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The curse of divorce (Part II)

The curse of divorce
It is suicidal to throw oneself into a marriage out of desperation. When tempted to do so, slam your brakes. Think conscientiously. Not with a perfidious heart. Visualise the ghastly consequences of persevering through a marriage devoid of love. Better still, picture yourself going through a heartwrenching and gruelling divorce process. KEVIN MOKENTO* writes

Chasidah! That’s the Hebrew word for stork. It means loyalty, but also carries connotations of kindness and modesty. There are close to 20 species of storks across six genres.

Our focus is on the white stork, also called Ciconia ciconia. One of the behavioural traits of this charismatic migratory avian that excites wonder and evokes envy, is its non-negotiable sense of fidelity. Not only to its nest but also to its mate.

White storks enjoy a monogamous lifelong union that remains a marvel to humans. They push the principle of fidelity to a hallowed level. In case you are tempted to attribute this to a short life span, think again. These birds start breeding at the age of four and would remain faithful to their partners for 18 to 36 years, or even more.  

Avian enthusiasts have been captivated by the true story of a pair of white storks that lived in Croatia; Kleptena (male) and Malena (female). Malena injured her wings and couldn’t accompany her partner during the annual winter migration to South Africa.

For 15 consecutive years, Kleptena would religiously brave a 13,000km journey gliding back to Croatia to spend time with Malena, take care of her and copulate with her. Kleptena earned his bragging rights to the claim, “every love story is beautiful, but ours is my favourite”.

Kleptena and Malena remained true to the vow normally made by humans and ever so often flagrantly breached; “till death do us part”. I’m relating this story to motivate couples to appreciate that if inferior species can do this, a species that has perched itself at the apex of the intelligence curve has the capacity to do better.

Association of human nature with infidelity prompted Elton John to release his first solo hit in 1989 entitled Sacrifice. It toppedå the charts in the UK and is still globally recognised as a masterpiece three decades later. Part of the lyrics goes, “Into the boundary of each married man, sweet deceit comes calling and negativity lands.” Lest we veer off the subject, for now, let’s reserve the debate on whether this narrative is true for a sundowner after the SoE. In this age of proliferation of divorce across races, cultures, backgrounds and social classes, we can learn from storks. Attributes such as trust, forbearance and a burning desire to accommodate each other’s wants and needs are important.

After love and respect, trust is the most important quality in marriage. Where trust deficit hangs like an albatross around the neck of one or both mates, the relationship won’t last. 

Marriage is normally a long process. Emotions are invested on each other. Spouses are expected to maintain their unions abounding in love, joy and happiness. Spending time together must be refreshing, not a necessary evil or unavoidable torture. Some marriages abound with acrimony. They are undergirded by deep-seated resentment, tribulation and distress. Spouses yearn for opportunities to spend time away from home. Some would go to work during government mandated shutdown periods, running away from a noxious environment.

These are the very people who would have vowed unconditional love to each other. Beaming with broad smiles! Hearts working in concert. Ready and willing to lay their life for each other.

At that time they could have heartily sung in unison the lyrics of ‘Just the Way You Are,’ a song produced by the Hawaiian born artist named Bruno Mars. Emotionally blurting out the lyrics, particularly the part that goes “And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while”.

If after a few months or years, you don’t bother to give as much as a cursory glance when she smiles, what could have happened?

Some marriages are swerving toward the cliff at full steam. The objective of this article and next week’s one is to plant some pearly seeds of wisdom that could help in reducing and possibly eliminating the speed at which some marriages are hurtling their way to ruin. There is a universe of relevant factors and the objective of these articles is not to exhaust them. Material prosperity is desirable, but is not the staple to a successful marriage. Some wealthy jetsetters are trapped in shaky connubial cages. Devoid of happiness! You may not need to look further than your neighbour or bosom friend to confirm this.

A corpulent bank account characterised by perennial streams of melting hard currency fat is not synonymous with happiness. Money cannot be thrown at marital challenges. Anyone desiring to get married must look beyond things of fleeting value and focus on perduring marriage stabilising elements.  Closely riveted to this notion is the need to objectively identify challenges in the marriage and launch a joint, perfervid and decisive assault on the challenges, not the challenged. Integral to building a successful marriage are three important pillars; full and enduring commitment of both parties, genuine love and heartfelt respect for each another, and unconditional wholesome fear of the supreme being who established the marriage institution.

Each spouse needs to introspect, ‘What can I do to raise my marriage to the next level of success?’ We appreciate that almost everything we possess requires proactive maintenance, yet we tend to neglect the one thing that is so precious to us, our spouse. While it’s easy to point fingers, we need to objectively assess what our input is in creating rough edges on our marriage. Let’s humbly approach our spouse and ask, “Where am I falling short?” By all means, let’s resist the egocentric inclination to think we know it all. A charlatan mentality is repulsive and regressive.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the US put it sublimely, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, diamond, and to know one’s self.” Since it’s hard to know oneself, let’s use our spouse as our mirror. Our spouse would reflect what we are. Warts and all! Since a mirror never lies, let’s resist the temptation to ‘shoot’ it.

A gentle nudge from a loving spouse is all we need to breathe a refreshing and energising odour into our enervated marriage. Let’s not tread the defensive path. May we reflect on the words uttered by a Japanese philosopher named Miyamoto Musashi, “Truth is

not what you want it to be; it is what it is. And you must bend to its power or live a lie.” Let’s live the truth. Character assessment cannot be reduced to a mundane and nugatory box ticking exercise. Our spouse should discern from our facial expression, the intonation and inflection of our voice and our entire body language that we are sincere. We need to be careful in selecting the time for doing this, preferring times when our spouse is enjoying a gruntled, not disgruntled mood.

Let’s prevail over our ego and resist the loquacious attitude of loving to hear our voice. Ever so keen to have the last word. That holier-than-though mindset compounded by undue inclination towards hollow conversational narcissism has no place in happy marriages. Know when to shut your mouth. Talk less. Listen more. Do the right things. Ooze with love and conviviality. Nothing can ever beat a genuine practical expression of love. 

Where possible, let’s resist the urge to ditch our mate. The words where possible as opposed to always are used here because spouses may advertently or inadvertently invalidate their vows and annul their marriage, or they may even nullify their right to live with a spouse by their acts of commission or omission.

Primarily through infidelity, neglecting one’s mate and unwarranted heavy-handed acts of domestic abuse. Not that any act of domestic abuse, whether physical, emotional or financial could ever be justified! 

The idea of divorcing and getting married again to a younger and prettier person is often appealing. Especially to a fraction of the hoarse voiced gender. Of course it’s not illegal. But who said everything that is not illegal is right! While the temptation to yield to the pressure of chasing that elusive perfect mate might crop up, there is value in reining it in, particularly in cases where the new marriage would only afford one an opportunity to walk into it with a hefty baggage of undesirable behavioural traits. One statesman once said, “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” I’m afraid by this measure, some married people are languishing in the red.

This might explain why some people are into their third or fourth marriage and a few counting up. Desperately trying to prove their relevance to an institution that has long shut its doors on their faces. Although some are in denial, the practice of darting from one marriage to another often betrays an underlying interpersonal problem with the nomadic person.

It is essential to recognise, appreciate and embrace personality differences. While in no way underplaying the importance of compatibility, the truth is, homogeneous personalities would not result in perfect marriages. Spouses must complement, not copy each other. A heterogeneous culture embedded in marriages is the X-factor required to move a marriage from an elementary level of stability to an elevated platform of thriving. Don’t allow the spirit of competition to creep into your marriage and rob you of happiness.

Personality differences are often deeply ingrained because they are a cumulative by-product of our culture, background, exposure and inherent perceptions. Hence, the notion of “I can change him” always leads to disappointment. If he never promised you he will change, he won’t. Don’t have the temerity to turn your baseless expectation into a vow he never made.

Let’s illustrate the importance of recognising and celebrating personality differences. Reflect on the FOMO versus the JOMO. The former refers to the ‘fear of missing out’ personality and the latter to the ‘joy of missing out’. A FOMO is extroverted, has a phobia for missing out, likes company, derives some thrill from extending hospitality to family, friends and acquaintances. And would often veer off onto the rambunctious social lane. In contrast, being introverted by nature, a JOMO prefers own company, keeps to the quiet and uncongested social lane, and limits association to a close-knit circle of family and friends.

Would there be an issue with compatibility if a FOMO got married to a JOMO? Quite likely. What could help? Less focus on personality differences. Increased focus on common strengths. Acknowledgement of endearing qualities of one’s mate. Determination to willingly accommodate the wishes of one’s spouse. However, promising yourself that post the matrimonial ceremony, you would convert a FOMO into a JOMO or vice versa is empty self-deception. Believe you me, there is a long trail of victims to this rather cockeyed view.

If you are contemplating marriage, reflect on attributes you would treasure from your future spouse. Objectively measure potential mates against them. Restrict your focus to folks scoring above average. Reject mediocrity. Including charming and charismatic mediocrity!

Refrain from throwing yourself onto the first spiv that comes your way. You deserve better. That is called self-respect. Marriage has never been and will never be about Hobson’s choice. Never invest your emotions into a relationship without the benefit of an objective background check. All this sounds purely theoretical, but believe you me, it doesn’t get more practical than this.

It is suicidal to throw oneself into a marriage out of desperation. When tempted to do so, slam your brakes. Think conscientiously. Not with a perfidious heart. Visualise the ghastly consequences of persevering through a marriage devoid of love. Better still, picture yourself going through a heartwrenching and gruelling divorce process. Surely no one wants their honeymoon to be cut short, or that natural craving for a life of nuptial bliss to remain an elusive dream. Learn from the mistakes of your friends and acquaintances.

Nothing beats a willingness to compromise and make one’s mate happy. As my uncle once advised me during the celebration of my 10th wedding anniversary, “A man has to give, and give and give some more. And when there is nothing more to give, he has to go and look for something more to give.” Sadly, some marriages are destitute of generosity! Selfishness, pride and rivalry hold sway.

There is hope for all marriages, including those going through turbulence. The next article will explore more areas that could help save your marriage.


* Kevin Mokento is the pseudonym of a contributor to Mmegi

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