It was my wedding day.
Femi was my prince charming and I was his princess.
I had dreamed of this day since I was a teenager. My face lit up with a smile every time one of our friends or family members hugged me and said congratulations. I was in heaven.
I enjoyed every aspect of the ceremony – the time Femi and I showed everyone our dance steps at the reception venue, the fragrance of hibiscus all over the hall, the prayers and blessings pronounced on us and the taste of our lilac wedding cake.
I looked up to the sky and said a silent thank you to God.
I believed, like the die-hard romantic that I was, that my prince charming would fulfill all my fairytale dreams.
As we scrambled into our car and drove away amidst shouts of congratulations and goodbyes from our wedding guests, I imagined we were only going to begin our “happily ever after” life together.
We spent our wedding night in a nearby hotel. We didn’t want to go home since we had some relatives over. Our plan was to leave the next day for our honeymoon. That wedding night was so beautiful. I was still smiling when I fell asleep next to my brand new husband.
My fairytale marriage was happening – it was all coming together.
Two weeks after our wedding, we returned from our honeymoon (which was wonderful by the way), and our marriage started.
It was beautiful, apart from the occasional emotional squabbles that arose as a result of the differences in our personalities.
While attending premarital counseling, Femi and I discussed the fact that I am a go-getter, very creative especially with planning and very ambitious. I am also quite thrifty with money.
Femi, on the other hand, is more laid back, logical and slower to act. He does not have very strong money management skills.
He believes in spending first, and investing later. Though we were told during counseling how to deal with issues that may arise because of our personality differences, in reality we often struggled to cope.
I wished Femi would be more aggressive especially about his career, but Femi preferred to take things as they came. I also wished Femi was more into investing in income generating assets rather than acquiring the latest cars.
I did not like it, but I convinced myself that I loved him and could live with this one shortcoming. At least he tolerated me and my idiosyncrasies. I was determined to live the fairytale……until one evening in 2006.
Femi came home from work, and I greeted him excitedly. His response was cold. I instinctively knew something was wrong. I looked at him questioningly. He looked away, but he finally found his voice.
“I got laid off today. My bank is downsizing and I was affected’’. His words sounded like a bombshell.
I was dumbfounded. Yes, because of the instability in the banking industry, lots of bankers were losing their jobs. I never thought it would happen to us.
My mind reeled. This was not the right time for such a thing to happen to us. We had a mortgage to pay and Femi just obtained a loan to buy a new car (against my advice, I might add). Not to mention the new credit card he just obtained from the bank from which he had already started making purchases. My God, this cannot be happening.
Typical of me, I had started making a list in my head of all the contacts we had in other banks. Femi could start contacting them as soon as possible. I imagined he would navigate around this obstacle, go out and get another job within a few weeks. Everything would work out fine.
….or so I thought.
We started making phone calls to everyone we knew who could help. Some asked for Femi’s resume and some others promised to get back to us. We sent out what seemed to be hundreds of resumes. Surely one would yield a job.
Because of Femi’s lavish spending, we did not have a lot of savings. Days turned to weeks and then to months……………….and our funds started to dry up. I was getting frustrated.
“For better, for worse” were words I had meant when I had said them on our wedding day, but they had seemed easier to accept when we had sufficient income coming in each month.
I tried to be supportive. I tried to be strong. But as the reality of our situation became more real as the days passed, I panicked. I started nagging at Femi and our arguments got more frequent and more toxic. To make matters worse, Femi froze emotionally. Not only couldn’t he get a job; he could offer me little by way of romance and communication.
This couldn’t be happening!
Fear and despair began to settle in, weighing down my usual buoyant spirit.
What about my hopes and dreams? What was happening to my fairytale marriage? Why couldn’t Femi get another job? Why wasn’t he more of a fighter? Didn’t he want to get a job?
During this time, I had continued attending church as well as fellowship. The prayers and love of the women in my fellowship had helped me during much of the hard times. Often, when I was extremely discouraged, I would call Tolu, my prayer partner. Each time she encouraged me to hand the problems over to God and trust in Him.
From my bible studies, I knew that God wanted me to be a submissive wife and I really wanted to. But my go-getter attitude, in addition to the situation we were in, made me fail to be truly and completely submissive.
Still I tried.
I encouraged Femi to talk to me; I encouraged him to trust God. He would usually go along with me…..but only until the reality of our situation dawned on him afresh. I encouraged Femi to pray with me, and we started praying together. And in a few weeks, he got a job.
It was not the kind of job I had hoped for, but I was grateful. Even though he was barely earning half of his previous salary, I was glad that we were finally coming out of the woods.
Or were we?
I often felt a strange mix of gratitude and disappointment whenever I thought of Femi’s new job.
I didn’t completely like it!
After waiting all these months for Femi to get a job, should I not be more grateful?
Somehow, I knew this was not the fairytale marriage I had dreamed of. What about Femi’s degrees and many years of experience in the bank? Why couldn’t he get a higher paying job? In his old job, we had free medicals, memberships to Ikoyi club and paid vacations. Now we got none of that!
That was when God started to speak to my heart.
When Femi was jobless, I sought God’s face for a job……….any job. Now that Femi had a job, I was being picky. It seemed like I had forgotten all the months when we were on the brink of bankruptcy. I had forgotten all the promises I made to God.
How ungrateful could I get?
God was there for me during the tough times. In my heart, I knew what I had to do to show him gratitude. I told myself I could do without certain luxuries like vacations overseas, expensive body and facial creams and designer clothes.
We could survive with just one car, less eating out and absolutely no shopping sprees. I fought hard against torrents of despair and ingratitude that tried to flood my heart.
Sometimes I won, other times I didn’t.
Instead of focusing on Femi’s job, I focused on our relationship. Femi may not be a prince in shining armor, but he was my prince all the same, and I was determined to treat him as such.
We started spending more and more time together. We talked, we played, we learned…..and our relationship deepened. Humility began to replace walls of pride, and communication started to take the place of malice. Instead of nagging, I took my requests to God.
I no longer dwelt on Femi’s weaknesses.
Instead, I started working on mine. And as I exposed my weaknesses, I discovered that Femi had many strengths that I had failed to notice before. Femi opened the strongholds of his heart to me. Love and respect blossomed between us, as each investment in our relationship stirred the flames of love.
Femi humbled himself and asked me to teach him money management. He admitted he had a spending problem. I was overjoyed. This is what I had always prayed for.
Could it be that my fairytale marriage could still be a reality?
I began to think that it might.
Two years passed. We managed. We got by. We were happy. I no longer felt the pressure to force Femi to look for a higher paying job. I knew things would be sorted out in the right time. I was learning how to live with the new person my husband had become.
One day, Femi told me he was going into business with a friend of his.
We did all the necessary checks and balances. We prayed. It felt like the right thing to do. So I gave him my blessings.
That was nine months ago.
Today, the business is growing. Femi is not making millions yet (though I hope that time is just round the corner), but he is making a decent income and he loves what he does.
For now, that’s enough for me.
Today, I am still not living the dreams I once treasured. Instead I have a marriage with Femi that is stable and satisfying.
Instead of focusing on less important things and expecting my husband to meet all my needs, somewhere along the way, I learned to make God my source. I learned that instead of forcing my husband to be the husband of my dreams, I had more success focusing on being the wife of his dreams.
Today we share a wealth of companionship that comes only through persevering through tough together.
I have to admit, this reality exceeds my fairy-tale marriage.