By Nike Ayo-Fagbe
The marriage institution is as old as humanity itself. The Bible (the holy scriptures of Christians) has it that no sooner was the first man (Adam) created that God noted that he needed a companion to check his loneliness. So, Eve, the first woman according to the Bible was created.In Africa, the historical record of past heroes and the mention of their spouses, some who were deified and worshipped up till this day, is a confirmation that marriage in this part of the world is also as old as people could remember. For example, Oduduwa, the Yoruba progenitor in the South West Nigeria is credited to be the husband of Osara, one of the heroines in the Yoruba history. So also Sango, the fiery king of Oyo who was later deified as the god of thunder had as wife Oya who according to history turned into a popular river in Yorubaland and is also worshipped similar stories and historical accounts abound among different ethnic nationalities in Nigeria.
In the olden days, marriage was a sacred institution. It was a journey of no return as no parent who had given out the hand of their daughter in marriage would encourage or pray for her return except on occasional visits. The Yoruba juju musician, King Sunny Ade aptly captured this antecedent when he sang “Olele to batiwonuekoko le jade mo, iyaonigba, baba onigba o, to ba loo se mo o” translating “no bean cake and cornmeal that have been chewed can ever be separated again; parent would not agree if you my love contemplate divorce”. So it was in those days that couples stick to their marriage even in the face of polygamy and some other challenges of conjugation.The reasons for lasting marital life in those days are not far- fetched.Firstly, parents of intending couple would have probed into the background of each other’s family and satisfied that all is well for the lovebirds to come together before orchestrating any conjugal rite.
Secondly, the society comprised of sizeable communities then such that hardly would any divorced woman have a place to hide her head due to stigmatization attached to marriage divorce. Thirdly, women in those days almost totally depend on their husband economically that separation from such union would spell a doom. It was an age of full housewife in vogue. One could still remember that up till the recent past in some parts of Yorubaland, women were disallowed from owing or inheriting coca farm due to the economic viability of the crop. It was believed that no man can control a woman who is financially independent.
However, the modern day society, anywhere in the world is bedeviled with broken homes; single parents and children uncared for at the detriment of societal peace. Nigeria is not left out of this ugly trend. A story readily comes to mind to confirm this.Kate is a beautiful woman to behold. When she was young, her playmates and people around her always admired her physical endowment and they never hide their feelings from her. Thus, she grew in the aura of happiness and the happiest moment in her life was when her suitor and his parent came to pay her dowry. It seemed all in a market were bought to show how they appreciated the intending union.
Twenty-five years after, Kate had become a shadow of her former self. She has been buffeted by the challenges of marrying and remarrying. Her two issues from the first marriage have become victims of broken home. One being a drug addict cum armed robber who is standing trial in the law court and the other a professional prostitute who has contacted the dreaded disease, HIV/AIDS. The plight of the children is not the only albatross on the neck of Kate but their emergence in her new home after concealing the past from the latest husband is also threatening her with another round of divorce.
There are so many pathetic stories like this running in so many families in our society today. Marriage as recognized by the law has long been considered to mark the formation of a family unit. But recently demographic data shows that the number of marriages per one thousands inhabitants has decreased in recent years, while the number of divorce has increased and this has generally led to an increase in the number of children born to unmarried women. Many factors have contributed to the increasing rate of divorce in our society. These factors can be considered to be finance, misunderstanding issues that lead to dispute, trust infidelity and lack of respect to mention but a few.All these factors put together have negatively affected the family unit and consequently the society at large.
It is no gainsaying that increasing rate of divorce is largely responsible for the increasing rate of crime in our society. Children need adequate parental care to grow and become responsible adults. Where such is lacking, they are easily susceptible to crime and other social ills.
There is also the fact that divorce contributes to increase in population which many societies, including Nigeria are battling to curtail today. Let us take for example the story of Kate. She would have been satisfied with the three children she had for John if divorce had not set in. She remarried and in effort to conceal her past, had two more children for the new husband. There had been other stories of women or men having up to ten children as a result of divorce and remarrying. This is definitely not good for the development of our nation. One can also safely say that divorce does not augur well for the practice of democracy. Many political thugs that perpetrate acts capable of jeopardizing the democratic set up in Nigeria today are largely children from broken homes who lacked parental care, Unscrupulous politicians easily lay hands on such youths and use them for their selfish and nefarious interest.
It is also germane to say that many youths whowould have been useful in the collective struggle to build the nation have lost their lives and some languishing in different prisons across the country no thanks to being victims of divorce and its consequence. I believe I have been able to register the fact that many marriages are hitting the rocks nowadays and the consequences are enormous not only on the children but also on the society at large.
Individuals considering divorce make the decision to stay or leave based on the rewards they gain from the marriage.For husbands and wives to keep away from divorce, there must be love, friendship and a shared life. Increased commitment keeps home together and it is done by remembering the good times and all the good things you have gone through together.Both sides should equally think of two or three most difficult times they have been able to overcome in the marriage, think of important values they still have in common and to show loyalty to each other.
Communication is another aspect that must be taken care of to avoid divorce. What a partyconsiders as a big issue may be trivial when shared through adequate communication. Husbands and wives are not expected to keep secrets. Issues should be discussed over at all times and they should always look for an effective and healthy ways to deal with disagreements and problems.The discovery of infidelity is usually traumatic and recovering from infidelity is difficult. Therapists who help couples deal with infidelity described three stages in the process of recovering from it.1. Absorbing and dealing with the traumatic impact of infidelity; 2. Creating meaning for why the affair occurred and; 3. Moving forward with one’s life either together or apart.
In the first stage, individual find that their whole world seems to be upside down, struggle to function with day to day life, struggle to go on withlife when something so fundamental broke out but they have to find ways to absorb this change and still function. They also need to find understanding and meaning about the infidelity, they need to know why it happened and to explore ways to recover and rebuild trust and intimacy. To do this, they both need to find some level of safety and security again in the relationship. Then they need to develop a realistic and balance view of their relationship, including the positives and the negative emotions connected with the infidelity.
The injured spouse needs to voluntarily let go of his/her desire to punish the participating partner, whilethe offending spouse also hasto finda way toletgoof his/her guilt. And finally, they need to evaluate carefully their relationship and reach healthy decisions on how to make the marriage work.
Government too has a major role to play in this course;its can start by earmarking a certain percentage of funds for an initiative to reduce divorce also to develop community based marriage skill courses. Another way out is to enact marriage preparation and preservation Act, making the teaching of marriage skills a part of the high school curriculum. This in a way will discourage pre-marital sex which attimes is a foundation for broken home and unwanted pregnancy.
The society is not left out in the struggle, community leaders, church leaders, and traditional chiefs can embark on programme that will engage couples, stepfamilies and marriages in trouble. This will also help to reduce divorce rate or virtually eliminate divorce at all levels. Realities of life have shown that Children whose parents stay together perform better in schooland grow to become responsible adults who contribute meaningfully to societal development. However the opposite is often the case for children who suffered broken home. From the fore-going, it is obvious that divorce is an ill-wind that blows no good for the society and its stakeholders. Therefore all humanly possible must be done to reduce the scourge in our society.
Nike Ayo-Fagbe, a student of National Open University of Nigeria.