CAUSES OF IN-COMMUNICATION IN MARRIAGE
Communication gaps in marriage result from so many factors. Fada Atado maintained, “Some do not know how to communicate, others are too busy to communicate, or are afraid to reach out to each other”. He went further to describe communication drought in marriage this way, “When you were courting or newly married, you had plenty time for each other. You played ludo game or cards together; you took evening walk or evening drive together; you watched television or video together; you sat on the rug and rolled over each other; at times you backed each other; at times you sat on the floor and your partner sat in between your legs” (Atado, J. C., Marriage Maintenance, October 2005, pp 81-83). Unfortunately these funs are allowed to fade in some marriages. Some either become too formal in their relationship or rarely make out time for each other. WHY?
Unavailability: Unavailability leads to in-communication in marriage. In describing the matter and form of the sacrament of marriage, Thomas Pazhayampallil explains, “We can say that the matter of the sacrament is the mutual offer of themselves as husband and wife made in words or in signs. The form is the mutual acceptance of the same, expressed in similar manner” (Pazhayampallil, T., Pastoral Guide, Vol. 2, p. 817). Some couples today lack the capacity to mutually offer themselves to each other. When a partner cannot offer himself/herself to the other in marriage, his time and attention, he/she becomes unavailable. A spouse becomes unavailable when he/she keeps secrets from his/her partner. A spouse becomes unavailable when he/she becomes selfish. The man for instance, would always want his interest to come first. Anything that pertains to the wife and her own family is always inferior and deserves less attention. When the man’s mother is sick, for example, the entire household is restless. When he plans to visit his parents, it is done with commitment and compulsion. His relatives come into the house and go at will, but when it affects the wife, it raises eye brows. The woman cannot think of visiting her old parents not to talk of asking him to escort her home. A spouse becomes unavailable when he/she places economic, political or professional interest above the partner. A spouse becomes unavailable when he/she cannot put himself in the shoes of the partner. This breeds in-communication.
Social/ Occupational Hazard: Some men are always on the run; running to catch up with one business meeting, political meeting, social gathering or the other. Such men make themselves completely strange to their wives. For instance, a man can be preoccupied with office matters from Mondays through Fridays, on Saturdays he either receives emergency calls regarding his work or hosts/attends one meeting or wedding ceremony, on Sundays he manages to go to church together with the family while he zooms off immediately for meetings that last till late evenings when he comes back to prepare for another week of compact office work. Such a person is unavailable. He doesn’t communicate with the wife. He barely knows his home. He gradually severs affection with his marriage partner. It takes a gradual process but makes the marriage relationship grow weak.
Distraction: “No servant can be the slave of two masters; he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second” (Matt. 16:13). This is the warning from Christ which pointed to the need for commitment and concentration. One major factor that threatens the marriage bond is distraction. When a man/woman becomes distracted, he/she loses not only his/her head but heart as well. Once a person loses concentration he/she becomes less available and absent minded from the home. He gives more of his substantial attention to his new found love. He/she communicates more with the new relationship. For instance, when a man starts a new relationship outside the marriage, he becomes distracted. He commits his energy into it. It affects his level of communication with the wife. A spouse can also be distracted by other factors that make him/her give less attention to the partner. Some become addicted to television – movies, soccer, wrestling, etc. Some are addicted to electronic gadgets and computers, others still are addicted to their telephones that they are always chatting with friends at the expense of their real home.
Guilt: The bible captured Adam and Eve after having eaten the forbidden fruit thus, “The man and the wife heard the sound of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from Yahweh God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). For instance, the best way to know when a child has committed any offence in the absence of his parents is the child’s reaction on their return. Let us use the example of a child who breaks the dad’s glass cup. When other children rush to herald the parents’ arrival, such child usually hides. He/she is afraid of the consequences of his/her action. This is the danger of guilt. When a spouse becomes culpable of the offence of insincerity or infidelity in marriage, he/she like the child has broken the marriage glass cup. He/she adopts one of two measures: intimidation or shyness. Intimidation is a way of defense mechanism while shyness is an internal feeling of guilt. Any couple who know each other so well will always find out from the partner when something has gone awry. The guilty person normally becomes incommunicable. He/she loses concentration. He hides his face, he is afraid of the partner’s gaze. He develops a divided attention. He harbours a sense of guilt. He lacks the courage to face the partner. He feels shy. He simply tries to hide like Adam and Eve.
Lack of Self Hygiene: One silent killer in human relationship is lack of personal hygiene. No man for instance, likes to have a dirty wife. No woman also appreciates a smelling husband. Unfortunately, some persons do not place enough emphasis on their hygiene. Some men/women dress very shabbily, exhibit body ordour, mouth ordour, soak in sweat, etc without making adequate efforts to sanitize themselves. These can make such persons become disgusting and repulsive to their partners. Unfortunately, some men/women wouldn’t be courageous enough to voice out how uncomfortable they are as a result of their partner’s inhygiene. All they do is to adopt avoidance approach. They make themselves tactically unavailable. They fear close contacts, give excuses and shrink from even sexual intercourse because of the discomforting factors. A man once told me that the wife has a nasty body ordour that repels him from her but that he didn’t know how to communicate to her. Another woman said she had been so worried by the level of sweat that the husband emitted, that she got soaked each time she was with him. But the more she tried to let him know of it to see what could be done, he became infuriated. This can lead to loss of proper communication in marriage. Lack of self hygiene is a threat to healthy conjugal relationship.
Habit: Some persons are by nature reserved. They prefer to be on their own and do not have time to reach out to others. Such exists in marriage. Introverts are habitually withdrawn. Not only that they do not talk, they can’t also create warmth in their relationship. They are not moved by jokes and have no regard for social gatherings. Such persons are afraid to share their feelings, discuss their plans, talk about their fears and anxieties with their husband/wife not because of any form of guilt but because it is their nature. They seem to lack the confidence to be together for a long time with another.
As October 1 draws near
Conventionally, October 1 means the first day of the tenth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar. And ironically, it is the month of the introduction of the calendar by Pope Gregory (X111) in 1582. For some, it is their birthday, or perhaps pertains to some joyous occasion in their lives. But for the SouthEasterners, particularly the Igbos in northern parts of Nigeria, October 1 has lots of negative and apprehensive implications.
In the interest of the international community, and for those ignorant of the ugly developments in Nigeria, the Northern Youth Forum met in one of the northern states called Kaduna, and on June 6, issued a stern warning to over eleven million Igbos residing in their states to vacate the North before October 1, 2017 or face forceful eviction and possible harm. The ultimatum came days after the stay at home exercise in the Southeast by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to commemorate their fallen heroes in the South East on May 30, 2017. The Biafran people are simply asking for freedom, and emancipation from years of manipulative and exploitative rule. Put in the perspective of the old Israelites, the Biafran people want to go from Nigeria. The question is, “Is the northern youths’ declaration intended to facilitate this move? The answer is no. The northern youths’ approach is rather to get the Igbos forcefully evicted; just throw them out. Send them home by force. If they fail to leave, frustrate them, if possible annihilate them. This seems to have become the fate of the Igbos as it recalls for them their post-civil war experience in 1970.
Before getting back to the October 1, one might wonder two things here: 1) what constitutional rights the northern youths have to eject the South-easterners from the north. 2) what actions the Nigerian government has taken to address or reverse this utterance. On the first issue, at least till this moment, Igbos are still legal citizens of Nigeria. Igbos have the same constitutional rights to reside in any part of Nigeria. They are not contravening any immigration laws by residing in the North. The issue is that the North seems intimidated by the very industrious nature of the Igbo tribe since Igbos are practically sprinkled all over the world in possibly a dominant way. The second issue is that the Northern Youth Forum is being vindictive. They are using this ultimatum as vendetta: “If the Igbos are agitating for freedom, and still have most of their people in our lands, then let us frustrate them”. The “let us frustrate them” philosophy has always been a ploy used in Nigerian politics, and one major reason why the Biafra agitation is growing. The Nigerian political system grossly disfavors the Igbo tribe, and works to the benefits of the North. Since the Igbos still thrive in their educational endeavors, businesses and professions, they are an ongoing target. They ought to be frustrated.
What actions have the Nigerian government taken? Clearly, the body language of the President Buhari-led administration is Hausa. It seems supportive of this ultimatum though in a mischievous way. Sincerely, the approach of the Nigerian president towards the Biafra agitation is at most described as disappointing. The lack of openness to dialogue and engagement can be said to be an undiplomatic approach for a viable solution to an issue of national interest. Sad to say, that is what brought Nigeria to this current state of pity and quagmire, and has attracted international opprobrium. For instance, on his return after a hundred days of medical treatment in the UK, Mr. President stated in his address that the issue about Nigeria’s unity is “non-negotiable”. Part of his statement reads, “I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially in the social media have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation”. Non-negotiable? Come to think of it. Even a husband cannot tell his wife in the house that her agitations are non-negotiable, not even parents to their children in today’s world. What about a president to his fellow citizens? For your information, the Igbo of Nigeria is about 18% of its total population of about 177 million Nigerians, that is approximately 32 million people. But Biafra is not just the Igbo agitation, and Mr. President says, it is non-negotiable. I see that as some form of administrative suicide.
Back to October 1. From the foregoing, October 1 is like an Octopus for the Southeasterners and particularly for the Igbos in the north. In its original sense, October 1 used to be the most celebrated day in Nigeria. It is the day Nigeria gained her independence from the British rule. As a child, we used to dream of this day of independence. We rolled out in well ironed school uniforms for march past and parades, enjoyed the best ice cream, met fellow students from other schools and reminisced the story of freedom told us by our parents who experienced the colonial masters from Britain. October 1 stood for freedom at the time.
That freedom is almost reversed today. For some, October 1, 2017, should be deleted from the calendar. It portends death alarm. The history of the northern threats against the Igbos in the past shows that they have always made due their heinous threats. They have masked in several monstrous, carnivorous forms- Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, Jihadists. The Igbos have always been the preys. So, for most of the Igbos in today’s North, October 1 is the day they march to their grave in an untimely manner. Such persons are not willing to leave. They plan to embark on their regular businesses as usual but ready for no other than to see to its logical conclusion. For some, October 1 signifies panic attack. Those in this group are in a state of constant insomnia. They imagine it’s going to be dicey. They might lose their property. They plan to hibernate in the area and perhaps resurface at some point. Those in this group think that things would calm down in the end. For some still, October 1 is a day of blame and regrets. Those here feel they are going to take all the blame from their brothers and sisters, kinsmen and friends for not heeding to the Hausa threats, for not vacating the north as quickly as they could. For some others, October 1 is a day for forced exit from their businesses, forced withdrawal from of their children from schools and departure to an unfamiliar home. This group is already leaving the north tactically. They have conveyed most of their properties and children home, perhaps intend to take the night bus to the east on September 30th. For others, still, October 1 is a day that marks a tribal war between the dare devil Hausa- Fulani hegemony and the already victimized Igbos. The air of uncertainty looms large.
But another question is, “Why don’t the Igbos vacate the North for peace to reign?” This is mostly the opinion of those who view domiciling from an impersonal perspective. I have had time to speak with many Igbos in the North, and wondered the rationale behind their continued stay. Think of a parent with seven children. Such family has lived all their lives in the North. Their business, education, properties, etc., are all located in the North. They have no investment in the Southeast, have no home, and not guaranteed any shelter back home. They have nothing to live on if they return. Someone wakes up and unwarrantedly commands them to leave. It may sound easy to say, “Why not come back”, but the intricacies of coming back are overwhelming. Importantly, they have the constitutional rights to reside in any parts of the country of their choice. They are citizens with legal rights and privileges. Friends, it’s like someone from Florida living in Texas, or a person from Indiana moving to Michigan. So, why should they be forced to leave? They can only leave if Biafra is legitimately established as an independent nation.
Why this article at this time? First is because October 1 is fast approaching. Just perhaps, for the international community to be aware of the various shades of Nigeria’s October 1, and to recognize the threats against human life in Nigeria today. Unfortunately, crimes against humanity in Nigeria are given less attention by the international community. It’s as if human lives in Nigeria don’t matter anymore. The mainstream media’s attention is focused only on Europe, Asia and the Middle East. I guess that Nigeria’s oil is not flowing as before. Insidiously, there is pogrom in Nigeria on a daily basis. There is genocide on a daily basis. There is constant killing of innocent persons in Nigeria on a daily basis, mostly because of ethnic affiliation, especially if they are Igbos. The difference between what is happening in Nigeria and the 1994 Rwandan genocide is that the Nigerian approach is very tactful, systematic but deliberate. People are hungry but no longer worried about hunger. They have no light but no longer complaining about that. They have terrible road networks but have come to live with such. Millions are unemployed but poised to make a living. Now, they are being killed, tortured in their numbers because they want to dialogue for the sake of their freedom.
Let the international community consider Nigeria before it is late. North Korea is considered a threat because it is perceived to devalue innocent lives. On Thursday, April 7, President Trump ordered a military strike on the Syrian government airbase in response to alleged chemical weapons attack by the Assad-led government that killed dozens of civilians. President Trump said he was disheartened at the killing of innocent civilians and helpless women and children. Worse things are happening in Nigeria now. Innocent (particularly Igbo) people are dying in Nigeria. They have no powers of their own, they have no hope.
If not nipped in the bud, October 1 may represent a day that everyone kept quiet to an impending doom in a nation with over a hundred and eighty million lives at stake. October 1 might mean ACTION or INACTION for the Igbos in the Northern part of Nigeria.
Fr. Vincent Arisukwu, writes from the USA.
The Mandela Spirit and challenges of Familyhood in Africa (2)
Mandela’s sacrifice: To gain freedom for South African people Mandela had to sacrifice his own freedom. Not only that, Mandela sacrificed his love for his family. While in prison between 1968 – 1969 Mandela lost his mother and his first son. He was not allowed to attend any of the funerals of these two persons most dear in his life. Yet he didn’t give up. Mandela was like the proverbial grain of wheat that died in order to bear the fruit of justice and freedom for South Africans. He was resilient in his course. Many couples in the modern society today are afraid to make sacrifices for their families. Some men are afraid to take risks for their wives and children, yet want to be worshipped in the home. Mandela loved South Africa and took great risks for her. That is the challenge of leadership. When the times are rough, when training of children becomes cumbersome, when sickness threatens family members, the leader must step out to make sacrifice. Mandela was poor at some point for his course. Family heads must also deny themselves of pleasure in order to liberate their families.
Mandela’s fidelity: Between 1962 and 1990 Mandela revolved between Prison on Robben Island and Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison. Undoubtedly he would have had offers and attractions from those he opposed to drop his revolution and be settled. He would have been lured in many ways since he had become a threat to the apartheid practice. Who knows what would have happened if Nelson Mandela had dropped his ambition. Who knows what South Africa would have become today. Who knows what Mandela’s funeral would have been like. This helps to educate families on the virtue of faithfulness. Faithfulness to a chosen career begins with faithfulness to oneself. Faithfulness to one’s partner derives from faithfulness to one’s chosen course. It begins with refusal to succumb to material and economic allurements. That is what leadership means. Heads of families have to learn from Mandela and avoid selling themselves cheap for the sake of material demands and acquisition. Many have betrayed their families with lame excuses of seeking ways and means that are completely unacceptable and incompatible with marital vows.
Mandela’s optimism: One quality that carried Nelson Mandela through his struggle was his optimism. He always looked to the future with hope. He never despaired in his struggle. The challenges, failures and even incarcerations never gave him reasons to give up. Even when his marriage to Winnie became a sour point in his life, Madiba kept up the struggle. He was always hopeful. He believed that liberation was an end point of the battle to freedom. Mandela never believed in failure. He trusted in himself and also trusted in God. We were told that of the twenty seven years he spent in prison, Nelson Mandela only missed going to church once.
This challenges families on the need to be optimistic about life. Life does not end when things become rough. It is not always rosy in family. The cross must have its place in the homes. Though heavy, the optimist looks up while carrying his cross. Like Madiba, men and women should always see the half cup of water as half full and not half empty. They should always look unto God while marching on in their marriage struggle.
Mandela’s humility: It takes a humble man like Mandela to relinquish power after having secured it the hardest way ever conceived. It takes a humble man like Mandela not to go the African way of holding tenaciously to power. It takes a Mandela to calmly surrender power and not to fall out with his successor Thabo Mbeki who nurtured ambition the to take over. It takes a Mandela to realize that presidency is service. It takes a Mandela to step aside only after a four year term having spent twenty seven years for the people in prison. It takes a Mandela to actually say no to pressures from political supporters and sycophants who would surely sing his praises and goad him back to power for their selfish interests. Mandela defied all these to teach men and women in the homes the value of humility. He was not only a politician but a good sportsman. He exhibited true spirit of sportsmanship that is lacking in today’s society. If husbands become humble, if wives learn humility, there would be reduced tension and cases of broken homes in contemporary society.
Mandela’s integrity: Mandela could not have been a saint while he lived. He must have had his flaws as a human being. In fact, Mandela had to confess openly to Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he finally married Graca Machel officially as his wife, “Now you won’t shout at me and say I am setting a bad example”. Madiba realized what it meant not to set a bad example. He was a man of integrity. He was a man of justice, sincerity, transparency and firmness. He avoided scandal. He avoided inflicting harm on others. That was why when the US President Barack Obama, among other world leaders was paying his tribute to the late African legend said, “He (Mandela) makes me want to be a better man”.
Men and women should learn to be men of integrity. They should set good examples for their children. They should leave legacies of truth, equity and justice for posterity to judge them. They should aim to be emulated after their exit.
Mandela’s patience: Mandela could be described as one of the most patient men that lived in the twentieth and twenty first centuries. He was a sober and contemplative personality. Mandela was patient in his political struggle, patient in his marriage, patient as a leader and waited for the will of God to be done. To spend twenty seven years in prison and come out to continue the course of his life ambition- the liberation of his people- speaks volume of his patience. He had his disappointments and perhaps his regrets. But these did not overwhelm him.
This is a serious lesson for African families. Most problems that arise in families nowadays can be attributed to lack of patience. Men and women of this era must imbibe the virtue of patience and learn to ponder over events to allow fruitful results come after. Joy, the scripture says, always comes in the morning.
Mandela’s forgiveness: The great Madiba towered over his mates because of his spirit of forgiveness. A rare quality for someone to suffer in the hands of his executioners, lose mother and son in the process, then regain opportunity for revenge and not use it adequately. Mandela replicated the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his actions he echoed the words of Christ, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. He forgave all and accepted all. Mandela brought in both black and white. He restored human dignity battered in South Africa by racial discrimination and power.
From Madiba, married couples must learn to forgive each other the wrongs they have committed.
Mandela’s victory: Nelson Mandela actually traveled a long journey to herald his victory. His victory however, did not consist in his becoming the president of South Africa but in the total emancipation of the South African people, the restoration of the fundamental dignity due to man. And you know what, that victory came in 2009 when the United Nations declared July 18 (Mandela’s birthday), to be Nelson Mandela International Day. The purpose of the day was to bring awareness to community service. Mandela humbled himself but the people’s liberation exalted him. He became victorious in justice and equity.
These are strong pedagogies to be drawn by African families from the great Madiba. The victory of selflessness is a collective victory. When couples become selfish they enjoy short term and momentary glory. Nelson Mandela was victorious because he exhibited the virtues that promote love and peace. He is celebrated because of his commitment to the rights and dignity of others. African families should emulate his heroism. Leadership does not only consist in holding political offices and positions, it begins from the home. Parents are the real leaders of the society since they set the example for others to follow. The victory of the family is the victory of society. Long live Madiba! Long live Africa!
The Mandela Spirit and challenges of Familyhood in Africa (1)
I have settled down to read and reflect on the multiplicity of eulogies, sermons and encomiums that have been pouring out in honour of the greatest African or if I may say, world hero of our time, the late Nelson Rolihlahla Madiba Dalibhunga Mandela since the announcement of his death by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa on Thursday, December 5. There is nothing else that could be said of a legend that has not been said or written deservedly about Mandela. And like Funke Egbemode wrote in her column of Sunday Sun, titled, “Madiba’s living lessons”, “I have … seen the death of world leaders reported but none like this”.
Nelson Mandela actually wrote his name on the granite of history not only as South African leader, not only as African leader but as first class world leader. Come to think of it; between 1952 when Mandela led the ANC to launch her non violent Campaign for the defiance of Unjust Laws and 1994 when he was inaugurated as the first post apartheid president of South Africa, he virtually affected positively all human life in South Africa. What actually gave Mandela prominence is not his financial or material wealth. What gave him global recognition is not his political ingenuity or administrative sagacity. It was not his smartness. Rather it was his struggle for the defence of human dignity, his appreciation and pursuit of justice, development and peace which are the fundamental human rights for all irrespective of colour, race and gender. Mandela marched his words with actions. Hear him at the 90th birthday of one of his fellow activists, Walter Sisulu on May 18, 2002, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that determines the significance of the life we lead”. And tracing his history in the South African struggle until his passing on now, we notice a strong testimony of his statement in 1999 when he echoed, “On my last day I want to know that those who remain behind will say: ‘The man who lies here has done his duty for his country and his people”.
Mandela really did his duty for his country and his people. He played his card well and will never be forgotten by posterity. So it is no longer about Nelson Mandela as every other thing about him belongs to the realm of history and “ism”. He will surely be read on the pages of books and newspapers. He will be studied in African anthropology, African philosophy and African theology. He will be seen as a quintessence of African humanism. Everything about him will now enter the realm of “MANDELAISM”. It is no longer “him”. It is now “us”. So what is important now is not necessarily to continue to sing the Mandela song but to nuance into the pedagogies of his life and like the biblical Elisha, say, “Give Africa someone with a double share of the spirit of Mandela”.
Having also looked at Mandela’s struggle, taking cognizance of the entire gamut of the road that culminated in his victory, I decided not to talk about living African leaders and politicians as much has been said of them. I hesitate to discuss politicians also since it will be an insult to the spirit of Mandela to associate him with our modern day politics. I rather feel the need to draw the attention of couples and leaders in the various homes to the spirit of Mandela that eventually made him today’s celebrated hero, a victor despite all socio-political and economic pressures. Given the contemporary challenges which marriages face in our time, it is pertinent for couples to take a clue from the different components of Madiba’s spirit. These can be a tonic towards conquering the challenges of modern day marriages. Hence we look at:
Mandela’s commitment: Mandela’s commitment to the course of liberating the black race in South Africa was unequalled. He had to go through crucibles to actualize his noble intentions but remained undaunted. When the Mandela led ANC was outlawed in 1960 following the Sharpeville massacre, he went underground to form a new military wing of the organization. On his return from his European and African tour what awaited him was imprisonment. Mandela was initially charged with illegal exit from the country and incitement to strike and sentenced to five years imprisonment. Two years later he was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. All these tortures never deterred the Madiba spirit in him. Mandela was committed to the challenges of his anti apartheid struggle. His is a lesson for couples regarding the various challenges that confront family life. Madiba’s spirit of commitment tells married couples that the road to greatness is never an easy one. When hardships, failures, setbacks, etc, try to imprison the marital bliss, Madiba’s spirit says, carry on and be committed to the course of fidelity and love. Commitment pays off a great deal with a long term marital profit.
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