“EXPECT nothing in your relationship and you will be thankful for everything that you get,” goes one saying.
This statement may be disappointing for partners prior to their marriage because, to achieve a successful relationship, marriage requires commitment, accountability, love and respect, among others things.
What we are seeing today are partners expecting things that put them in a situation of being more of a demander than a requester.
When some partners are caught up in the excitement of their wedding, it can be hard to imagine that they may not have challenges.
This is evident from the soaring gender-based violence (GBV) cases recorded by the Zambia Police.
In addition, the causes of divorce recorded by courts clearly show how difficult addressing marital problems can be.
Marriage experts have observed how marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither person exercising dominion over the other but encouraging, comforting, and helping the other.
In some of my past articles, I have shared how important it is for partners to discuss their finances, goals, HIV and AIDS status and careers before committing to themselves.
Some of the expectations partners must discuss are:
Rarely do partners discus fertility issues because both assume they are capable of conceiving.
So, when such experiences crop in, they are characterised by tension and emotions.
For instance, author John Mbit, sums it up and explains how, in Africa, everyone must get married and bear children.
In his book, African Religion and Philosophy, he describes marriage as a drama in which everyone must become an actor or actress and not just a spectator.
According to Mbiti, the expectation of having children is a serious concern among African societies and that marriage and procreation which, without children, is incomplete.
But what about couples where one partner cannot conceive for natural reasons?
Whether you agree with me or not, couples who cannot conceive even after treatment or who would prefer to forego treatment, adoption is a beautiful option.
So, a fuller discussion in all areas of having children must be exhausted.
I know that in our African society, adoption is still not a preferred option in many households.
Instead, partners are expected to have children.
If not, we have seen parents and families play a huge role in influencing expectations, including providing alternatives.
Similarly, partners should discuss how many children they intend to have and how they will be raised as the expectations of parenting may affect their careers and goals.
A visit to any health facility explains how, out of about 30 women who may be present during antenatal or family planning, about two male partners may show up with their partners to know about sexual reproductive health.
So, with the expectations of children, it is important to understand that parenting styles are often based on a person’s own upbringing, and spouses may bring completely different experiences.
Career parents usually face challenges with parenting because after a child is born, one partner, usually the female, will have to be a full-time stay-at-home parent before they can return to work.
As children grow up, expectations of disciplining them can bring tension as one partner may have their own preference.
Ask couples raising teenage and adolescent children how each partner has different opinions on how to discipline their children and the blame game of rebellious children that has affected their relationships.
We might wonder how a couple about to get married should not discuss these issues and yet struggle with major differences in views, a few years into their marriage.
Family and boundaries
If you marry in an African society, expect some partners who may come with family members, including adults, all of whom you have to accept.
They may be your dependents living in your home or extended family members from either one partner.
Listening to their advice is one thing but it is important to create boundaries early because you risk having unnecessary tension for the rest of your life.
This brings me to late Zambian folk musician Peter “Tsosi” Juma’s song “Bashi Chanda” which talks about a woman who wants to know about how her husband’s relatives living under their roof should be treated , looking at what they demand from her.
For some couples, in-laws can be a nuisance and so, it is only important that partners discuss what obligations may arise in the provision of moral and financial support.
In a similar development, we may think that taking care of aging parents is for old couples.
I am sure, we have heard about how marriages break because one partner has to look after an aging parent who may be unable to live alone because of a medical problem.
Whether one has been married for two or 15 years or fifteen years, balancing demands of a marriage while caring for an aging parent is not easy and this can create tension.
You do not have to cross the bridge when you get there, hence the need to discussions any matter of interest about family members.
Interfaith marriages have continued to increase and many partners want to assume that they understand one another’s faith, ignoring the challenges that come with it.
Whether or not a marriage is interfaith, partners must make decisions together because this shapes one’s attitudes and beliefs, thus the need to discuss this with their partners.
I learnt with regret about one young woman who was in conflict with her partner concerning giving tithe and participating in church activities because, from the beginning, they did not share their religious differences.
Further, raising a child in interfaith marriages has been a source of tension leading to GBV for some couples.
There are quite a few nuances that arise in marriage and if expectations are demanding, these can be stressful.
Each day in marriage is a learning experience but we cannot predict all of the problems that will arise which may potentially lead to GBV or divorce.
For couples already in marriage, it is not too late to discuss these and many other expectations for a long and healthy relationship.
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