Mr Enyioma Ezeama and his wife, Uchechi, are among the exemplary couples who acknowledged that marriage is truly God-ordained institution and not a contract as many see it. Their love did not just develop along the line. Their love started from the time they first met. While Enyioma was living in Lagos, Uchechi was in Port Harcourt.
When the right time came, Enyioma sent a message home, asking his parents to get him a wife, as it was commonly done in those days. Lucky Uchechi was, therefore, recommended to him by his sister.
In this interview with GILBERT EKEZIE, the couple revealed how they agreed to marry at first sight and the secret of their 41 years of peaceful marriage.
Briefly, what is your background?
Husband: I am the first son of late Elder Meshack Ezeama of Umunkiri Mgboko Oke Ngwa Autonomous Community in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State. I worked in Lagos and retired in 2014 after 35 years. I am now into buying and selling.
Wife: I am from Mgboko Omeni and I got married in 1976 at Mgboko Oke Ngwa.
How is your marital life?
Husband: I got married in 1976 and we are blessed with a child, Chukwuemeka, after some years of childlessness.
Wife: My marital life is interesting and I give glory to God for the successful journey so far.
How did you meet each other?
Husband: I first had the mind of marrying in 1972, but for my younger ones who I was training in school, I decided to wait until I was freer from the family responsibilities. My father died early in 1971. But in 1975, my younger sister returned from the University of Ibadan and told me she had seen a girl for me to marry. She mentioned her name. Though I did not know her, I knew her parents and a bit of her family background. I was happy and fulfilled because I was very eager to get married then. After eight months of that information, in 1976, I decided to travel home from Lagos to see her. I got attracted and married her within one week, because I did not want to take chances. Since that time, we have been living happily.
Wife: One of my sisters, who is also his own sister, told me when I returned home from PortHarcourt that her brother, Enyioma wanted to marry me. I was surprised and asked whether her brother knew me and she said it was not an issue. So, I asked her to send her brother’s photograph so I could see him properly, as was applicable in those days. When he brought the photo, he also wrote a lovely letter to me. After reading the letter, the sweet wordings moved me and I accepted to marry him. Then, I always kept the letter under my pillow and always read it. It was recently I threw the letter away, after about 41 years of marriage. He asked whether anyone had asked for my hand in marriage and I said no. Meanwhile, there was a man who wanted to marry me before the war, but my parents refused. They wanted to come for traditional marriage rites before the Nigeria/Biafran war started and we ran away. They even met us on our way and my mother asked them to go till after the war. When we returned after the war, he went back to school. Meanwhile, I decided not to go on with the marriage, I rejected the man because he was stingy. So, my parents felt he was not going to take good care of me. Thereafter, my main husband came and I hooked on. In fact, I would have regretted marrying the first man if I did.
How would you describe each other?
Husband: She is God’s special blessing to me, my pride and the secret of my success story. She is beautiful and romantic.
Wife: After God, my husband follows and I will score him 100 percent due to his sincerity, care and love. In fact, I so much love him. Sometime, I told God that both of us should die same day, so that we would continue our marriage and love over there, because I cannot bear his death and I do not think he will bear mine. Whenever I am hot and he talks to me, It would be as if they poured water on me. He is just a wonderful and exceptional husband who every woman would want to have.
How did you feel the first time you saw each other?
Husband: Actually, I never saw her before but I heard about her family. And when I saw her, I felt at home. I was attracted by her charming beauty, coupled with what my sister told me about her good character.
Wife: The first day I was invited to meet him, he wore his dress inside out. When I saw his pant, I was shocked at his fresh skin. I was really convinced that he is my kind of man.
Did anyone object to your marriage?
Husband: No one objected. My uncle and everyone supported me because there were enquiries before that and everything was in order.
Wife: No one objected. My mother in law-loved and accommodated me.
What kind of person did you intend marrying?
Husband: I had the mind of marrying a black, tall and beautiful woman who has a good family background. And at the end, I was lucky to find one who has the qualities I wanted.
Wife: When I was growing up, I told myself that I needed a man who would love and take care of me. I was not after marrying a rich person because, money is not everything. I was also praying to get a man who has good family background, as that was what matters most in marriage. Fortunately, God gave me the kind of man I wanted.
How was the beginning of your marriage?
Husband: The beginning was challenging. We had much misunderstanding because my wife could not conceive after five years. But our love grew much stronger. At that time, parents were after child bearing as soon a man gets married, and when that is not happening, tongues would begin to wag and there will be ill-feelings. My wife was worried and travelling home became a problem for us because of what people would say.That not withstanding, we remained in love, waiting for God’s appropriate time to come.
In 1981, God gave us a male child and thereafter, everything about misunderstanding ended. Our immediate families were not the problem, but members of our compound. After two years, another pregnancy came, but unfortunately the baby did not stay. Since then, no pregnancy again.
Wife: For me, the beginning was good. I do not know what I will compare with the love he has for me. I left Port Harcourt for Lagos and since then, it has been a good time. I do not normally buy things my self because he knows my size. He normally buys expensive things. He is not the jealous type. When we married newly, I used to spend days at his friend’s house without anything. Life was good then. And as a beautiful girl then, anyone who saw me would look back and he tried very well to maintain my beauty and provided other needs. He used to go out to drink beer, but immediately, I came in, he stopped. I buy beer and put in the refrigerator. Then whenever he returned from work, he would take his brand, give me mine and we drank together after eating food. Initially, I did not eat afternoon food while I was waiting for him to return from work. We ate morning and night food together. And, if I was not around, he would wait for me.Till date, we maintained that routine except one of us travelled. That has been the secret of our marriage.
How did you feel when you couldn’t conceive after five years of marriage?
Wife: It will not be easy for any woman in such a situation, but my husband and my mother in-law were source of encouragement to me. When my mother in-Iaw invited me to the village and took me to my father in-laws sister and she gave me some herbs to drink. Thereafter I returned to Lagos, I became pregnant and later I had a miscarriage. Then, I was working, the doctor advised me to resign in order not to lose another pregnancy. After resigning, I felt I should not just stay idle. I joined some friends to Cotonou to buy wrappers. I did that without telling my husband because my pregnancy was growing. Then, Customs did not disturb me due to the size of my stomach. I went to Cotonou three times before my husband knew. When I eventually had my baby, I named him Chukwuemeka.
How do you feel having only one child?
Wife: I do not regret having only one child because he is capable of doing everything for us. In fact, I thank God for that.
Husband: I do not feel bad because God has a reason for that. Moreover, I have never regretted having only one child at all, even as a retiree.This is because God is using him to do what some of those who are many cannot do for their parents. So, I will say that I am comfortable with the one God gave to me.The five years I will say, never bothered me much, I was the one who consoled her. I have never one day got angry or quarelled with her concerning not having more than one child. We were very happy and very much in love.
What is marriage to you?
Husband: Marriage is a blessing which every man must go into whether poor or rich. And if one is lucky to get a good wife, he will be happy and go far in the relationship.
Wife: Marriage is for adults and God’s gift. We should not only marry because we want to have children, rather we should exhibit love, maturity and understanding.
What do you hate about each other?
Husband: I know my wife as a hot tempered person, and after expressing her anger, it takes few minutes for her to cool-down. When her anger subsides, you would never believe that she was the one who was in such mood. She is so playful that one would begin to wonder whether she could ever get angry.
Wife: I do not see anything to hate in my husband. He is a blessing and my back-bone.
How do you notice when one of you is angry?
Husband: Anytime I see that her face has changed, and she starts saying certain things to her self, I know that she is upset. So, that time, I would try to control her. Sometimes, I allow her to express her feelings because it may help to handle a particular situation.
Wife: I have never seen my husband get angry. He may be, but he tries to show understanding and tolerance.
What puts you off?
Husband: Sometimes if I am telling someone the truth and the person tries to argue with me unnecessarily, I get upset because I like standing on what I know is the truth.
Wife: I hate the habit of smoking cigaretts. There was a time my husband was into smoking and the day I caught him, he stopped since then, there is no repeat performance.
What’s your husband’s best food?
Wife: He likes achara soup with moulded egusi. I prepare it for him every weekend.
Do you ever help your wife in the kitchen when she is not available to cook your meal?
Husband: Not all. I do not go there because I am not interested. Our love does not get to that level. I do help her in some other things, but not going to the kitchen to cook. The reason is that I do not know how to cook and my wife knows that. Even when she is sick, she will manage to cook without picking offence because she understands.
What is your relationship with your in-laws?
Wife: The relationship with my in-laws has been cordial, especially my late mother- in –law. Then, when ever she wanted to go to the farm and I was sleeping, she would not wake me, but took my flask to put water for me. Then, when I woke, I cook and take food to her in the farm. She used to scrub my back whenever I am taking my bath. She was not jealous of me like other mother in- laws do. When I did not have a child, she encouraged and advised me not to worry. Then, if I travelled, I would sit on her lap. We ate together to the extent that some villagers were wondering why I should eat with such an old woman. In fact, I did so many things together with my late mother-in-law, due the love I had for her and the one she had for me too. It was indeed a nice experience.
Husband: My relationship with them is very cordial. Majority of them who are in Lagos today came through me. They lived in my house and I trained them from primary to secondary school level. Today, they are on their own.
Could you state the difference between your bachelorhood and married life?
Husband: When I was single, I used to go with friends to drink. But when I got married, my wife discouraged me from going out by stocking drinks in the fridge. After work, instead of going to the bar, I went straight home to drink my beer. I did not have time again to go out. I would say that I have not visited any bar to relax and drink since my wife’s intervention.
41 years of marriage. Tell us your experiences
Wife: 41 years was full of joy, though tough in the beginning. Today, I am enjoying it because it has a solid foundation which was built on love and understanding.
Husband: It is very interesting and a success story that has left us with no other option but to continue to thank God for giving me the kind of wife I have today. I celebrated my 70th birthday in Lagos on July 16, with my family, relations, friends and well –wishers. The essence was to appreciate God for what He is doing for me and family because it is not easy to clock that age with sound health. I also took that opportunity to celebrate my wife, son and other members of my family who are great contributors to the success story of the family.
What is unique about your marriage?
Husband: I would say that God really blessed me with my wife. Since we got married, our quarrel has not lasted more than 24 hours. We eat together, bath together and do other things in common. Our only child, Chukwuemeka is loyal and hardworking. He learnt a lot from us and is following our footsteps.
Wife: It is marriage built on love, understanding and trust.
What is your advice to unmarried and younger couples?
Husband: Marriage is all about understanding each other, despite challenges. Naturally, women understand men more. They all have hidden agenda and have all it takes to make or mar every marriage. But one thing that remains sancrosanct is that couples should be truthful and try to understand each other in every situation. It is obvious that there is no marriage without quarrel, disagreement and challenges, but they should be handled with love, trust and understanding. They should also put God first in all they do.
Wife: It is important for married or intending couples to learn more about marriage before going into it. Whenever one is going contrary to the views of his wife or vice versa, there must be a problem in the family. So, couples should try to do things in common. Be open, sincere, try to accommodate and tolerate each other’s shortcomings. They should exhibit love and respect. By so doing, the disagreement that may arise will be minimal and controllable.
Why do you think that marriages are breaking these days?
Husband: It is building love on earthly things. There is no love any longer, but money. Marriage is seeing oneself as one. People should be content with the little they have. Family background is also very important when it comes to marriage. Having knowledge of God will go a long way too. It is unfortunate that these days, people do not investigate well before they marry. What men or women go for these days are, “My husband or wife is this or that. He or she is a doctor, banker, lawyer, celebrity, lives abroad, or successful business man”, without trying to look into the person’s background or personal character. That is what actually makes marriages crash these days because after marriage, some unbearable secrets would be revealed.
Wife: There is no more natural love as in those days. Then, people marry for who you are and not how much you get. But today, money and education is what speak and not character. On the side of men they mainly go for beauty and educational background and not family background. All these are good, but not the major thing in marriage which is character and good family background. No matter how you love a man but do not love his family, it will not work. If women should show love to their in-laws, it will be difficult for them to have problem in the home. Also women should know how to cook because it is one of the secrets of men’s love to their wives. They should also treat their mother in-laws well to attract more blessings.