and her brother was always unhappy seeing me around. He felt I would stop her from schooling if I married her. Because of that, he would be telling her to concentrate on her studies instead.
Chinyere: One of my older brothers, actually a cousin, was always talking big and didn’t want me to marry someone without cash and affluence. On some occasions, he would bring out a bunch of keys from his pocket and dangle them in my face, saying his desire was that I meet and marry someone that would ‘spoil’ me with money, buy a car for me and build a house for the family. At such a time, my husband would become uneasy and ask to leave but I would encourage him to stay. I saw the seriousness in him and believed that he would take good care of me and my children if we got married.
Could you zero in on the qualities that made you stick to marrying each other, even in the face of opposition?
Chijioke: She was very humble, straightforward, and of good behaviour. The character of good motherhood was in her and there were other things I saw that I cannot explain but liked. In fact, I loved seeing her and being with her.
Chinyere: I discovered that there was sincerity in his dealings with me and that he wrote the marriage proposal letter with his whole heart. He didn’t seem to have much but I felt I would be happier with him than those my older brother was pushing me to go for. Many suitors came seeking my hand in marriage but I felt at home with him whenever he was around. As my interest in him grew over the period, we got wedded finally, in November 1993.
You earlier said that you asked her to be the mother of your children. Was that the way to propose then, or…?
Chijioke: (cuts in with laughter) I actually wrote her to express my feelings, and as Christians, in Assemblies of God Church, it was not acceptable for a bachelor to invite a young girl to his house and start talking about marriage. The church leadership must know and monitor what you say or do. So, it was safer for me to write her through my sister before making other moves.
Chinyere: As I said earlier, I did not openly say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to his proposal. Rather, my actions thereafter gave him the answer.
As a married couple, what was the first quarrel you had between you and how was it settled?
Chijioke: Though I cannot remember or recall what it was, or say we never misunderstood each other, l feel threatened whenever my wife’s voice gets louder than mine. She might be right and I might be wrong, but I don’t take kindly to being shouted at in response to the way I handled issues. However, I prayed to God for the grace not to beat my wife, no matter the provocation. We sometimes quarrel but they don’t last. We settle such misunderstandings ourselves at the shortest opportunity. No one from outside – be he or she a neighbour, church, or community committee members – ever came to make peace in our home.
Chinyere: I used to have one character flaw – getting angry when someone questioned my sincerity in any matter. Before marriage, I slapped a girl that provoked me in my husband’s presence. Shocked by my attitude, he asked: “Are you like this?’ But when I explained what led to my slapping the girl, he relaxed. I prayed to God for a willing heart to be able to live with my husband and I got it. My husband is very jealous and easily provoked when I am not with him at home. Initially, we used to disagree about this, now we have overcome the threats they posed during the early days of our marriage.
In what areas would you want your spouse to improve?
Chijioke: We did not come from the same womb, so there must be differences in approaching and handling issues. I want her to continue to believe in God and His promises as well as our plans to succeed.
Chinyere: He has a habit of being jealous and not allowing me to talk when infuriated. I keep praying that God will help him understand that I always meant well when I try to recommend better ways of handling situations. Men are like that and need to be assisted.
Divorce cases are on the increase these days. What advice do you have for young couples and those seeking to go into marriage, and want to live happily like you?
Chijioke: They should, first of all, believe in God and not marry without His consent. Marriage calls for perseverance. Challenges will come and only those with faith in God will survive. Young men should plan well and be able to be tolerant with the women they have chosen as wives. Wives ought to respect their husbands. Wealth does not bring love and happiness into any home rather destruction, if it is the attraction in people coming together as husband and wife. They must do away with unforgiving spirit and be able to accept blame and apology.
Chinyere: Young people planning to marry should study the characters of those they want to choose as spouses. Men should not look at facial beauty alone, leaving out good character. Many marriages fail due to the fact that attitudes displayed during courtship are fake and not replicated in the marriage proper. The women that marry for wealth and affluence usually display their real behaviour after the wedding and pose threats to their husbands because they were not what attracted them to the young girls in the first place. While having my four children, there were times my husband didn’t have money to pay maternity bills after childbirth. We did not quarrel or let other people know. Husband and wife ought to work in harmony to build their home. Divorce or separation is never an answer to settling marriage problems.