Mr. Raymond Ibekwe hails from Umuokpo-Agbaje, in Nwangele Local Government Area of Imo State. A civil servant, he is married to Mrs. Edith Ibekwe, a businesswoman. Together, they are blessed with five children, four boys and a girl. In this interview with TONY JOHN, in Port Harcourt, they share with our readers, their marital experiences. Excerpt:
How and where did you meet your wife?
Husband: I met her in December 1990. I saw her on top of motorcycle with her brother and my spirit moved immediately to her. I said this is the person I would like to marry. I was with a friend and brother. I told him to chase them. My brother pursued and double-crossed them. With the way we double-crossed them, when she alighted from the bike, I expected her to insult us. But, she didn’t do that. Though her brother was angry, she told him to calm down. I asked her if she was from the village and their house. She said yes and pointed at their house. I asked her, her name and she told me. I asked her again about someone in that compound and she replied that the woman was her elder brother’s wife, but that she was not at home. I told her to take me to her house to see her parents. She quickly went ahead of me to explain to her mother what transpired or the road. When I got there, I greeted them and introduced myself to her mother. When we were about to leave, I signaled to my wife to come. I told her to join us in the car, so that we can move around town, so that I could tell her my mind. She knew that I was not there for joke. She said I should give her time. She later joined us. And I took her straight to our house. That was the first day my parents would see me with a girl. Before that day, nobody had seen me with any girl in my community. That’s why every eye was on both of us. I introduced her to my parents and later, she left. In the night, my parents called me and asked about the girl. I told them she was the girl I would want to marry. My father carried out his investigation and told me that she was from a good family.
Do you have anything to add to what he said?
Wife: That was exactly what happened. That was how we met.
How did you propose to her?
Husband: After our going-out that time, I told her plainly that I wanted to marry her, that I was not there for friendship. That time, she lived in Aba. I travelled to Aba to meet her. Before I reached, she had travelled home. So, I dropped a letter for her. I had to travel to Aba again and met her. I proposed to and she accepted.
Madam, what was your response?
Wife: When I saw him, my instinct told me that he is the kind of man I would like to live with. When I was growing up, I used to tell my fellow girls that I would marry a black-complexioned and hairy man. So, when he proposed to me, I didn’t hesitate to accept, and he was a government worker for that matter. That was also my dream when I was young.
Why did you pick her as your life partner out of many girls in town?
Husband: I didn’t have any girlfriend before I met my wife because I was brought up in a Christian family. My family didn’t believe in boy-and-girl friendship. It was from that type of family background that when I saw her, I spoke to her about marriage and meant every word I said.
As a young girl, you must have had suitors. So, why did you choose him?
Wife: The fact is that I chose him because one, when we were growing up, my father told us (his children), particularly myself, that he would not want us to marry far from our village. I was born in a polygamous family and my mother was the last wife. I am the first daughter of my mother. One day, my father told me that he would not want me to marry far so that if anything happens to my mother, I would be able to come to her aid quickly. So, when he told me his village, I was gladdened because I wanted to marry a man from a place close to my village. That was why I agreed immediately. But, surprisingly, immediately he started marriage processes, suitors started coming. I became surprised at a point I started asking myself whether the suitors came to tempt me. I have love for him; that was why when they started coming, I did not yield to pressure. I chose him for my husband-to-be.
Was there any opposition against the marriage from family members, relatives and friends?
Husband: There was no opposition at all from any quarters. Immediately, she stepped into our family, my father, mother, siblings and, in fact, everyone loved her even till date.
Wife: There was none at all.
What is that thing you cannot forget about your traditional or white wedding?
Husband: I can’t recall if we had any memorable incident during any of the marriages. None of them recorded any challenge. Everything went normal.
Wife: Well, the traditional marriage was not like present-day societal marriage. It was when he came to pay my bride price my kinsmen gave me drink to give my husband. I will never forget that day. In fact, I always remember that day.
How did you handle the first misunderstanding in your marriage?
Husband: Since our 27 years of marriage, we have not had any serious issue that would lead to bringing in a third party. I cannot remember any at all. I would say most times, when I return from work late because of the nature of my job, my wife feels bad. But, it has not led to any serious misunderstanding. I have worked with my boss for over 20 years. He doesn’t like or want another person to work with him. So, that’s the only area my wife feels bothered. But, there is nothing we can do about it because it is where we get our daily bread.
Wife: I quite agree with him because we don’t have any issue except returning from work late. I later realised that his boss in the office relies much on him; that is the cause of his late returning. Still, sometimes, I endure it; sometimes, I react as a human being. He would still come and cuddle me. Apart from this, we have not quarreled. All our children have not seen us quarrel before. Even if we have disagreed on a matter, the curtain in our room would not hear it, let alone the children. That is how we have been living in the past 27 years of our marriage.
Sir, what area would you like to see change in your wife, if any?
Husband: There is only area. I would say it is for God to make her strong physically and spiritually because she is a struggling woman.
Madam, which area would you like to see change in your husband?
Wife: Well, I don’t want God to change him because his character is so wonderful. The only area I would want God to visit him is to give him more strength so that we would be able to reap the fruit of our labour.
What is your wife’s best food?
Husband: I would say she loves fruits a lot and Okro soup.
What is your husband’s favourite meal?
Wife: He eats fruits as well because I buy fruits every day. But, okro soup is the best meal in this house.
Sir, what is your advice for young men intending to go into marriage?
Husband: My advice for them is they should first seek the face of Almighty God. It is God that would give you the best. Like I told you earlier, I was not into any girlfriend-boyfriend relationship before I went into marriage. I sought the face of God and He gave me my own wife. If you seek the face of God, He would give you the woman He has kept for you that will make you live a fulfilled life. I can boldly say that my wife is the architect of my success.
Madam, what advice do you have for spinsters venturing into marriage?
Wife: Like my husband has said, young girls going into marriage should pray for God’s direction. They should also respect and fear God. Probably, God will visit them to make the right choice. I want to tell you, the dressing of girls nowadays, scare right men away. Another important point is girls should know how to moderate their tongues. Many of them are careless with their choice of words and usages.
What advice do you have for couples who want to enjoy their marriages as you are enjoying yours?
Husband: What is causing breakup of many marriages is lack of trust. Couples should learn to be truthful to each other. Secrecy among couples in marriage cannot help the relationship. So, each other must learn to be truthful and loving.
Wife: Couples should learn to respect each other. Particularly, wives should accord their husbands the deserved respect. Most importantly, spouses should tolerate each other because it is not easy for two persons with different backgrounds to come together to form a home. They should learn each other and tolerate the mistakes of each other. Like my husband earlier said, trust is very important in every relationship.