AMAKA CHIKA-MBONU: Marriage Not for Babies, But Mature People

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Amaka Chika-Mbonu is a UK-based Marriage and Relationship Consultant, and a certified Counsellor with a particular interest in couple’s counselling. She is also a motivational speaker, poet, writer, and author of three books- How to Get Your Wife to Swing from the Chandelier in a Red Negligée, 49 Ways to Get Rid of the Other Woman (without getting caught) and the limited edition of coffee table book, Before, When and After. Amaka, who boasts of a 26 year-old practical experience as a wife, in this encounter with
Festus Akanbi, speaks on diverse issues including the place of marriage in boardroom effectiveness, office romance, coping with children born outside wedlock and relationship tips, among others

Hiring women for top positions

Family pressures can affect anyone-both men and women in the workplace. In fact, I like to say that what happens in the bedroom affects the boardroom. Granted though that because of the culture we live in, coupled with entrenched gender stereotypes, and the erroneous notion that a man helping his wife or being supportive of her in the home is somehow a sign of weakness, women find that they are particularly pressured when trying to combine the domestic front with the work front.

A woman who has a good marriage relationship that is supportive both emotionally and practically will be better positioned to navigate the pressures that can affect output at work. I think organisations would increase output and harness the formidable talents that women have to offer in the workplace if they invest in things like crèches, flexible work hours, working remotely, and generous maternity and paternity leave.

A career woman as a good wife
If a career woman cannot be a good wife, it then puts women in a box and states that they can only be either this or that and not both. In my estimation that isn’t a fact. Women are multi-faceted, and have the ability to multi-task. A career woman would definitely need to prioritise, delegate, find a balance, be well organised, and it is possible.

Between a settled home and a strong economy
I am a firm believer in the fact that the family unit is the bedrock which provides the underpinning for any community, country, or economy to thrive and prosper. It is the smallest unit of society and one of the problems prevalent today is that we have broken families, producing broken children, who go on to perpetuate this ‘brokenness’ in their own relationships and the cycle goes on ad infinitum; these small pockets of dysfunction spreading out to the society at large. You have to be settled of mind and emotions to be creative, innovative, and forward thinking. You need to be confident in who and what you are, and where you are coming from to craft solutions and build enterprises. You need to be well-centred and have fully developed core values and beliefs, honesty, integrity, sense of fair- play and empathy to fully embrace your why, your vision and your mission.

The seeds, the birthing, and the nurturing of all this ideally should be the family unit. When this is fractured, it is a problem to the family unit involved and then extends to the country at large. This inevitably reflects in the bottom-line – the economy. I explore this in some depth in my new book, which will be out soon, Where Did You Put Your Organ? A Housekeeping Book for Men and the Women Who Love Them.

Office romance
I believe some HR guidelines prohibit this. I guess because it can make for some awkward situations – professionally and otherwise. But, who knows where ‘love’ will find one. Many people have met their life partners in a work environment. Benefits – you get to see the person in a setting outside of the romance you’re in with them. For instance, in their interaction with other workers, the way they navigate office politics, you see how driven, ambitious or hardworking they really are, and whether they’ll do anything, and cross any line to get to the top.

The dangers would include, but not be limited to, what if you have an argument, disagreement or you actually break up and it’s acrimonious – and even if it isn’t. Will you be okay still working together? Are you going to be in violation of your Human Resources policies by embarking on this romance? Can you keep it professional and let what happens in the bedroom stay in the bedroom, or are you going to be all hot and both are staring lovingly or lustfully at each other on the office clime? These are critical considerations if you find yourself going down this path.

Marriage lessons from the Church
I cannot indict the church without indicting myself, as the body of believers is the church. I am the church – a member of this body, and by the grace of God I am doing my bit in my space as a Marriage Counsellor and so are so many others.
Apart from being a trained certified counsellor, I have had the privilege of serving in the Marriage Counselling Department of my local assembly for 20+ years, and many churches, my local assembly included to run robust pre and post-marital classes. And those that are already married, I would advise that they continue to learn and acquire skills to be married successfully. Marriage takes work to make it work, and so we must work the work. In no other endeavour in life that we want to excel in, do we stop learning and honing our skills? This notwithstanding, I truly believe that we – the church – can still do a lot more.

I think we should have, for want of a better word—‘think tanks’ that “rightly divide the word of truth” and are able to give young people scripture based, practical guidelines and insight on when, (at what age) and how to date/court. What is a wife? What is a husband? I like him or her, how do I not sleep with them? He beats me, abuses me and you say I should just pray. He/she says he/she loves me but doesn’t spend time with me, or sleep with me, amongst other things. These seem basic but they are really not. I am trying to get something together that confronts and deals with these things that repeatedly come before me in my line of work.

Fate of children born outside wedlock
I believe in the sanctity of monogamous marriage as prescribed by my faith and the nuclear family birthed from that union. But, we live in a fallen world and the behaviour of others can cause situations to arise where innocent children are birthed and drawn into unwholesome situations brought about by the misbehaviour of adults. Infidelity is like a pebble thrown into a still body of water causing a ripple effect. You can never tell how far the ripple will go and what it may disturb in the process.

Going into relationship
Some of the basic questions to ask oneself would be, “Who am I really?” “What do I want from life?” And “What are the steps I need to take to achieve these dreams, needs, wants, and desires?” When these questions have been answered, the next thing one needs to ensure is that you enter into a ‘romantic’ relationship only with someone who has the ability to ‘give’ you these things. That of course begs the question, how do I know that the person can or cannot give me these things? And the answer to this would be because you won’t, and indeed shouldn’t rush into romance as many of us tend to do. Get to know the person as a person first. Don’t keep giving your heart and body to everyone and anyone you meet before you have discovered that they are worth giving that to. As a counsellor, I frequently counsel people who are in relationships where they feel stifled and unfulfilled.
Everything they stand for- their purpose, belief system, and long-term plans are completely at variance with those of the person that they have linked their lives with. This causes major problems.

Rising cases of divorce these days
One of the major reasons for the high rate of divorce in this day and age is the fact that people spend more time choosing what shiny new device to buy, what job they want to commit to, what they want to wear to that black tie event and other easily changeable things than they do on the decision of who they commit to spending the rest of their natural life with.

He’s tall, dark, handsome and broody, makes your body quiver, has a voice that whispers in your ear like Barry White, has abs like Usher and serenades you like Banky W is not going to cut it when you get married and life needs to be discussed. And she has a body like Beyoncé is as beautiful as Adesuwa, looks hot in a red negligee or bikini really won’t cut it when you need a woman who will stand by you in and through the ups and downs of life.

These attributes of course are not bad in and of themselves, however, how about things like; do you share the same core values? How does the person handle stress, money, people? Who does he or she listen to, who influences them? How do they make you feel, really and truthfully? Are they a person of integrity, is their yes, yes, and their no, no? Can you communicate with them? Do they have the ability to communicate with you? These speak to the core of who a person really is and form an unshakeable, sure foundation that a marriage relationship can be built on so that even if, and likely when challenges arise, the marriage may shake but is unlikely to break.

These are things I am committed to creating awareness for to help young people. The ramifications of not doing so are dire. Fundamental needs must be met in order to divorce-proof a marriage union. I deal with these needs – what as a woman, you are likely to need from your man, and as a man what you’d need to give to your woman in my book How to Get Your Wife to Swing from the Chandelier in a Red Negligée.

Child-bearing as obstacle to husband, wife bonding
Marriage is not for babies, it is for those who are mature, always noting that maturity is not necessarily a function of age. Every marriage is also unique, as unique as the two individuals involved in it, and the combination they make when they come together. There is no other marriage on earth that is like the one that you form when you get together with your significant other. This means that happiness, challenges, and their solutions will never be a one size fits all.

The Originator of marriage commands that people should be independent of thought and mind prior to marriage then become to a degree interdependent on one another and thinking/doing things that are for the collective good. All these to say that whilst we must respect and acknowledge our culture, that is, according to the dictionary – our ideas, customs, and social behavior-the couple must know themselves individually, and together enough to determine what works for them. That said, it would be nice to have a honeymoon period for the couple to ‘settle-in’ without the challenges of new parenthood to distract them.

Dealing with infidelity in marriage
Infidelity is one of the most devastating things that a couple can face. Ninety nine per cent of the cases I have the privilege of helping couples through as a counsellor have to do with infidelity. Infidelity speaks of treachery, and disloyalty. It reeks of betrayal and causes strong feelings of distrust in the one betrayed and in the one who was betrayed. To deal with, and overcome infidelity and bring the relationship back to normality, it will take two to tango.

There are a number of things that will need to happen and I’ll mention just a few. The one who has breached trust will have to commit to complete honesty and transparency for likely a long while to come. They will need to apologise for what has happened, in all probability repeatedly. ‘This apology cannot be some vague unspecified I’m sorry, for vague unspecified breaches. But, “I’m sorry for wxyz, can you please forgive me? It will not happen again.” They must then do everything in their power to ensure that it doesn’t happen again—even seek professional help if need be.

The one who has betrayed trust must be prepared to suffer the distrust of their spouse for a time. No matter how good the intentions of the offender, no matter how much they may have changed or repented. The other person cannot believe or know this for sure considering what has happened. Trust is built up over time but crushed in a second. It will take time to rebuild it.

If perchance there are irreversible consequences of these dalliances, for instance children born external to the marriage, it is essential that the way forward is discussed and… negotiated. Financial obligations, level of interaction etc. These decisions cannot be taken unilaterally if the marriage is to stand a good chance of repairing this breach. These things look good on paper but are really hard and a lot of times complicated to do. I will however refer to something I have dubbed the i-equation—the things needed to be done to overcome the damage infidelity has caused in a relationship will be easier or harder for the offending party in direct proportion to how much they have invested in making their marriage work and be right again. Committed and consistent behaviour will be key to dealing with infidelity. My book 49 Ways to Get Rid of The Other Woman (without getting caught) is a valuable resource for women dealing with infidelity in their marriage. The book also contains a letter to the men from a Father.

Coping with abusive relationship
Nobody should remain in a situation where they are in danger physically or emotionally. Threats to life and limb by either the husband or wife to each other must be taken seriously, family and necessary authorities informed as necessary. There are also a number of support groups—WARIF for example. The behaviour of the person inflicting such trauma is unacceptable and must be dealt with resolutely.

When separation puts asunder…
I guess in some ways it speaks to the integrity and character of the person who has abandoned the spouse they have a covenant with. Having said that, I will advise couples to discuss upfront and acknowledge the toll and challenges that a separation will take and bring to their union, and then agree remedies. Long distance relationships can make either party vulnerable to entanglements. These however can be avoided or mitigated if a strong connection, sexual and otherwise is maintained. Luckily today, with technology this can be achieved if the couple is committed. Video messaging apps, phone calls, and email come to mind.

Odds against use of domestic assistants
My advice is that couples need to learn and be able to do a lot of things for themselves, organise themselves better, make sure that both the husband and the wife are helping out and supportive of each other in every respect in this regard. They will need to leverage on family, pool together with other families for school run and child care. And if they don’t want to do any of these (laughing) then, if they can afford it or stretch to it, pay for the specialised help they need.