Mr. and Mrs. Peter Laiyau started their love journey together in 1979 and got married the same year. Blessed with seven children and several grandchildren, the couple shared their marital experiences with SYLVANUS VIASHMA in Jalingo, Taraba State. Excerpts:
While we thank God for keeping you together as husband and wife, all these years, could you tell us how you met before you got married?
Husband: We met in 1979. She had finished her primary school and came to Jalingo for admission into secondary school. Her friend was my friend’s girlfriend and my friend asked me to check her up. When I saw her, I became interested in her immediately but when I called her, she ran away. But because I was already attracted to her, I continued to follow her. It took me time but eventually she gave in. So that is how we met.
Wife: At the time we met, I had not known him. I had never seen him before. So when he called me, I just ran away.
What was the attraction?
Husband: The first thing that drew my attention to her was the fact that she was struggling to go to school. At the time, it was not common to see young girls making efforts to go school. So when my friend told me she was in Jalingo for her interview into secondary school, I became interested. At that time, I was studying at teachers college. And you know, she was very young and fresh, tall with dark skin. She was just the kind of woman every young man at the time would want to be seen with.
Wife: For me, he was very good-looking and very neat. When at first he called me, I felt lucky that such a good-looking young man was making advances at me but I was too shy to stand so I ran away. But he was very persistent. Eventually he found his way to my house and got my mother’s endorsement.
Was there any form of opposition from either family?
Husband: Not at all. In fact, when her mother saw me, she told me I was going to be her son-in-law come what may and her family embraced me completely. My family also respected my choice and accepted her wholly.
How did you propose to her? What exactly did you say to her as to make her accept to marry you?
Husband: You know, like I said earlier, she actually ran away from me when I made my first advances at her. However, I persisted and went to meet her mum. After interacting with her mother, she realised I was serious. And again, at the time, marriage was more of a family thing than just the prospective couple. The decision was hardly in the lady’s hands. But after my meeting with her mother, I also met her and told her that I meant business and would want her to be by my side on my journey of life. She was very shy but I could see that she was willing. The way she was smiling was so intoxicating for me.
What did you say when he proposed? What exactly did he say and what was your reply?
Wife: Well, for me, it was not entirely my decision to take. Back then, it was the families that usually handle the matchmaking. You, the young lady, would be told which of the many suitors is best for you and, of course, you would go along with it. So when he proposed to me, or rather when he informed me that he wanted to marry me, I simply said I would be happy to marry him since my mother already said he was the most suitable for me.
What qualities made you choose each other above other eligible suitors and spinsters within that period?
Wife: At the time, he was a young man at the Teachers College, so it was clear that he was a serious and focused person and I knew that if I end up with him, my children would have the opportunity of going to school. Besides that, he was a very neat and handsome young man back then. He was tall and full of energy. He was also well-to-do to some extent. He was the ideal man for any lady.
Husband: Well like I said, she was young, beautiful, very beautiful and disciplined. She was also focused on her education and for me that was a major plus. I was at the teachers college so naturally I wanted to marry a lady who also had plans to go to school. As we got along, I also discovered that she was very hard working. She was really a great choice.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: We did our traditional marriage first and I must say that is one of the most memorable days of my life. I was awestruck by the large number of persons from both families and friends who came out to celebrate our marriage. I remember asking myself if all the people actually came out just for us. It was wonderful. Another major thing for me that day was the excitement I saw in the guests. You know the villagers all came out and each group was just there singing some very beautiful songs in our local dialect and dancing all over the place. It was so much such that you wouldn’t even know which group to dance with. No it was just a beautiful experience. At the end of the day, we also made a lot of money. So it was very exciting.
Wife: At first, I was so shy that I wanted to run away from the crowd that had gathered but soon, I became so engrossed in the music and dancing that I forgot all about my shyness. The most exciting thing that day was really the show of love from the people. The whole village was at a standstill just for us. That was the first time in my life that I danced publicly without any inhibition. But I was too shy to eat. I couldn’t even eat meat that was in abundance there.
Could you remember your first misunderstanding in marriage and how did you handle it?
Wife: I discovered that he was following one lady like that. So one day, he went to see her and when he got back, I locked him out of the house. He slept outside. The following day when I opened the door for him, he just pounced on me.
Husband: She is right. I still remember that night. I went to see the girl and when I got back, she refused to open the door. The next day, it was a tug-of-war. There was a drawer where she kept the things given to her by her parents. I remember I pushed it down and most of the items were broken. It was not easy that day. But we later reconciled and I paid for the items that were broken. That was the first and only major misunderstanding we’ve ever had till date.
What’s your spouse’s favourite food?
Wife: He loves corn food and okra with dry fish. That’s his favorite food
And, what do you like most about your spouse?
Husband: My wife is the most loving woman on earth and I am not saying this became she is my wife or because she is here. If anything touches me, she worries even more than I do. She is so sympathetic and she makes sacrifices for me. She can give me even her last kobo, if she feels I don’t have, even without asking her for it. She can do anything just to make me happy. Despite having children, her dedication to me is still unwavering and I love that so much. I love the attention she gives me and how she makes me feel so special.
Wife: He gives me peace. I have rest of mind being with him. He is not the kind of husband who will raise his hands on you or keep you in mind. When you make mistakes, he corrects you and even when he loses it, he would just shout a lot and that is it. By the time he goes out and comes back, you will not see any element of bitterness in him. And he takes care of my needs. I can’t remember him ever denying me any request. He is nice to my family. He is my joy.
What areas would you like to see your spouse him/her improve?
Husband: She could be so aggressive, at times, especially when she was younger. But as time went by, it ended.
Wife: He can shout. He does not keep malice but he can shout the whole house down over minor issues. My major concern is that at his age, he shouldn’t be shouting so much so that it would not affect his health.
What is the cause of marriage failure these days, and what advice do you have for young and prospective couples?
Husband: Lack of sincerity. Marriages are now founded on falsehood and there is no way you will sustain that for long. Men make claims that are beyond them just to woo over young ladies and ladies also tell a lot of lies about themselves. So when people go into marriage and they get to discover the truths, at times they realise they are with the wrong people and such marriages mostly end up crashing. So I will advise young people to be sincere. They should be patient and allow God a place in their homes. God is the only one who can give you peace in your homes, because, remember, you are talking about two people from different background and orientation coming together as one.
Wife: Impatience. Young people lack patience at a level that has become very alarming. They are not patient with themselves, they are not patient with the society and most importantly, they are not patient with their spouses. Marriage is a product of patience so to sustain one, you must learn to be patient. Another major issue is instigation and third party influence. Then the social media has come to destroy everything. You see married men and women spending hours on Facebook chatting with other people as though they were not married. That is why most couple cannot have access to each other’s phones. I will advise young couples to spend more time with each other rather than other people on the social media. Marriage must be carefully nurtured to grow and the bond of marriage needs to be constantly oiled for it to hold fast. It is also very important for people to define why they chose their partners. I think there are serious misplaced priorities. Imagine a lady marrying a young man because he knows how to dance very well. Or because of money! How will such a marriage endure? So people need to go into marriage with people with the right values. Marriage is a beautiful thing, unlike the general impression that is being created.