Don (not his real name) realized after two years of marriage that he had rushed things possibly due to peer pressure after it dawned on him he was ill-prepared and not ready for a lifetime commitment.
The 31-year-old says his marital journey has thus far not always been blissful, creating doubts about why he tied the knot in the first place.
“I got married at the age of 28. It felt so real; I knew she was the one the moment I first saw her but little did I know or understand what I was getting myself into. I love her, yes, but changing my routine and having to explain myself about everything I do, acting a certain way was something I was not prepared to do,” he says.
Too often marriages are defined by sorrow and dysfunction, causing many to wonder what a healthy one looks like. It is believed the best time to get down to the essentials with each other is before you say “I do.”
Relationship experts advise that before tying the knot one needs to know what to expect after the wedding day, and to decide if you really want to spend the rest of your life with this person the way they are now, something many fail to do.Just like Don, there are many factors that lead to divorce or falling out of love.
These include making a decision of rushing into marriage, without having a clear understanding what it is about.
“I regret marrying because I think it doesn’t go with my personality. I like freedom, the perhaps immature freedom of doing whatever I want whenever I want (not the mature freedom of ‘being able to take decisions/being responsible’),” says Don.
An article published in 2014 in the Namibian Sun said an alarming 17 576 divorce cases were reported in a 10-year period between 2001 and 2011. Figures cited showed that 12 436 women filed for divorce, while 5 140 men were reportedly initiators of divorce proceedings after those involved found they were trapped in what were essentially marriages of convenience.
High Court figures cited in 2013 indicated Windhoek alone had 774 divorces that were granted in 2012, while 497 were recorded in 2013. At Oshakati some 100 divorce cases were recorded with the High Court alone between April 2013 and 2014. It should be noted these figures are not representative of the countrywide divorce statistics because there are people who marry and divorce traditionally. Research has indicated divorce stems from gender-based violence, alcohol abuse, infidelity, child neglect and squabbles over money.
Meanwhile, 35-year-old Shannon Johnson believes many people rush into marriage without knowing whether it’s for commitment, love or loneliness, escape or impatience.
“Marriages today just don’t work. I’ve been married once and it just did not work. We no longer wanted the same things. Guys most of the time feel pressured about changing their lifestyles, being responsible and parenting when we are busy,” Johnson said.
She feels that the biggest mistake she made was to date her husband for three years only as that was not enough to really study and understand each other. It is better to take stock of personal priorities to assure that the relationship with the partner gets the attention it deserves before getting married, advises Johnson.
Marsha Hadula said she does not regret getting married as she has been happily married for over 10 years, after dating for seven years before tying the knot. Though she misses being playful, Hadula said she has a very understanding husband and wouldn’t have married anyone else.
She knew what she was getting herself into because she was in a relationship long enough to know him and it made things easy in their marriage.
“We knew each other in and out. We shared a lot together before we got married. We started dating at a very young age, so age is not an excuse for divorce or not being ready and I am proof of that. Making time for each other, listening and respecting are important or one should consider that before you take the big step,” said Hadula.
Relationship expert Ngamane Karuaihe-Upi, who is also known as Uncle G, said people should at least court for a year or two to understand or get to know each other’s true colours, because once committed it is maybe ‘too late, too little’.
Karuaihe-Upi said many people make the mistake of falling in love too soon and moving in together too soon without understanding what it means to commit.
“Some people get married and still want to act like they are single. Getting married is becoming “We” and not “I”. When you are single your level of accord ability and tolerance is higher. You think about yourself but when you get married you must take your partner into consideration,” he said.
One of the things to consider before tying the knot, Karuaihe-Upi added, is making a commitment, while clarifying intentions is key to a healthy marriage.
“Intentions need to be clear, get to know each other’s weakness, strengths, goals, background, and complement each other. If you don’t know where the person is going in life, how will you be able to marry that person?” queried Karuaihe-Upi.
He also said that money is one of the main causes of divorce; which should not be the case because if couples address this and know each other’s feelings in terms of money it can be avoided.
“People need to understand their own relationship with money, spending of money, so that none of them feel advantaged or disadvantaged. Whether getting married in community of property or not, they need to have a clear understanding of who they are in terms of money,” he advised.
Regarding mistakes before getting into marriage the relationship expert said people should expand dating by adding loyalty, faithfulness, and keeping and maintaining a relationship.
To keep the spark alive Karuaihe-Upi, who also offers marital counselling, said people should not stop doing what they were accustomed to doing before they got married.
“Have fun, sex, go on dates to make the relationship joyful and make sure you get premarital counselling,” he recommended.
Here are our top four tips to happily ever after:
1. Commitment to the relationship – You want to know that you and your partner are on the same team and that he/she will be there for you, no matter what.
2. Communication skills – Poor communication is the number one reason that couples come into therapy. Either they do not know how to talk to one another, do not feel heard, or have no conflict resolution skills. Learn how to talk to one another with love and respect, letting go of the need to be right. Let the relationship win.
3. Laughter… a good sense of humour – The ability to laugh will get you through many difficult situations. There are some arguments that cannot be resolved. Your love for one another and a good sense of humour are a must in those situations.
4. Create a vision for your marriage – What is your dream? What are your expectations for this union? Write them down and share them with one another. In times of distress, take out your vision and remember the fun you had creating it together. At the very least it will ease the tension.
When you marry you are creating a union that you and your partner get to define. Make sure you spend as much time and effort ensuring the success of your relationship before getting married.