Qn. “I attended a pre-wedding counselling session and I was told it’s abnormal for a couple to be happy throughout marriage without quarrelling. Was this not misleading?”
It is possible that the counsellor was suggesting that you should not abandon your trip to Mombasa just because you hit a pothole at the Machakos turnoff. Rather than discourage you, the person was encouraging you to prepare for a life where real human beings live and not some imaginary place where only angels inhabit. The real world is full of potholes and challenges.
To put it differently, the advice you were getting was a synthesis of the world that we all live in which is characterised by imperfections. You were being told to prepare to solve problems that will arise.
A few years ago, we saw a couple in their early 50s, who were for the first time going through a real crisis in their marriage. Note here that we are talking about a real crisis, not of the type that the counsellor was perhaps warning about. For this couple, their first 25 years were happy in spite of the usual small bumps in their marriage. Examples of such issues were like when she wanted to visit her parents for a few days, while he wanted “the family” to go to the coast for the August holidays.
Her argument was that her parents in Western Kenya were ailing and needed her (just like she needed them) at this critical moment. He argued that the children had looked forward to the holiday. They had booked all the tickets and accommodation and there were two other families on the trip. The more she sulked, the more angry he became. The more angry he became, the more she sulked. In a few days, neither was talking to the other, and both had forgotten why they were angry with each other. They were “happy” to be angry.
As luck would have it, the hotel they were booked at suddenly closed down and they got their refund. For reasons beyond their control, Mombasa was not possible as the holiday destination. Because they were not talking to each other, he could not tell her his problems. He was angry with the hotel for closing down, and was even more angry because she might be happy that it closed!
In the whole mix of things her parents got better and wrote to say they were coming for the wedding they had said they could not attend! Because they were not talking to each other, she did not know how to tell him that she could no longer travel to Western Kenya. Each kept their secret.
She learnt of the cancellation of the Mombasa trip from the close family friend who was to go with them. The friend was surprised that the news of the cancellation had not reached her a week after the news first broke. He discovered that the in laws were coming to Nairobi from a friend who had been told by a brother in law. What a saga; you might now be saying.
On the face of it, a small thing had escalated to much tension in the family. As happens in life, this problem was resolved with time, and each apologised to the other, both prayed and in forgiveness their life came back to normal.
We saw them a few years later when they were going through serious problems in their marriage. She was post-menopausal and depressed and obsessed with a new church “from a Nigerian Pastor”.
He was going through his own crisis. Recently diagnosed with diabetes, he took his doctor’s advice to new extremes. He exercised daily, chose what he ate with great care, and for the first time in his life met “a most caring girl” at the gym. She understood him, and they could “do things together”. In middle age, and with a depressed wife, attention from a young beautiful woman made his emotions wander with ease.
When she went to long church sessions, he went to the gym and took long walks with the girl. Their lives drifted apart, and they became total strangers who slept in the same house. Neither knew what the other was thinking or doing. The marriage was on the brink of collapse.
He was sent to us by his doctor who wanted us to evaluate and treat the depression that so often accompanies diabetes. It was in the course of the treatment of the depression in a man with diabetes that we met the wife. Depression and diabetes often occur together in patients that we see.
When we saw her she was in tears. She explained that she had turned to the strange church when her (depressed) husband turned away from her at her hour of greatest emotional need! She had her own needs during menopause.
The depression lifted, he turned towards her, she gave up her new church and the couple had overcome a big crisis.
What the counsellor was perhaps telling you is that in life there are many types of challenges, all of which demand attention to enable one enjoy life to the full.