Managing your incompatibility – Francis Ewherido

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Francis Ewherido

“Marriage is successful when you are able to manage your incompatibility”- Mr. Charles Oputa, aka Charly Boy.

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Mr. Charles Oputa has done many great things and fought for many good causes. He is also a father, grandfather and not just a husband, but a husband of Lady Diana Oputa for the past 40 years. That is about twice the time I have been married. So even if you see him as unconventional or weird, when he talks about marriage, listen.

That is why I want to dwell on the above quote from him this week. Many marriages have broken down due to “irreconcilable differences” and many more will break down if couples are unable to manage their differences. As Charly Boy rightly observed, a happy marriage is a result of the couple’s ability to manage their differences.

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Compatibility is a very important aspect of courtship and marriage. Compatibility is all the more important where your core values are concerned. Tragically, some people (married and unmarried) cannot even clearly articulate what their core values are. “Core values are principles and qualities that guide your internal conducts and determine how you relate with the external world.

Your core values define who you are; they go to the root of your existence. They are sacred to you and non-negotiable a lot of the time. They might be ethical, religious, intellectual, social, appearance related, etc.” Compatibility in core values enhances the success of your marriage, but ultimately, what makes a marriage happy and successful is the couple’s ability to manage their differences.

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Managing incompatibility in marriage is a lifelong exercise because there will always be differences, as long as people live together as spouses. Some of the differences may blur or disappear over time, but the fundamental differences scarcely go away. The contrasting traits are parts of the spouses’ characters and go to the core of who they are. In other words, they are part of their personalities. I have said previously, that before, marriage; ask yourself whether you can cope with these core differences for the rest of your life before you say “I do.” But sometimes, it is not even the differences that you know that become the problem, it is the differences that will evolve as the marriage evolves. And it is not as if your spouse hid these traits from you. Like a dormant volcano, they have always been there. They erupt when provoked by certain situations and circumstances in the marriage.

But no matter how the incompatibility came about, they must be managed if you desire a happy and successful marriage. Sometimes, what some couples call “irreconcilable differences” is actually their inability to manage their differences. Managing incompatibility is one of the most difficult aspects of marital life. Among others, it requires excellent communication skills. For instance, even if your spouse disagrees with you, let him/her know where you are coming from and where you stand on the issue and why. Ambiguity complicates the situation. In addition, communication should be conducted with respect and without rancour. Acidic communication does not resolve incompatibility, it aggravates it.

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Also, do not sweep anything under the carpet, because it is going to bring disagreement, unless you want to continue sweeping it under the carpet anytime it comes up for the rest of your life. You will unearth whatever you sweep under the carpet sooner or later. Deal with all issues. Here communication should be empathic and devoid of bitterness. Again, do not be afraid of confrontation. Confrontations are part and parcel of marriage. Some of the hottest sex between couples has taken place after confrontations. Just ensure the confrontation is positive and guided by mutual respect. That way, dumb words do not come from your mouth, because once you say them, you cannot take them back. Even if you apologise and are forgiven, you cannot erase what you said from your spouse’s memory.

In managing incompatibility, one party should not behave as if his/her position is superior to the other. Both spouses are just prisoners of your nature and nurture and see things from their “prison.” Sometimes, you are on opposite sides: one is seeing figure 6; the other is seeing figure 9 and both are correct! That is why empathy (ability to see things from the perspective of your spouse, even if you do not share his/her beliefs or opinion) is very important in managing incompatibility. But you should know your strength and weaknesses, and your spouse’s, so that when the bone of contention is an area of strength of your spouse, give him/her the benefit of the doubt, as long as he/she is acting in good faith. It is very irritating when a spouse ignorantly argues with his/her spouse on an issue the latter is much more knowledgeable about.

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Change might be a constant thing, but do not try to change your spouse in your attempt to manage incompatibility. I have said it a few times here. In marriage, only one spouse changes: you. You have no right to coerce your spouse to change his/her ways after marriage. You might force the horse to the brook, but you cannot force it to drink. Change comes from within not without. You can only influence change from without; you cannot force it in marriage. Also, do not unilaterally shift the goal post after marriage to manage your incompatibility. Respect pre-nuptial agreements and understanding.

In marriage your love and good intentions should not be in doubt. This helps to manage incompatibility. Your spouse might not agree with you, but if the love and trust are there, he/she might just soften up and let go.

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Managing incompatibility in marriage requires humility. Just because you are the head of the family or the breadwinner does not mean you should talk down on your spouse when you disagree. You should reason together.

What I have come to realise over time is that if you really want your peace of mind in marriage, you have to learn to live with as many foibles of your spouse as possible. Ignore small incompatibilities like choice of television programmes, dirty socks being on the bed, etc. At the end of the day, your spouse also has to put up with your foibles!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS

While 2018 crawled like a tortoise for some, especially the idle and the bored, it has flown by like a supersonic jet for others. Counting from today, we are 10 days away from 2019, the almighty year of Nigeria’s general elections. The year 2019 is heavily pregnant with expectations, but only God knows the “sex(es)” of the babies. For now, let us focus on a celebration that is closer to us than 2019. Tuesday, December 25 is Christmas, the day set aside by Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Son of God. Do something extra this Christmas: ensure that at least one family (not necessarily relatives) that cannot afford Christmas rice and chicken enjoys this Christmas food because of your generosity. Merry Christmas to all our readers.

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