My mom is a divorcee. She married for five years, gave birth to me and my senior sister, and got divorced. She said our father wasn’t the right kind of man she should have married so growing up all she told us was to try and marry right. She said, “Marriage is not a day thing. Whatever you’re going to live with for forever should take you a lot of time to decide on it. Don’t fall for a man because of his looks or because of his money. And not because of his family background or the fame that comes with his name. Marrying right is marrying a man solely because of the content of his character.”
That made a lot of sense to me and my sister so we made it the motto of our lives; “Marry right.” We went around carrying psychological shovels, digging the dirt around each man we met until the content of his character came sparkling. I dated David–a man I met in church, for three years, and every step of the way, I weighed his decisions about us to know how well he placed our relationship. In the end, I told myself; “Handsome—checked. Caring—checked. God-fearing—checked. Has vision—checked. Knows how to treat a woman well—checked.” Then I asked the ultimate question; “When you put all these together, would you say he has the right kind of character you want in your man?” I responded heartily to myself, “Yes he’s the man. Whatever you find in the church can never go wrong.”
My mom loved him and my sister loved him to pieces. Whenever he came to visit us, my mom called him; “My In-law.” She knew him from the church and knew the way he carried himself about in the church so even when we were not talking about marriage, my mom had already accepted him as part of the family and a man I should, by all means, end up with. Mom’s approval was everything to me. I wouldn’t say it made any difference in my decision making but it was the glue that bonded my decision on David.
After four years of knowing David and three years of dating him, we finally decided to get married. It wasn’t anything fancy. We had a small wedding on a Sunday in the presence of all the church members who came to church that day and a month or two later moved to live with him in a house we both contributed money to rent. Ours was a marriage of equals—we agreed to marry that way. A marriage where the wife contributes money and a husband wipes the sweat off his face in the kitchen because what a man cooks isn’t poison.
Our marriage was almost eventless for a year until the trouble started.
One Sunday after church, I waited for David for so long for us to go home but he wasn’t coming. I entered the church to find him talking to Adelaide. Adelaide was someone we both knew. She sings in church and she’s loved for who she is. I told David, “I’ve been waiting. Can I take the lead while you take the time to finish your engagements?” I saw the look on Adelaide’s face when I said that. It wasn’t a pleasant look. I figured maybe she didn’t like the fact that I interrupted their little meeting. She started walking away and my husband also walked toward my direction. I didn’t make any fuss out of it. A day or two later, I had a call on my phone. It was from Adelaide. She started ranting, “You, let me tell you, what you did the other day was totally uncouth. He’s your husband so he can’t talk to other people? Let me tell you one thing, David doesn’t love you like the way you want all of us to believe. He said he was forced to marry you .”
Forced to marry me? How? I didn’t keep quiet on the phone. I also responded to her verbal abuse in kind and for some minutes it turned to a verbal war on the phone. When we hung up, I thought about each word she said to me, whether true or not. I thought about why she should get angry the way she did and I asked myself, “Why would she tell me David was forced to marry me?” David wasn’t in the house but a few minutes later, he called me;
“Why did you call Adelaide to insult her?”
“Me? Called Adelaide to insult her? Is that what she told you?”
“Stop asking me silly questions and answer my question!”
“David wait, are you taking her side or mine? How would you believe that I would call her in the first place?”
“You wait, I’ll come and meet you in the house.”
I should have run when he said that but I patiently waited until he got home. Come and see beatings. He wouldn’t let me explain or listen to what actually happened. I was at the corner crying when he screamed, “The next time something of this nature happens again, I’ll throw your things out and that would be the end of the marriage.” He’ll throw my things out of the house we both contributed to rent. The ego in a man is indeed the voice of the devil. What gives them that confidence?”
When the dust settled, I asked myself so many questions. “How did we get here and how?”
I never spoke of that abuse to anyone until it happened again and again and again. Each time it happened, Adelaide was the underlying factor. How did our marriage get to a place where I get beaten just because of Adelaide. The truth was this; David dated Adelaide for three years before I came into the picture. All the while he was dating me, he was dating Adelaide too. It just happened that theirs was a secret dating because of their respective positions in the church. So when it got to the time that we had to marry, he told Adelaide all those lies so it would look like he was forced to marry me. He even told her the pastor had a revelation from God that he should marry me and for that revelation to come to pass, the pastor forced him to marry me.
I didn’t see all these because I wasn’t watching closely. I was so much hung on the content of his character that I miss the red flags. I remember Akos made a hint of it when she realized I was dating David. She said, “But I thought David was dating Adelaide?” I responded, “Where on earth did you see or hear that?” I even called her a devil sent to destroy our beautiful thing.
Nothing made sense in my marriage again. I was the one who told everyone that David was the right kind of man to marry so how would I go back and tell these same people about what David was doing to me? When courage found me, it was my sister I told first. She was shocked to the marrow. She thought I was lying or I was getting crazy. It was my senior sister who held my hand to our pastor and reported the issue to him. The pastor said, “The devil has lifted his hands on your marriage but he won’t succeed.” He asked me to fast and pray. He called David, counseled him, and also told him to fast and pray. Adelaide was demoted and later stopped coming to church.
While I fasted each day and prayed, David went around eating, sleeping, and going out of the house and coming at strange hours. One year marriage was in tatters but I believed God for a miracle. The abuse kept happening until I told my mother about it. She said, “Come home. you don’t have a husband, you have me. While you fast and pray, if it’s God’s will, David will come for you.” The day I left the house, the next day he started living in the house with Adelaide. He never called me once to check how I was doing. The only time we met was when the pastor called the two of us. He was also demoted in church and later stopped going to church altogether.
Through the prayers and fasting, I started gaining some emotional strength I never knew I had. I stopped thinking about him and concentrated on my work. I called him some time though he never called me and he always made it a point that he was doing well without me. I asked him one day, “David dear, you want a divorce? Tell me and I will grant it.” He responded, “In which language should I speak it before you understand, tongues?” I was well over the emotions of the whole thing so I told him. Let’s not waste our time. Le’s start the process.”
It’s been over a year now and we are still in the process of putting finality to a marriage that lasted just over a year. Marry right? How do you know he’s the right one? If he’s right today would he be right till the end of time? Time and tide change people so when you pray don’t only pray for a partner who has a good character. Pray for someone whose character can withstand the changing times and seasons. In my little experience in marriage, I’ve come to realize that you can marry right and still get it wrong.