The Transition from Single to Married Life – Part 3

Living apart: As earlier alluded to in part one, there may be several reasons why newly wedded couples stay apart. Job is one very common factor for this circumstance. While dating, it usually does not seem like the distance apart is much of a problem. It often looks manageable and workable. The challenge comes when the couple gets married, and staying apart really becomes an ordeal. One or both partners may feel emotionally lost and even more financially unstable.

Some couples marry and stay apart like this and this goes on for years. With time, lots of problems and issues arise. They may even begin to grow apart; different friends, different interests, different priorities, and so on. Lots of spouses who stay apart suffer loneliness and have more temptations to go outside their marriage for consolation, gratification and compensation.

Not living together makes a couple not to continue the process of knowing each other. A certain couple got married and continued staying apart. After a while, work brought one of them to begin staying with the spouse. Interestingly, they both could not recognize each other. They simply did not know each other! Shortly, they filed for divorce because they felt they were just not compatible, and had too many “irreconcilable differences”. Unfortunately, such stories are common place these days. Please do not add to the statistics!

Here, we do not necessarily advocate living with each other (co-habitation) before marriage, but spend some good time together, and married couples should endeavour to begin living together soon after their marriage.

With regards to staying apart, perhaps there are individuals who want to be known socially as “married” but who do not really want to be tied by the possible demands of the commitment. Such individuals may even prefer to live alone even after the wedding. There may be those who in reality want space to continue some part of their old ways, before they got married. This may include clubbing, keeping late hours out on a daily basis, drinking and of course, going out with persons of the opposite sex. Some of such individuals live as though they were still single and people in their circles may not even know they are married.

Besides, these kinds of circumstances contribute to the number of divorce rate currently in the society. The sacrifice required to stay together may seem much, but in terms of priority, it may indeed be worth the trouble – though some may think otherwise.

Faith: Another challenge comes with differences in faith. Before marriage, a person may meet another of a different religion or different Christian denomination and they decide to get married. They seem to manage this difference when they are dating, but it becomes a real issue after marriage and each person wants to follow their own faith. Lots of couples can testify to the numerous issues that arise in this regard. Lots of their quarrels can be traced to the issue of faith differences.

There are cases whereby parents and relatives refuse to support their children because their son/daughter chose to marry someone of a different faith or denomination. Some would not even attend the traditional or wedding ceremonies. These parents become isolated and this is not good for their son or daughter in the long run. These issues really need to be resolved, as best as possible.

Children: Furthermore, in new marriages, the desire for a child can really become an issue. This does not have to be. The newly wedded can continue to pray for God’s favour for the fruit of the womb, and at God’s own time. However, in our cultural setting, we know that this is not as easy as one would like it to be. Just after the formalization of the relationship, couples want to have a child, as fruit of the union. Some ladies take in even before the formalization ceremonies and so they do not have to go through this anxiety. But for their counterparts, this remains a concern.

Lots of couples have been through the storms associated with the search for the fruit of the womb. This needs to be well managed so that it does not bring more tension into the relationship. Ordinarily, relatives, friends and some acquaintances who know the family challenge may play into this situation and further complicate the relationship. The couple really need to guard against negative influences from others.

Finances: Another interesting element to marriages is that some spouses have no idea what their partner earns. Both of you may gradually get used to it, but the truth is, this shows your partner is not fully part of your financial life. That is basically lack of trust, however you argue it. Opinions are highly divided on this. It is either the partner has assessed the spouse as someone who does not deserve to know, for whatever reasons, or that the partner is perceived as not matured enough to handle such transparency. In either case, you are just not giving your own 100% in the relationship.

Both men and women would have their reasons for not telling their partners their salaries and/or incomes. Every action can of course be justified, but is it the best you can do?  I believe that it is only human for the spouses to begin keeping financial information to themselves. Why should I tell you all about my incomes and expenditures if you are busy keeping your income and salary figures to yourself? Such couples certainly cannot work together in terms of financial planning. You are married, but you are still doing your own thing.

Besides, a person may withhold such information so that he/she is free to do what he/she pleases with their money. This is because if you know my salary/income, then I have some obligation to let you know what I do with it. Ok, then, arrive at some compromise and give each other some freedom. If I earn then I should have a certain level of freedom too on what I do with it. Though balance is required here. You cannot completely spend as you like just because it is your earning. You are in a relationship and the relationship counts in your finances. Understanding, communication and planning together is key in this regard.

Lifestyle: Some new couples may also be faced with the challenges that may come with major differences in lifestyle. Of course, couples are not meant to be replicas of each other and opposites attract. But these major differences may come in form of likes, dislikes, interests, passion, worldview, perceptions, way of living, work ethics and hobbies.

While dating, these differences may seem more manageable especially if you are with each other for a few hours or few days at a time. Could these differences really be serious such that they make the couple incompatible? Or end up as a case of “irreconcilable differences” (a common occurrence these days)? This really should be thought through before the marriage commitment. This is because the moment the couple begin living together, these trivial concerns become pronounced.

Like a lady recounted: “I am so health conscious – totally into exercise and healthy eating, but he is very inactive and live on fast food. I love to spend my days outside, whereas he hates nature and wants to spend all day indoors reading or playing video games. I want to live outside town, he wants to live right in the city. I am very clean and organized, while he doesn’t mind living with dirty clothes and dirt everywhere. The list goes on. I really don’t know if this relationship can progress when we live so differently.” The question is, “Will these differences in lifestyle gradually get so incompatible such that a relationship just won’t work?” The couple will need to see about that. Better if that is decided, if possible, during the dating period.

Change: However, it is good to remember that people tend to change over the years. With much understanding of each other’s background, ongoing communication, actively listening to each other, enjoying good moments together, the situation may not be beyond redemption. Both parties can work out some compromise if they are both willing. Some individuals really believe in working at their relationships until it works.

Nothing is impossible if the goodwill and love is there to keep pushing it, on both sides. Besides, couples who really want to be there for each other, gradually change their ways to make each other happy. This may happen subtly, but it keeps happening so long as the couples continue to choose the “we” over the “I”, in a healthy way.

Challenges: Conflicts would arise, but it must not always lead to divorce. Even a marriage at the verge of divorce can still be restored. There may be moments of tears, sickness, health, for better, for worse and of course, indescribable love and joy too. Sticking together through it all, prayer and choosing to love can keep a marriage. As someone said, it is just a fact that marriage takes work.

In addition, the challenges facing any marriage relationship require that the couple be prayerful. This of course depends on the belief, faith and/or lifestyle of each of the parties in the marriage. If one was never used to praying before marriage, they may or may not start being prayerful afterwards.

Besides the joys, fun and memorable times of family life, lots of challenges arise, temptations, trials and hard choices. Some marriages get turbulent from the word go; others, a little later.

On a facebook page set up to support and encourage married couples, a contributor, Natalie N. McDougal wrote, “Marriage is what you make it. There is no manual. It is up to you and your spouse to make something of it. Never stop dating. Never give up and (always) count your blessings. Vows are not just words; they are a guide to an amazing future for you and your spouse.” Sharon C. Hillary also wrote: “If you make a choice to stick together and love each other through the hard times, your love will grow deeper and stronger.”

Prayer: Whatever the case, anyone with faith knows that prayer helps to keep one’s head above water during those challenging moments. Lots of wise and experienced couples speak of putting God at the center. And this goes with the saying that, “A family that prays together stays together.” Marriage commitment requires 100% contribution from both parties. Remember the love you had in the beginning and always try to pursue each other and do not let that love and spontaneity go away.

Dear reader, please do share your transition story anonymously. It could help a brother or a sister, and indeed help couples who are making that transition or preparing to make that transition.

Linda Asimole Ellah

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