Steven Abude, from Ughelli, Delta State, was born in Ghana but he met his wife, Agnes Taiwo Abude, from Ajilete, Yewa, Ogun State, by what you can call quirk of circumstances, in the course of doing fish businesss. One thing led to another and, in 1995, they got married. Though from two different ethnic groups, Urhobo and Yoruba, the couple’s longtime commitment to each other has made it possible to keep on waxing stronger and stronger in their relationship. Blessed with five male kids, in this interview with BIANCA IBOMA-EMEFU, they shared the secrets of their marital bonding as well as offered tips on how couples can improve on their marital lives.
Could you share with our readers some details about your backgrounds?
Husband: I was born in Ghana but grew up in Nigeria. My primary and secondary education was in Lagos before I moved to Owode to continue with my mum’s business. I had to spend more time in Ogun State than in Lagos.
Wife: I am a Yoruba woman born in Ajilete, Yewa, Ogun State. I had my primary and secondary education in Ajilete, and later went to a fashion school. I am a fashion designer.
How did you meet your spouse?
Husband: I met my wife at the market where I used to sell frozen foods. Her mum bought products from me. I actually knew her younger sister but on that day her mum sent her to get some items from my shop. When I saw her, I liked her and made up my mind to make her mine.
Wife: He is my mum’s customer and I was sent to the market to get goods; my mum sells foodstuff. My younger sister was the one who usually go there to get goods in his shop. She went to the market that day. On that day, I was sent by my mum to his shop when we met.
How did you propose to her?
Husband: I wrote her a letter to inform her about my intention.
Wife: He wrote me a letter and sent it through a young lad around my house who brought the letter to me.
What was your spouse’s reaction?
Husband: The first letter I sent her, she tore it and I gave her younger sister another one, and I kept sending letters to her because I was determined to make her my wife.
Wife: I tore his first letter and he kept sending more letters through my younger sister whenever she went to his shop to buy goods.
Eventually, how did you make it?
Husband: I took her out and proposed to her.
Wife: I had a meeting in our local government area as a fashion designer. I was on my way from the gocal government area meeting for fashion designers when I met him. He took me close to his house and then proposed to me.
Initially when you got married, what was some of the struggles you had as a couple and how were you able to blend considering your different ethnic backgrounds?
Husband: My wife is eloquent and I am very quiet. She likes giving details of how she spent her day, I would be very tired after returning from the market and all the stress I encountered, but she would want to tell me stories of the people she met as a fashion designer and I would sleep off. My wife would be very angry because she feels bad that I was not listening to her whenever she tried to share her day with me. When I realized that my action was making her angry, I made some adjustments.
Wife: My husband is a very quiet man but I am the type that speaks. But whenever I am telling him things, I get angry easily, especially when I notice he is not listening to me. I would want to tell him about every customer that came to my business place. But whenever I discovered he was not paying attention I got angry because I would feel like he was not listening right.
How did you cope especially when there are cultural values that cut across your family?
Husband: The area we had problem with then was that I scatterred things around. I don’t keep things in an orderly manner and my wife is someone who is very neat and keeps things in an orderly manner. Whenever I scattered my clothes, undies, shoes, belt, or maybe things are not kept properly, she would be furious. Also, the food we ate were not what she was used to. My wife had to learn how to prepare my traditional food and on my part, I learnt how to eat food from her place. Our dressing and other things were different due to ethnicity but we found a way around it. I had to teach my wife how to prepare meals from my place.
Wife: I used to shout then whenever there was a misunderstanding. I had a situation that was embarrassing to me. It was just few months that we had our first child and I was asked by my mother-in-law to prepare Ogbono soup, and I didn’t know how to prepare it. My mother never prepared that soup; I only ate it in my grandmother’s house. So I didn’t prepare it well and I felt bad when I made it and the soup did not come out nice. In fact I was embarrassed. My mother-in-law is a nice woman. She just said why didn’t I inform her that I didn’t know how to prepare the soup, that I should have told her and she would have explained to me. This incident made my husband to start teaching me how to prepare their native meal. And today we laugh over it when we remember such things.
How can couples maintain a peaceful home considering many reported cases of domestic violence?
Husband: Temperance, tolerance, mutual understanding, patience and above all, love. Every home experience conflicts but the difference between normal conflict and domestic violence is conflict. It is part of every intimate relationship. That is why conflict resolution skills are important. While domestic violence, however, has no place in a healthy relationship, whether the couple is dating, cohabiting, engaged, or married. Domestic violence is any kind of behaviour that a person uses, or threatens to use, to control an intimate partner. The major challenge is threat and control.
Wife: Respect, commitment, love, understanding, patience and self-control are key to peaceful home. Both men and women can be victims of domestic violence. Violent actions such as hitting, beating, pushing, and kicking are all parts of domestic violence. In many cases, there are physical abuses. When it becomes more frequent and severe over time, you have to separate to avoid death.
Your marriage has been a success. What are some of the challenges you faced and how did you handle each stage?
Husband: Certainly, there will be differences and disagreements within a marriage, but some differences are too major to ignore, such as core values and beliefs. One spouse may have one religion and the other may have a different belief. This may give rise to an emotional dream among other common marriage problems. As you may have guessed, this could cause major trouble down the line when one spouse gets tired of doing things separately, such as going to different places of worship.
Wife: Working through marriage problems in a healthy way can be very difficult, especially because stress in a marriage can come from many different sources. It can be stress of money, child issues, busy schedule, among others. Every marriage faces hardship; It depends on one’s peculiar situation. The key point here is to face the difficulty – whatever kind of struggle it is, together with your spouse. They should be able to remember their marriage vows: “For better, for worse”, “In sickness and in health”, “For richer, for poorer”. These promises presuppose tough times. You went into your marriage with your eyes open, so there’s really no excuse for not bringing everything you have to the table when things, once in a while, get dicey.