Wednesday, April 20, 2022 12:02 am
By Ralia Maijama’a Abdullahi
Here’s the thing. While love is important in getting marriage started, it certainly is not what keeps marriage intact. Love is fickle, needy and selfish. Love is unrealistic and often self-deceiving. Love has impossible aspirations and love is always hungry. Yes, love feels wonderful and fantastic, especially when it is reciprocated; love makes you feel happy and alive in ways only people who are truly in love will understand; but love is not enough. It may surprise you to know that it is often the culprit in domestic abuse. Why? Because love is jealous. Love has led many people to kill their spouses out of jealousy, it has led many to become bitter enemies. One day you’re pointing at a couple as a shining example of love and the next day you’re astonished to find them tearing at each other’s throat. Again, why? They love each other but they do not respect each other.
Mutual respect is what keeps violence and abuse at bay. You will never insult a person you respect, and you most definitely will not be violent towards a person you respect. But what does respect mean? Let us get one thing straight – respect and obedience are not the same thing. You can force obedience, but you can’t force respect. In fact, if your spouse is too obedient or gives in too easily to your demands, you should question whether he or she truly respects you. It may well be one of two things – either your spouse is afraid of you or your spouse has so little respect for you that they feel you are not even worth arguing with. Neither case means respect. Keep in mind that the person who argues a point with you respects you enough to want you to see things from their perspective; if they didn’t respect you they would simply dismiss you as stupid or incompetent and not worth the effort it would take to convince you.
To respect a person is to acknowledge their humanness and their right to be different from you; it is to concede their right to an opinion and to still be willing to live with, and accommodate their difference from you. To respect someone is to desire to understand them as a human being, to want to know what makes them tick, what moves them, what drives or motivates them, what environment makes them flourish, what brings out the worst and the best in them, what their fears, hopes and aspirations are, how they think and how they see the world. To respect your spouse is to turn your spouse into a priceless book, the pages of which you turn with delicate care and reverence; or a vintage car which you drive with care and pride and which you wipe clean with tenderness always ensuring all its parts are well oiled and in top form. We value books in this way and we value cars in this way; do we value our spouse in this way?
Respect is also not a one way street. Do not ever expect respect where you’re willing to give none. If you’re fond of insulting your wife or your husband, you can be sure that disrespect will follow, even if you are feared. And if fear is the only thing that is keeping your spouse in check, then know that you have a tenuous hold on your household because fear almost always leads to rebellion when the victim reaches breaking point. So, when men say that their wives ought to treat them as kings, or when women say their husbands ought to treat them as queens, I smile, because the life of kings and queens is nothing to envy – except perhaps for the wealth and its trappings, all of which one could get without being an actual king or queen. Kings have a hard time relying on the loyalty of their followers; their lives are constantly in danger; they live in fear of being betrayed by their close family; they are often completely surrounded by enemies and fair weather friends. Rarely do you find a king or queen that has a single true friend. Is that really what you want? I would have thought rather, that the most valued spouse would be one that their husband or wife could call friend. Your friend always has your back; a true friend will not betray you; will always bring out the best in you; will care for you and stick by you; will unite with you against the world; and has a genuine interest in you – laughing at your bad jokes, smiling at your weaknesses, crying at your pain, loving all your idiosyncrasies, indulging your ridiculous whims, pointing out your wrongs or mistakes; in essence, making you a better and better version of yourself. And we all know, you are never friends with a person you don’t respect. And besides, do we not set our expectations too high when we ask to be treated as kings or queens by our spouse? Come on.
To respect your spouse is also to demonstrate your trust in them. If you keep acting as though you have to keep monitoring your spouse’s every movement; and you must know everyone they have met or conversed with outside the home, it means you do not respect them enough to trust that they will handle themself with maturity. This attitude brings out the worst in your spouse because nobody enjoys a meddlesome, paranoid, distrustful spouse who is always checking up on them. Mutual respect also makes you mindful of the manner in which you address your spouse. Where there’s respect spouses do not talk down on each other much less shout at one another. They argue, but without insults; and they use reason, not sentiment, to resolve their differences. Respect also prevents a person from wanting to control their spouse; and as psychologists would tell you, the desire for control is one of the most important triggers of domestic violence or abuse. So, by all means, love thy spouse; but respect them even more. Let us end domestic abuse by both men and women.
Department of English and Literary Studies, BUK