In my work as both a clergy and development worker, I have found myself dealing with marriage conflict and this experience has given me an idea as to why most marriages do not last. Yet the strength of our nation and communities depends heavily on the strength of marriages. Marriage management is key in building up strong and responsible societies which are supportive to the morality and dignity of our country Zambia. In the recent past, we have witnessed the breaking down of marriages and our local courts and churches are overwhelmed with cases of marital disputes. This has directly or indirectly led to break down of morals and discipline among our children. Marriage is the institute charged with responsibility of raising responsible citizen. Yet it is beyond dispute that it is in deplorable status. Because of this the future of our Country is threatened. The unfortunate part is that the marriage separations and conflicts has affected the old and the young, clergy and the laity, the rich and the poor, counsellor and the counselee. It’s clear that there is no one who seems to be doing much about it. The church is silent and seem not to have a solution or to be making efforts to arrest the situation.
In my opinion, one of the key factors that has led to this marriage crisis is our inability to appreciate and understand the original concept of marriage and individual expectations. At pre-marital stage the couple are normally preoccupied with arranging the events associated with marriage than the life in marriage. They will spend more time and resources investing in wedding venues, foods, attire, make ups, and many other things too numerous to mention. Minimal time is spent on pre-marital sessions. In fact, in most cases these sessions come as a by the way to would-be couples. I have always encouraged couples who are about to marry to know that marriage is not an event but a lifelong commitment. I actually insist that the bride and groom invest more time and resource in appreciating and understanding each other’s expectations. I fear that many people enter marriage with different expectations and motives. Few care to share their expectations with their partners and what their real motives for getting into marriage. The Bible has given us clear principles to guide us on the original concept of marriage.
The original concept of marriage as stated in the Bible is for partnership and companionship between the man and the woman. When God made man, He noticed that man was very lonely and this necessitated the formation of a woman as a means to bring about completeness in man. Naturally, man is vulnerable to loneliness and he requires the attributes of a woman for him to be more effective in his expected roles and responsibilities. This is why it is not good for a man to be alone. He needs company. A woman on one hand is vulnerable to insecurity, she enjoys the prestige that comes by her being called “MRS” and this brings peace and confidence in her life. She enjoys possessing and influencing – that is why a man cannot engage in fight with a woman and expect to win. She has unutilized inner power and ability such that when she decides to use this power a man is no match. This is the energy few women use. The woman has the ability to see or discern beyond what a man can see.
The concept of marriage as propagated by the Bible is very difficult to be appreciated in light of the cultural briefs which have dominated our marriages in our society. Marriage is no longer viewed as partnership and companionship undertaking but as a means of poverty reduction and clubbing. The couples start to expect a lot from each other even things which are beyond partner’s ability. In some cases, marriage is seen as temporal undertaking of enjoying good food and clothing. In a country like Zambia where more than 70% of our people are poor, the probability of a single person getting married to a poor spouse are as higher as 70%. In such a society, it’s possible for marriages to be occurring among the poor on one side and the rich on the other.
What will sustain marriages in such a society are the principles of partnership, unit and Companionship, openness to each other and love. Love in this context refers to seeking the highest good for your partner in marriage. In the spirit of partnership and openness married people should not pretend and engage in secret personal projects. They should rather bring together all their respective monetary resources in one basket for redistribution for upkeep, investment and assistance to friends and relatives. I strongly subscribe to the view that the husband is a bread winner. However, this does not mean a working wife must not compliment and account for the resources she is earning. I have witnessed incidents of a working wife using her salary to buy properties for her parents while the man is struggling to provide daily basic needs for the family and to pay rentals. I know as children we are expected to honor our parents but this should be done jointly by the husband and wife. A husband should equally demonstrate accountability and transparent in the discharge of his earnings the same is expected of a working wife. There is a temptation in marriage to think the earnings of a husband is “our” earning and that of a wife is “her” earning. This must be discouraged in any couple. In marriage, our oneness extends to our possessions and earnings (Ruth 1:16).
Sometimes the differences emerge because couples overlook age differences. This can affect either the man or woman. If the age difference between the couple is marginal and say the woman begins to age quicker, chances are that she might begin to feel insecure on account of our growing outlook, especially if she has a larger body. Equally, the man might begin to feel less attracted to her. On the other hand, if either of them is much older, the older will begin to find the partner childish. The younger might also find the older partner less adventurous. In short they could actually be living in two worlds, but under the same roof. I recommend a sufficient age difference that inspires the woman looking up to the man and respecting him. But I must acknowledge that there are exceptions to the rule. So I would serious that defy a sufficient age difference to count the cost and then live with it thereafter. Part of living with the negative effects might require workouts and being on top things fashion wise. But I strongly discourage trips to sangomas. Above all, work on your inner beauty of character (Ephesians 5:22-30; 1 Peter 3:1-7).
Couples must not view challenges such as poverty and unemployment as a basis to separate or part company. These must be seen as opportunities to demonstrate love and support for each other. Remember in Psalm 133:1 God has pledged his blessings for the brethren inclusive of married people provided they live in unit.