If you are a couple, what do you admire most in each other? What do you find most likeable in your partner that would make you want to stay in that marriage till death do you part, despite challenges? As we bring to an end, this scintillating interview that our correspondent, JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, had with Rev. Mother Esther Abimbola Ajayi, the world-acclaimed philanthropist and Chair/President/Chief Executive Officer of Esther Ajayi Foundation, and her husband, Dr. Olumuyiwa Ajayi, in Abuja, those are the questions they provided interesting answers to. Their relationship has seen them maintaining a joint bank account. In an age of rampant divorce, they also leave some useful pieces of advice for married couples, young and old, on how to keep their marriage going for decades. Excerpts:
What’s your wife’s favourite food?
Husband: She likes bread; another thing she likes is yam.
What’s your husband’s favourite food?
Wife: He loves fufu and eba with Ogbono soup with assorted meat. If you give him that you have made his day. The man always thanks you for good food. And each time I hear that, all the energy that was sapped while cooking would be restored 100 percent. I love preaching, exercise and cooking. This season in which we are quarantined at home, there is no native food I have not cooked. Where I come from, we don’t buy cooked food outside. The Irawos believe in using big pots to cook. I can cook for 20 people at once. The more they eat the happier I am, especially if they eat with relish. When my husband is very hungry, the moment I put down the food, he would not look at me for the next two to three minutes and then he would be saying, ‘this food is good’ and that makes me happy.
And, what do you like most about him?
Wife: He is a calm person and he is the type that won’t stop you from following your passion.
You know, in most relationships the men would feel uncomfortable with their wife’s progress and see their positions as being threatened. My husband is temperamental; he has his days but he won’t stop you from attaining greatness. He is happy if you do your thing and he supports you wholeheartedly. And he has earned my respect with that. When I was running furniture business, on Friday nights, he would, from his place of work, load the goods and join me in delivering it in Abuja and you would not see any frown on his face.
And, what do you like most about her?
Husband: Yes. I will say this to couples out there and those planning to get married: you need to study your partner. I will say I am a very lucky person and I thank God for giving me the wisdom to do what I am meant to do. I noticed she was good at handling money from the onset. No matter the money she has, she never wastes it. Without the way she was brought up and her own skills, as well, at handling money, we probably would not have had all the property in our name today. That is one of the things I like about her: she makes judicious use of money. I’m happy that I did not argue with her, most of the time, about how she was handling money.
What areas would you like to see him improve?
Wife: His temperament. He is calm and shy at the same time. But when he is angry, forget it. In the first five years of our marriage, if the food was late in coming, my husband would refuse to eat. But as we continue to grow in marriage, he is getting better. He is now a marriage counselor. Let me tell you this: I am the type that calls a spade a spade any time. I have been independent since childhood when it comes to the issue of handling money. As a shy person that does not talk much, it shows in his temperament because it is the only way he can let off steam. I have achieved a lot in changing that aspect. In fact, my mother-in-law, of blessed memory had said, ‘I guarantee you, that this marriage will last only a year’. Before we got married, I was the one that his mother would always call to come and talk to him, that he has started again. Most of the time, he is the one that is right on an issue but because of his temperament, you would think that he is the one that is in the wrong. But once he sees me he would calm down and I would take him out of the place. But gradually, with age, he is changing.
What areas would you like to see her improve?
Husband: I want her to allow me have more money in my pocket. That is the only thing I want her to improve on. I am okay with everything else. I love her food.
Wife: (Cuts in) But you know that is not going to happen (laughter)
What advice do you have for a young bachelor who intends to marry?
Husband: That is an important question. It is an area I want everyone to take note of. Because of our experience in marriage and our vast knowledge of the Word of God, I think we are in the best position to advise young couple. In life, commitment is very important. Marriage can be based on passion or emotions but as times goes on, it might no longer be passion or emotion that is keeping the marriage but the commitment that you both made to each other. The way you feel for each other at the initial stage will wane. It’s commitment that has brought us this far. If not, we would not have been together today. Lack of commitment is what is leading many couples to divorce today. At first when two people meet, what keeps them together is the physical attraction, beauty, physique etc. But as time goes on, the physical attraction will begin to wane with age. At such a time, it is the commitment and promise you made to each other that will keep you going. When commitment is there, you will continue to love each other even when the passion has disappeared. In fact, it is the commitment that keeps the passion burning, even when, because of childbirth, your wife’s breasts are not as firm as they were when you first met her. In the Bible, in the book of Hosea, God wanted to give more explanation on marriage. That was why He asked Hosea to go back to his wife, despite the fact that she had gone into prostitution. God wanted to emphasize commitment not passion, not emotional feeling. If it is emotional feeling, Hosea would not have gone back to his wife. So, let your marriage be based on commitment and not passion or emotion. Again, in the same book of Hosea, God entered into a covenant with the Israelites. He called them His wife and He, their Husband. Till date, God is still with them despite the fact that they have been disobedient a number of times. They have tried his patience times without number; they have disappointed Him times without number, broke the covenant so many times. He would have forgotten about them but because of that covenant He made, the promise He made, that is why He has remained with them till date. The same thing applies to us today: let your relationship and love be based on commitment rather than passion or emotion and you will go a long way.
What advice do you have for a spinster who intends to marry?
Wife: My advice is, that young man that makes your head to swoon whenever you see him or you are with him, will not be like that forever. What he wants from you is humility and respect. Like my husband rightly said, be committed. You see, marriage is not all about sex because, at a point in life, you will become soul-mates. There is a difference between love and infatuation. Maybe you spent a night and had sex together and you feel that is it. No. With time, that will be gone but as part of your commitment, you need to ask yourself: do I love this man enough to spend the rest of my life with him? Marriage is not a supermarket where you would say, ‘I don’t like TESCO, so I will go for Shoprite’. No. This is a life-time adventure. Be sure to put God first. So what I am saying is that, let that commitment be there. That way, you will never think of divorce. I have never thought of divorce; it has never crossed my mind because the commitment is there. As for my husband’s commitment, you can actually feel it. If he says this is what he is going to do, he will do exactly that. My prayer is that God will touch the hearts of our spinsters to be committed and that He will chose rightly for them. It is not as if we don’t disagree. We do. At times, if you see us disagreeing you may conclude that this is going to be the end of this marriage. But then we always get back together. That’s how it should be because marriage is a covenant made by two people before God, to continue to remain together no matter, for better for worst.
In light of rampant divorce cases these days, from your own personal experiences, what pieces of advice would you want to give to newly married couples on how to make their marriage last as long as your own has lasted?
Wife: It is still commitment. Earlier in the interview we said our first property was christened, M&B (Muyiwa and Bimbo) Contentment Villa. There is no how these fingers will ever be equal. In marriage, one person will always aim higher than the other, will always be prettier or more handsome. In such a situation, your humility will have to be doubled. You have to respect him, carry him along in all you do and eventually he will come around and support you. Then, the commitment will fuel your love. From the word go, we have been maintaining joint account. We do things together. If we are thinking of divorce, it is something we have to sit down and think of where we will start from. Which one do you want to divide? Is it the tyres of the car? Or, the bricks of the house? And, by the time we go over it, we will renew our commitment. The bottomline is God; anything placed in His care can never go wrong.
Husband: If your marriage is based on the Word of God, there is no way Satan, who hates marriage will scatter it. Whenever you have a misunderstanding, God will always intervene because you have made Him number one in your marriage. You will not end up in divorce. Marriage involves a lot of sacrifice because it’s not easy. Both of you are from different backgrounds. Therefore a lot of things will come up. It also involves endurance. And you need to ignore so many things; you also need to ask God for wisdom to paddle through marriage.
Wife (cuts in): If there is no endurance, my husband would have picked up quarrels with me several times. He made N20, 000. He brought it to the table and I said, ‘I’m giving you just N2, 000 to keep in your pocket’. He said: ‘what are you saying?’ I stood my ground and he resorted to begging, ‘okay, make it N5, 000’. If he was not the enduring type, that would have marked the beginning of crisis in our marriage. Then I would make my N50, 000 and put it on the table and then tell him: ‘you are not touching a dime out of it because in this house, we have to finish it’. But instead, he would just say, ‘Bimbo, it’s okay’ [concluded].