Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Few Good Men

(Nope, I haven’t watched the movie. I just thought it would make for a good title.)

This past week, I ran into a former classmate of mine in the bank. I was pleasantly surprised. After graduation, I moved to her country for work and she moved to mine. For this reason, it’s always a treat when she arrives in town and pays me a visit. It tickles me to see how ‘Nigerian’ she has become – from her verbal expressions, to her greetings, to her dressing, to her easy-goingness (is that even a word?) – and how she almost feels like a stranger in her own country these days.

We stood in a corner and screamed, hugged, and laughed, ignoring the other bank customers, standing in line and staring at us with curiosity. We had both filed for divorce around the same time. She filed from my country and I filed from hers. I got mine three months ago, and she got hers a couple of months later. My mind went back to our school days and I recalled just how difficult her marriage was, and how she somehow managed to keep up with it with such grace. Like me, she played the part well. So well that I initially mistook her abusive partner as simply being a bit over-protective.

During one of her rare visits to my place in those days, she had planned to just come hang out with me for an hour. We sat in the living room, catching up. Her phone rang incessantly. She would patiently pick it up and speak soothingly to her partner. I only realized it was him after about the third phone call.

‘Didn’t you tell him you were going out?’ I asked, finding it rather strange. We only lived about two blocks away from each other.

‘I did – don’t mind him. He keeps asking when I’m coming back,’ she replied cheerily.

‘Oh. Does he know you’re at my house?’

‘He knows. Don’t mind him. The man won’t let me rest.’

‘Well, I guess he just can’t do without you,’ I said, believing this as I said it, but still finding it rather bizarre since she’d only been with me for a few minutes. ‘The man is missing you, so you better hurry home O – I don’t want trouble.’

She hissed good-naturedly. ‘Let’s just ignore him for a while. I’ll go home soon.’

‘Hmm!’ I teased her, smiling: ‘Gender and Power!!’

This phrase was taken from the tentative title of her dissertation, and we both burst out laughing.

‘Forget all those things,’ she said, waving her hand dismissively. ‘We’re just busy theorizing to get our degrees. We know the real deal, though.’ We laughed some more.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned about the level of abuse, which she divulged to me one day. I could not fathom how she was always so happy-go-lucky, having been through all of that. I had never seen her depressed – not even slightly.

I looked at her now, my eyes going from her head down to her toes and back.

‘You look amazing!’ I said.

‘Really??’ she responded in shock.

‘Yes! You’re glowing. You’ve lost some weight, too, right? You’re looking thinner. In fact, your face looks entirely different. And I’ve never seen you in this style of clothing. It really, really suits you.’

‘Oh, my God. Thank you so much. You don’t know how much that means to me. In two decades of marriage, all I ever heard was how ugly and stupid I was. He would tell me that over and over again.’


‘Yes, my dear. So the way I look now is how I used to be before I got married, what I used to look like. I’m finally re-discovering myself.’

I nodded slowly, understandingly, and sadly, recalling having used those same words almost vertabim myself in the past. 

I didn’t get it. This was a gem of a woman: kind, compassionate, hard-working, and a go-getter. She was responsible for bringing her entire family over to the US on her meager scholarship, and ensuring everyone settled in nicely. The family could never have been where they are today, been exposed to the opportunities they now had, without her. She was an attractive woman with an advanced degree who believed she was ugly and stupid because someone had told her so enough times. And she hid all this pain behind the brightest smile.

‘How are the children, though?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I haven’t seen them in a long time.’

She got her divorce, but her children were forcibly taken away, and were now with her ex in a different country. I didn’t know how to adequately express my sorrow over this.

‘Oh, it’s okay. They’re almost all at the age where they’ll be at liberty to make their own decisions and come see me whenever they want. Right now, they have no choice,’ she said breezily. ‘I decided to stop contacting them because I don’t want them to get into the habit of lying to their dad, who regularly asks them if I’ve contacted them, and who takes away their cell phones.’

Wow, I thought to myself. Sweet, sweet mother. I could not even imagine. What would I have done if my children were taken away and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it? I suppose I would just have to kill somebody, I thought, staring at her. That’s easy for you to say. Your ex-husband wasn’t abusive in that way.

I thought of how fortunate I was not to have experienced any real ugliness at all.

‘It is well, my dear,’ I said, the words falling heavily from my mouth. What did that mean, anyway? It is well, keh? How could it be well when a mother couldn’t see her children? ‘I’ll keep you in prayer,’ I said out loud.

She smiled back at me, as usual, laughing a little.

I got home that day and made a note to myself to write about this. At first, I just wanted to share her touching story. But today I decided I wanted to do more than that.

My aim in putting things down on paper isn’t to depress people (believe it or not!).

As much as I want people in similar situations to know that they’re not alone (and people in not-so-similar situations to have insight into what it’s like), I also want them to know that my experiences and my friends experiences do not definitively define marriage, nor manhood. One ‘bad apple’ don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl!

I want the world to know that I’m actually a pretty happy, easy-going person myself, despite my experiences. I conjure up painful memories from the past and convey them as accurately as I can because I simply can’t believe that I went through what I went through for no reason at all. There has to have been a purpose, even if it’s just to let others know it’ll be okay. Just to let you know, it actually takes a bit of work these days to conjure up (some of) these memories. I actually feel guilty sometimes about just how successfully I’ve moved on, about the fact that I barely give my former spouse a thought unless I’m trying to remember something to write about, unless he contacts me for something, or unless I’m playing the role of a dutiful mother and asking the children if they would like to talk to their Daddy. I feel guilty sometimes about the fact that, when I search myself, I don’t seem to come up with any real bitterness. It’s almost like if you’re not bitter, then maybe you didn’t really care that much to begin with. What I do find is a substantial amount of indifference … and I wonder if the indifference and total absence of curiosity I usually feel where he’s concerned aren’t actually worse than bitterness.

People often ask me how I would feel if he got re-married. My sincere response has always been that I’d be really happy for him. From the little I’ve observed, he really does seem to do so much better with a wife (and which man doesn’t, come to think of it?). I’d be a tad relieved, too, as that would be a strong indicator that he’s not holding out hope that we’ll ever re-unite.

I’ve really, really moved on. The only times I feel stirred to pay a bit of attention is when it comes to anything that has to do with his role as a father, and this rarely occurs.

I want the world to know that there are definitely some good men out there. I tell singles all the time to be careful what they hear. The world is full of such bad stories that one feels almost shy and insecure about sharing any good (marital) tales. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Many singles I know don’t believe me, bombarded as they are with women’s negative experiences. I’ve started sharing some really uplifting stories with them, and I thought I’d share them with you, too.

Be encouraged. It is well, afterall:


  1. Nice one! I have, as a single lady, heard and seen a lot of horror Christian marriages, but I have also seen a lot of good Christian marriages - i agree there are good bros out there - bro. Chukwumma (meaning of name, 'God's will')we call them i.e. bro. Boaz (which means Alacrity - He that will come will come and will not delay - Heb10:37) lol!
    May I say though - I once asked some ministers/marriage counsellors (my pastors) why many Christian marriages are breaking, yes, of course it is the enemy that wages war against the home and it is the grace of God that keeps the home, but it was interesting what they added -
    1. Foundation -
    If the foundation be destroyed what can the righteous do? - Psalm 11:2.
    How did you come together? Through manipulation? Sex before marriage? Unequal yoking? Not seeking God's will? Lack of discernment? etc

    2. Pretence -
    They said many become 'actors' when married - shout for help when things are not right QUICKLY.
    They also said it would help greatly to ask the Lord and others (a mentor, older godly couple) about how a true Christian home should 'look' like i.e. have a VISION for your home, so when things are not lining up ie. with the word - seek help. Do not settle for mediocrity - you are a princess of the most high, you deserve His best.

    Their list was not exhaustive, but these two were eye openers for me.

    P/S I am personally persuaded that God has healed you, hence it looks like you were 'like one who dreamed' (Psalm 126:1) Sorry for so-long-a-comment and thanks again for sharing your heart!

    1. Thank you for your nice 'so-long-a-comment'and for the lovely scripture! LOL @ Bros Chuks and Boaz. Your pastors are on point - especially about #2, in my opinion. I certainly made the mistake of thinking prayer was enough, and of not shouting out for help - and of not shouting loud enough when I eventually did start shouting. #1 is a bit 'fuzzier' for me. I totally agree about the not sinning part, but I also have to say that there are lots of women that abstained from sex before marriage (for example) that still ended up not choosing well, and thus ended up in bad marriages. Virginity is great, but it doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to choose well. This is one thing I personally didn't realize until it was too late. There are some women that didn't quite manage to abstain, but chose well, and so are happily married. That's the confusion for me. I guess this is the essence of the post 'Abracadabra.' I don't know exactly what the magic bullet is, but it seems to be a combination of what you say above and other things as well. God bless you and bring your Chuks-cum-Boaz as quickly as you want!

  2. I know now that marrying a so called 'born again' christian is in no way a guarantee for a happy marriage. We are all human afterall. I do have my faults and i know they are many. But having married a not so 'born again' christian [as I thought], I did have my doubts when he asked to marry me - not because he wasn't gentle, kind and all of those things but I wasn't sure how committed a christian he was. I would go to almost any prayer meeting and fast and pray but he wouldn't and I didn't really feel good about it for a while that he didn't consider every prayer meeting necessary etc. but I listened to my heart and married him. 12 years later, I look around me and a few 'solid' christians are having problems [some divorced, and we attended the same prayer meetings]. There are those whose spouses will not lift a finger to help around the house but he will cook, clean, help with the kids (not something an African man routinely does) and is generally a great husband and father. He takes the role seriously having had a good father himself. Each time I read your blog and hear sad stories from my friends about the problems in their marraige, I quietly thank God and make a note not to take my husband for granted. So next time I come home tired and the dishes are done and the kids are bathed and fed, I will remember to say thank you for doing all of that and not just plop onto the sofa to catch up on my favourite TV shows. I bet he will still do it whether i show my appreciation or not cos he is that serious about what a dad is but if anything your blog is making me look inward and reflect on myself and my attitude in my marriage. It takes two to make a marriage work. THANK YOU OOH!!!

  3. I'm so, SO glad you shared this. I hope your own testimony will inspire others in strong marriages to leave a comment, too. The single Christian ladies out there REALLY need encouragement, but most people in good marriages are afraid to talk about it, just in case others get jealous, or in case others begin to 'covet' what they have, or out of fear of 'jinxing' it. I really hear your point, too: I realize that you don't mean to say unmarried Christians should ignore the Word of God and marry unbelievers - but that even this isn't the magic bullet. It's possible to marry a really hot-tempered believer, for instance. We all know a good number of them. In so doing, you've married a believer, yes - but you'd better be ready to put up with the temper, rather than thinking prayer will magically solve the issue. It might, but if it doesn't, you still have to acknowledge the fact that you knew you were marrying a believer with a hot temper. I remember some young ladies asking me if keeping themselves sexually pure would guarantee them a good husband. I told them to remain sexually pure because God says so, as well as for themselves, as well as because that's a lovely gift to give their future husbands, who will also, hopefully, give them the same. But that in addition, they need to choose well. I said: "If you're a virgin and you marry a Christian bum, then after marriage, you'll end up just being a one-time virgin married to a Christian bum." Your virginity will not change his 'bum-ness' (lol), so try to be sexually pure woman that did her homework and married a good Christian guy.

    Finally - PLEASE, make sure you *spoil* that husband of yours! It's on the tip of my tongue to say that he's a rare specie - but maybe he's not. Maybe more women like you need to speak up, and balance out the skewed perceptions of other women that aren't married yet and are scared to DEATH of the institution.

    Finally, finally (and lastly - LOL) - THANK YOU for just writing. Tell you why: I told my sister a few weeks ago that this blog has a very narrow audience. My exact words were: "My audience is a restricted one. Won't resonate with everyone. This is for divorced African Christian women." But she said: "You'd be surprised. It resonates with a ton of people I know already - none of whom are divorced. Just do the writing and let the blog decide for itself who its audience is."

  4. Your blog may be targeted at a narrow audience but you'd be surprised at the bits that 'do it' for me. For e.g. your encounter with the Archbishop - even though not much was said, I just so got it. God is like that sometimes. I also get your closeness to God from your blog and I am challenged in my own walk with Him and I crave that desire to be close to Him as well when someone else mentions this. I take bits from stuff people do while adding my own.

    Also, I just do not like to say all that stuff about my marriage because around me a lot of friends are going through some significant [and not so significant] things you just don't know what to say when you don't experience the same things. But like you've said in some earlier blogs, I know now that sometimes some people just need you to listen for an hour without judging, or just someone to pray about a situation with or just someone to have the kids over for a bit... [which i am very good at].

    Finally, I can't tell you how it has helped me look inwards. I did tell my husband yesterday that I thought he was just great with the kids and the home and he looked at me with one raised eyebrow that said 'ok woman, what do you want'...Onc day he will believe I mean it [LOL]

    1. I know what you mean. Some people in unhappy marriages may not be able to receive a happy marriage testimony so well. But there are scores of single Christian women that do need to know there are many examples of successful marriages. Thank you for your kind words. LOL @ your husband (that's hilarious)! Do keep at it, though, till he believes it.

  5. The lady that this story is based on finally got to read the blog post herself today. Her comment: "This brings tears to my eyes, rmj. Thanks for writing my story."

    Thanks for letting me tell it. Take care of you.