Anthony and Rose Ihuoma from Umuevu Onicha in Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, got married in July, 1970. In this interview with LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU, Anthony, a retired staff of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), and Rose, a successful trader/businesswoman, share their experiences as they celebrate the golden jubilee of their marital journey. Excerpt:
How long have you been married?
Husband: I got married 50 years ago. I was 26-years-old while my wife was 20. The marriage proposal was made during the Nigerian Civil War but we got married after the war.
Why did you marry so early?
Husband: During the war, almost everyone was rushing into marriage. My parents felt that there was need for me to marry as well. Before then, I had in mind someone I wanted to marry. My parents knew her. But when I came up with the idea of marriage during the war, she asked me to wait till after the war. But I was under pressure to marry then. Since I was ready but she wasn’t we had to go our separate ways. My father who was old summoned his sons and made it clear that he wanted to see his grandchildren before he joined his ancestors. It was crystal clear that my elder brother wasn’t interested in marriage then, being the next in line. I took it upon myself to find a life-partner.
How did your marital journey start?
Husband: When I came back from our battalion in Ikot Ekpene during the war, I told my sister, Theresa, to make a choice of wife for me among the numerous young maidens she plaits their hair in my hometown. She told me to go and marry her captain called Rose. I wondered how an ordinary sergeant in the army would marry a ‘captain’; little did I know she was referring to the captain of their Girls Guide. That same day, I met a relation called Anna who recommended another girl called Rose from a neighbouring village. She promised to invite her. I continued my search which took me to another relative, Romana who also recommended her friend and teammate in Girls Guide for me. The following day morning, I set out with John, a relative, to meet with the Rose of a person. When we entered their compound, we saw her sweeping. Seeing her sweeping, I knew why my relatives were all rooting for her. I was satisfied with what I saw. I was lucky enough to meet a lady who was from my clan but married to a man from Rose’s clan. I made enquiries about Rose from her. She told me she is a very good girl and that many suitors had been coming but her parents had not accepted any of them. I told her my mission and she invited Rose to join us. I made it known to Rose there and then that I wanted to marry her. My relative, John, encouraged her to consider my request. Rose told me she has heard my request and that she would get back to me later because she had Girls Guide meeting to attend that morning. From that day, I became a regular visitor to her parents’ house. She didn’t give any reply to my proposal till the day I informed her that I would be going back to the warfront the next morning. She accepted to marry me and then requested that I come with my parents to see hers. I left for Ikot Ekpene the next day but my parents carried out the necessary marriage plans.
In other words, you didn’t date your wife before marriage?
Husband: No, we didn’t date. She was recommended to me by my sister and other relatives. I met her and liked her. From then, we started making necessary arrangements for the marriage ceremony.
What attracted you to your wife?
Husband: The first was the fact that my sister and two relatives of mine recommended the same person even though they were not together when I sought their help. I knew from then that there must be many special things about that particular girl that everyone was recommending.
Describe your husband
Wife: He is an amazing man.
How did you react when your husband proposed marriage to you?
Wife: I was shocked at first because he told me in simple terms that he wanted to marry me the first day we met. I thought he was joking till he kept coming to my parents’ house to pressurize me. I was happy and finally asked him to send his parents to come and meet mine. As you can see, we are 50 years in it and it’s been a beautiful journey.
Why did you tell your husband to bring his parents after finding out that he would be off to war the following day?
Wife: I had little time to know him but the little time within which we knew each other I didn’t want to lose him. I wanted him to have something to look forward to back home while fighting.
How did you feel having an introduction without the presence of your husband-to-be?
Wife: At first, I felt sad and worried but I put him in the hands of God and God protected him for me.
How did you feel when your husband was away during the war?
Wife: I was deeply concerned because we constantly got news about soldiers being killed. So each day was very difficult. I took consolation in the fact that I serve a living God and I prayed always for him to protect my husband and to bring him home safe to his family. I had no bulletproof for him nor did I have the power to draw him out of the battle field. I had only one weapon; my prayer. It wasn’t easy though.
How did your parents react to his marriage proposal?
Wife: They were very positive about it. They knew his father was a warrant chief and a highly respected man in the whole of Mbaise. As a result, they believed that such a noble man would have a good son, and it turned out to be true.
How would you describe the first 10 years of your marriage?
Wife: The first 10 years of our marriage was peaceful and fun. We were very young then and full of energy too. Before we had our first child, it was just the two of us. He left the army after the war and finding a stable job was somewhat difficult. Though what he earned from some jobs he had then was enough for us because it was just the two of us, but we hoped for a stable job since we were optimistic that we would soon start making babies. We spent the first 10 years of our marriage in Lagos though we often visited our hometown. We left Lagos after the birth of our first child, a boy that we named Chimezie. It felt very good having a son in less than one year of our marriage. From there we were blessed with six other children namely: Chioma, Chijioke, Chinyere, Chizoba, Chinwenwa and Chiadikaobi, although we lost Chijioke to the cold hands of death January last year.
So sorry about that, Ma
Wife: There’s no problem. That is something I don’t pray for any mother to experience.
What has been the toughest moment of your marriage so far?
Wife: That was when we lost our son last year. We were completely devastated and saddened but we cannot question God. It was a very difficult period for me and my husband and for all our children who lost a very kind-hearted and generous brother. We have had some other tough moments. There was also a time three of my children were very sick at the same period. Two were admitted in hospital but the third insisted on staying at home. He has serious phobia for hospital. We had to go the extra mile to ensure that we took good care of them at the same time. These are some of the difficult moments. There are a few others though.
Have you ever had a fight with your wife?
Husband: No! We have never fought. We only had misunderstanding on certain issues but we never allowed our misunderstandings to degenerate to quarrel. Misunderstanding is normal because marriage is the union of two people that have different mindsets, sometimes different belief, and socio-cultural orientations. Quarrelling will only result when the people involved fail to deal with issues in their earliest stages. Sometimes we get very angry with each other but we never let our children find out that everything was not fine.
When you have misunderstanding, who apologizes first?
Husband: Though I can count the number of times we have had a misunderstanding but anytime it happens, we find reasons to make up immediately without letting the children notice. It is scandalous to let the children know that daddy and mummy are not in good terms. It doesn’t matter who initiates the move. Sadly, pride has destroyed a lot of marriages today. I don’t understand why it would be difficult for a man or woman to apologise to their spouses when they are guilty of an offence. To be successful in marriage, pride must be dropped.
What do you like most about your wife?
Husband: It’s the fact that she is very understanding. She is calculative and smart. She understands when there is money and when there is no money in the house. She also contributes to the welfare of the family.
Do you have a joint account?
Husband: Yes, we do. We manage our finances together. It goes a long way to show the level of trust that exists between us.
What does your husband call you that you like most?
Wife: He calls me Nwanyinma, which means a good woman.
What do you like most about your husband?
Wife: I likes the fact that he is hardworking and loyal. He is someone who is ready to sacrifice everything just for his family and friends. He hates injustice a lot and goes all goes all out to help others in need.
What advice do you have for couples considering the high rate of divorce cases being witnessed today?
Husband: To be honest, the issue of courting does not guarantee a successful marriage. Although things have changed and one would argue that social changes bring social problems, however, we cannot deny the fact that both parties can pretend during the period of courtship. Couples should imbibe the spirit of tolerance and understanding if they are to have a long lasting and successful marriage. Also, couples should be mindful of how they use social media. It has destroyed a lot of homes. You will find out that some couples no longer discuss their issues because they are often glued to their phones chatting and updating. A married man or woman should have time for his or her spouse. Do not always seek advice from social media, that place is filled with people who don’t care about you but only want to appear smart and intelligent. Finally, couples must not forget to invite God to make their hearts his home.
What advice do you have for young wives out there?
Wife: I will advise them to do what the Bible commands in Ephesians 5:33: that is, to respect their husbands. Men love respect and giving it to them will solve a lot of marital problems. Sadly, we have many homes being torn apart today because the wife is busy fighting with the husband over who should be in control. A wise woman understands that her husband should be respected. A home where a husband loves the wife and the wife respects the husband will be peaceful and crisis-free. I also advise women to get something doing. Support your husband financially. You make yourself more valuable when you contribute to the training of the children and other things in the house.