English poet, William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell expounds the inevitable interaction of opposites and their complementary distinctions. Indeed, no two opposites in the phenomenon of beings accurately typify extremism more than heaven and hell. Although Blake’s poem does not specifically dwell on the institution of marriage as the title may suggest, it does however, demonstrate that two opposites can locate each other and share a complementary relationship. His poem provides a template to conjoin opposites within the inexorable union of marriage where people are bound until death, divorce or any of the vagaries of life do them part.
The marriage of opposites in diverse ways defines the destiny of humanity which even men and women seem unaware. It is intriguing how two total strangers from different background and upbringing concede their rights and identities to establish a conjugal union.
When two people, a man and a woman, (forget the incongruous absurdity of same sex marriage) decide to live together, there is more to it that meets the eye. Sometimes, the man is well educated and every inch the quintessential human being while the woman is below his class. Yet, the man insists to marry her to the chagrin and consternation of members of his family. Some other times, the reverse is the case. A beautiful, well educated lady insists on a man of a lower class. In such cases, observers, relations and the general public are aghast. Criticisms trail such union. The relationship and eventual marriage confound many and defy explanations. Questions go unanswered why he must marry her and why she must marry him.
If we agree that love is blind to reason, blind to common sense and blind to even the most sparkling shed of white, is love then an unreasonable phenomenon? Only the two people see what many do not see, only the two people can attest to the unseen sensation and attraction which draws them to each other. Whatever be the case, marriage should never be founded on the potentially divisive realities of social status and economic interest but rather on common styles of sensibility, observable compatibility and a homogeneous reason. In choosing a marriage partner however, we are advised to follow our self-delighting impulses provided they are shaped by reason. Marriage of convenience or any marriage procured for selfish and material considerations is a disaster biding its time to unravel. Any marriage upheld by the opinion of other people is standing on a precipice and will tumble over soon. A virtues woman is the dream of any man, a virtues man is the dream of any woman, virtue in itself being the cultivation of the instinctive habits of goodness which finds expression in honesty, love, tolerance, humility, faithfulness and infinite capacity to accommodate.
Some people have made distinctions between a successful marriage and a failed marriage. The question naturally arises; what indices classify a marriage as failed or successful? Is it the presence or lack of children? Is it the material resources at the disposal of the couple? Or is it the unseen joy that radiates between the couple which makes them cherish each other and endlessly pursue a common goal? Can we say that a marriage has failed because the couple are no longer living together or are there failed marriages even though the couple are living together to present a deceptive facade before the public?
Marriage has defined the destinies of many people either positively or negatively. Some people have lost their lives in the hands of their wives or husbands, some people have lost their families because they married the wrong person. Some people personify hell in a marriage relationship. They deliberately make the life of their partner unbearable, hellish and severe. Also some people represent heaven in a marriage; they protect the sanctity and uphold the fabric of their marriage. Surely marriage provides the most suitable platform for heaven and hell to intermingle. However, no matter the interaction of heaven and hell in a marriage, no matter the degree of emotional summersault which some people misname love; no matter the tender misdirection of the heart, a point comes in the union when domestic violence subliminally creeps in. Domestic violence comes in different ways. There is the physical domestic violence perpetuated by husbands. Shockingly, most women out of some kind of emotional disorder which they call love, prefer to continue to endure the hell of domestic violence even at the risk of their own lives. A popular adage identifies a wife beater as a coward.
Domestic violence from the woman can come in the manner of cold warfare, malice, blackmail, sexual denial and above all the use of black magic to control the sensibilities of the man. When the union of marriage is threatened by domestic violence in whatever guise, when the life of the man or the women is at risk, when the wellbeing of either of the parties is in grave danger, then it is time to walk away. Life must go on. Sometimes, the irresponsible man abandons his wife and children to remarry and possibly transfer his irresponsibility to another desperate woman. Other times, the woman abandons the man with the kids and runs after the vanishing illusions of materialism.
Politicians and the society are united in a kind of marriage. In this case, it is clear that politicians are the hell while the society, well in certain terms, represents heaven. Unfortunately the politicians seem to have a defined commitment to impoverish the people continually while enriching their personal enterprise. Domestic violence has become an accompanying shadow in Nigeria in the last few years. The economy has shrunk and nosedived in regrettable fashion and life has become very difficult for the people.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 10 million Nigerians have lost their jobs in the last three years. In a situation like this, what should the people do, walk away in one piece and render the marriage null and void or continue to endure anguish in silence? Marriage should not be a do-or-die affair. Any of the parties has the right to call it quits without the threat of the blood of monkeys and baboons washing the streets of Nigeria. Marriage should be enjoyed and not endured. I suggest divorce in any marriage where the life of man, his well being and his destiny is threatened.
Adiele writes from Department of English,
University of Lagos