I love my mother-in-law.
I know that’s not something you hear so much of, in the black community but it’s the truth for me. I was scared at first too and perhaps I was too scared of her that the more important things eluded me as I got married. More important things like; acknowledging that my husband and I are not perfect human beings and marriage is not a perfect institution.
The day we got married, my husband and I were too bloody excited. The only other time we were that high on excitement was the day our child was born. The way we manifest excitement is really weird; I refuse to go into details. But know that we were excited. I remember on our way back from the church as we were allowed to ride together in the same vehicle for the first time as a married couple, we were both talking all at once and saying stuff like, ‘I love you so much, we’ll never fight‘, ‘That was so easy and magical!!! How do people go through marriage ceremonies and then decide they don’t want to be together again?!’ And so on.
But then it happened; we began to have serious issues. While we were dating, we used to quarrel as well but it just felt like marriage was both a tiger balm for all quarreling injuries and a trigger for amnesia to forget that our differences existed.
We started fighting over stupid and mundane things. I mean, VERY stupid and mundane things – ‘You are too quiet when we eat, you no longer tell me what you’re thinking’, ‘You’d rather stay back in the office and work than come back home?‘, ‘You’ve stopped taking your plate to the dishwasher like you used to when we first got married. I’m not even asking you to wash the plate, just take it to the dishwasher.’, ‘You hiss too much at things that frustrate you. What will you be teaching our baby‘ and so on!
I was on the edge everytime. I had already started contemplating a divorce. Me being very religious, I’d hope upon hope that my husband would cheat on me so that it would be biblically justifiable for me to present the divorce papers that had begun gathering dust on a table in my mind. My husband also felt the same way; it showed. He didn’t care as much about anything. It was like he had said, ‘Let’s both not try at anything. Let’s just see how this plays out. I won’t give in’
Then one day, I visited my mother-in-law. It was a random Sunday visit. We used to take Temi (our baby) to her on random Sundays so they’d both have time together. This particular Sunday, my husband was not around as he had travelled and I noticed that my mother-in-law kept stealing glances at me.
Then she said, ‘Omolola, how is your marriage?‘ Such direct. Many effrontery, I thought. ‘Fine’ , I said.
She set my daughter in her rocker and said, ‘My dear, I know it isn’t fine. I can see the sadness in your soul from your eyes and I know my son isn’t happy as well. What’s going on?’
‘I am tired.‘ I said
‘Of what?’ She replied
‘Of everything. Of everything. Everything‘ I kept repeating ‘everything’ in various voice tones till I burst into tears. I told her everything; how silly everything was, how on some days I wanted to give up and just walk away to a place where no one knows me, where I could make a different impression on people; how I was bored out of my mind.
At first I spoke with caution, minding that she’s the mother of the man against whom I spoke. But after a while, I threw caution to the wind and just continued ranting. I didn’t care if that was the end of everything – after all, I wanted it all to end.
After my ranting and bawling, she smiled, held my hand and said. ‘It’s okay. It’s alright. You will be fine. Let me tell you something‘, she shook her head, ‘Marriage is like driving on the road. Do you know? Now, when you’re driving on an expressway and you come across a bump and or pothole, do you turn around and end your journey?’ I shook my head, sniffing catarrh far into the back of my head. ‘Exactly! It’s the same way we don’t back out on our marriage journey because of a few bumps here and there. What do we do instead? First, we try to ignore the bumps; try to find a way around it. In every relationship, not every issue deserves your energy. Learn to overlook some things and be mature about it.
Now, admittedly, there are issues we cannot overlook; they are just in the way of the progress of the marriage and so we must address them. Like the bumps and potholes on the road, we must know that there is a right way and tempo to address these issue. Dive in gently; conscious of the manner we present the issue to our partner and dive out gently; careful of the way you lay the matter to rest. Are you listening?’ I nodded.
‘Now, sometimes, there will be traffic. This is when you say that you’re bored. It will seem as though a journey once exciting no longer interests you – everything will seem to be on standstill. Isn’t that the time for the both of you in the vehicle to catch up and invent interesting activities to cope with the standstill outside the vehicle? Someone has to do the suggesting. Find activities to do together which would make you forget that you’re supposed to be bored, lest the traffic begins to move and both of you are not even aware because you have dozed off’
‘Wow‘, I said.
‘Yes… I could go on with several symbolism and similarities between a journey and a marriage, and perhaps I will later, but for now, I leave you with these words: Marriage is a journey with two drivers in one vehicle. If you both drive in different directions, the journey is inevitably a disaster and a danger to both your lives and the the lives of anyone inside the vehicle with you (i.e. Your children). The aim of the journey is not the destination but the journey itself, and so, this is why the vehicle is locked and the key is pretty much thrown away. You have to deal with each other’s filth and farts, burps and boredom, messes and mistakes, while at the same time ensuring that both of you are driving in sync.’
‘That’s a lot of work, ma’ I said, visibly shaken by her words.
‘Then you better get to work already’ she replied.
Did I mention that I love my mother-in-law?