He was determined to find his own wife. His specification of a wife material was a graduate. The moment he saw her, he knew he had found his bride. That brief introduction on that fateful day by a cousin has yielded fruits that lasted up to two decades and two years.
That is the story of Mr Andy Ugwu and his beloved wife, Ngozi Esther nee Nze. They are proud parents of four healthy boys in their 22 years of marriage.
Andy Okwuchukwu Ugwu is from Achii in Oji River local govt area of Enugu state. He is a businessman, and his wife is a graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State. They shared their experiences with JOSFYN UBA.
How did you meet your wife?
Husband: I met her in Lagos in 1991 when I was set to marry. I had a shop at Kirikiri road. So, on this particular day, she came to visit a friend of hers. I didn’t know who she was. Coincidentally, she was a sister to my very good friend, Emeka Nze but I didn’t know.
However, the moment I saw her, I knew I had found my wife. After, her friend had introduced her to me, we instantly started chatting. Normally, one thing led to another and we continued. And here we are today, two decades and two years down the line and we are still counting. We give God the glory.
Was there courtship?
Husband: Yes, of course, We courted because when I met her, she was an undergraduate at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. We courted for about three years because she was schooling, while I was in Lagos.
How long have you been married to Andy Ugwu?
Wife: I have been married for 22 years now. I remember that while I was in the university, the school was on a seemingly endless strike, so I visited a friend of mine named Maureen and my brother had earlier asked me to visit one of our town’s guys. That was where I met my husband. My cousin introduced us and he realised that I was a sister to his friend, Emeka Nze.
We chatted. I told him of my status as an undergraduate and that I am a native of Achii. He smiled and said that he had found his wife. He noted that I suited him so well and expressed his desire to marry me instantly.
That was how we continued, and it was not as if he couldn’t get any other girl in Lagos but he found me suitable in spite of the distance between us. I knew that he was serious about his intentions. I thank God today that, that brief encounter has brought us this far, two decades and some years and we are still together. Thanks be to God.
What was your point of attraction to her?
Husband: As a young man, I was determined to find my own wife. My specification of a wife material was first, a lady who is a graduate. Even if the person was an undergraduate, it was okay. And when I met her, she was at the university, so she fitted into what I wanted. I liked what I saw and that was it.
What attracted him to you?
Wife: As I said, the first day I saw him, nothing much attracted me but as we moved on, I saw that he is a caring loving man. Most importantly was the fact that he would boldly come to our house to look for me then. That’s a point I won’t forget because if he were to “play away” with me, he would not have come out boldly to see me. That was enough indication that he was really serious.
What did you tell her to make her marry you?
Husband: It was a case of boy-meet-girl, naturally. I saw her and liked her and we talked. As we chatted, she later found out that we were from the same town. And then, having known the family background since her brother was my very good friend, (even though, I didn’t know she was my friend’s younger sister before I approached,) all that was convincing for me as far as her background was concerned. So, that was more like what cemented our affair.
What was your response to his request?
Wife: It was okay by me. However, I needed time to study him and be sure of him since I wasn’t really ready to marry at that time. I had always wanted to complete my studies before getting married but since he came with sincere intentions, I had to give him a chance. We courted for some years before getting married and I am glad that it was worth my while.
What was your point of conviction?
Wife: From all indications, as time went on, I knew I had found a good man. He is loving and kind. His anger doesn’t last and he is quite caring for his family.
Was there any hindrance as to whether or not you would marry from any quarter?
Husband: In life, there are lots of challenges. There was no stumbling block as such because in my family, we all enjoy the privilege of personal choices when it comes to marriage. In my family, it is not as if our parents would set agenda that they have found a wife for you. So, I won’t say there was any opposition. My choice remained my choice
Being together for 22 years is not a tea party. How you have survived these years? What’s your staying power?
Husband: It’s been by the grace of the Almighty. But beyond that, I saw marriage from my parent’s perspective in the context of staying together against all odds. You marry for better or for worse. So, when I was ready for marriage, I was determined that we would stick together, no matter the odds. I know that no two marriages are the same. For me, the concept of marriage is personalised.
What works for Mr A may not for Mr B. And if you understand the concept of marriage, you would understand that two people coming from different backgrounds would need time to blend. And even as much as they tend to understand each other. Even siblings or twins quarrel, let alone, two people from different backgrounds.
Therefore, when challenges come, you disagree to agree. That has helped us. Above all, the grace of God has been our strength these two decades and two years of our marital journey.
Can you say more?
Husband: She was still in the university when we had our first child. The school was on a long strike which was to our advantage. If I remember very well, I think the strike lasted about three to four months.
She was pregnant. The first day I saw him, nothing much… She was in the East with her parents who precisely were residing at Nsukka, while I was in Lagos. But when she was about to deliver the child, she moved to Abakiliki, Ebonyi State to stay with my family where she delivered. Even after birth, the strike continued for another two or three months. And it really suited us greatly. I visited them after delivery.
What was it like for you as a first time dad?
Husband: I was simply overjoyed being a father because I had looked forward to it. I was exceedingly happy and I glorify God.
What would you say about this journey?
Wife: The journey of marriage has been wonderful and fruitful for me. Nothing is more joyful and fulfilling than having children in a marriage. I would say that we have been immensely blessed in this union. Even when I was pregnant, I would go about my duties calmly and I gave birth successfully. Everything in marriage is not about money. Its been joy for me.
How do you resolve your differences?
Husband: Misunderstanding will always come and when it does, I don’t find it difficult to say I am sorry. We might disagree, quarrel but by the time, I go out and return, I have a way of playing with my wife and mending fences. And before you know it, you are back together again
From personal experience, marriage is a journey. It is a an enduring partnership of man and wife. It is a life long journey where you start on a small scale and grow gradually. There’s nobody who would claim he has had a degree in marriage and no two marriages are the same
According to an Igbo proverb, marriage is like a blind date. It is like a wrapped parcel that no one has an idea of the content. Whatever the content is upon unwrapping it, you would gladly accept it. But if you have that firm resolve that you want the marriage to go on, you need patience and tolerance. However, the greatest gift that any couple would pray for is the grace of God to help them through the race because it is not easy. You need endurance too.
Was there any time you considered opting out of this marriage?
Husband: No, No, There was never a time I ever thought of walking away because I strongly don’t believe in divorce. Problems are there to be solved and human beings are to find solutions for them. When we have any challenge, we always find a way around it because I see my wife as a sister and friend. Therefore, there is no going back, and no quitting rather, we seek ways to address the issue and move on again.
Why do you think that divorce cases are on the increase nowadays?
Husband: I think divorce is on the increase, these days because many people marry for the wrong reasons.
What do you mean by that?
Husband: The right reason is that you must really and convincingly love the person you wish to marry. You must be sure that you can accommodate her in all circumstances. It is not about lusting over her because of material acquisitions or some ephemeral things. For a marriage to survive, there must be mutual respect and tolerance. You should also not marry someone with the mind-set that he/she will be your cash cow or meal ticket.
Unfortunately, today, this has become the norm. Many young people desire to settle down with already-made people. They only want to marry rich people, they don’t want to start up with anyone. They don’t want to struggle with a beginner, and this is dangerous. When you want to marry someone who had been comfortable all round, it’s what I call marrying for the wrong reasons.
Why do you think divorce rate has spiralled these days?
Wife: Divorce is not the best option for anybody, except in the event of violence or threat to life. Otherwise, no marriage is without challenges. It is your ability to manage your issues, settle your differences and move on again that makes yours different.
If your first consideration in the union is what you would get from your spouse financially, then, you are planning to fail because without the money one would not be able to adjust to the family she is married into, otherwise, you have problems.
And if you opt for divorce, what then happen to the children? What makes you think that whatever you can’t endure, your children will survive it? Except as I said earlier, in the event of threat to life or violence, you can take a walk, after all, when you are alive is when you can take care of your kids.
But for me, I cannot leave my husband and kids. I am married and that’s it, there is no going back. We are married for better or for worse. Even if he is not as financially balanced as he was before, I can never think of leaving my family. And when I remember the way he was before, I would be consoled knowing that hard times do not last forever. There is more fulfilment in a union than mere riches.
What’s your staying power?
Wife: What has kept us in this marriage is essentially the grace of God. His grace has been sufficient in all aspects. Again, the little knowledge about forgiveness also helps me. If God can forgive all our sins, who am I not to forgive my husband when he wrongs me? So, forgiveness is key in a marital union because you forge ahead without bearing grudges.
Does money play any role in marriage?
Husband: Yes, money definitely plays a role but it shouldn’t be mistaken for genuine love. Everybody likes success and for you to be wealthy, you must be successful. Money activates so many things in marriage but if you marry essentially because of the person’s wealth, what happens when there is no money anymore?
Money shouldn’t be the primary consideration. First, you must see your spouse as a soul mate and friend because marriage is a long journey. It takes a lot more than just wealth. There are some issues in marriage that cannot be solved with money, no matter how wealthy you are. Marriage is not a quick fix. So, I still say that why we are recording increase in divorce cases is that many people marry for the very wrong reasons.
On domestic violence, do you think that men are not abused too, emotionally or otherwise?
Husband: Yes, we hear more of women being abused because the men are more physical than the opposite sex. Women are flippant, they talk more. In marriage, one needs to endure. You don’t go quarrelling over every little thing or turn your spouse into a punching bag. You learn how to manage anger and situations. It is important that when one person is angry, the other keeps quiet or else the bubble would burst beyond repairs. If couples respect each other’s feelings, violence in marriages will be reduced.
The few men who are emotionally abused are in relationships when the women are the bread winners. Therefore, their ego is battered and they feel shameful to voice out. Even when they complain, they will be made a laughing stock quite unlike the women whose cases are pronounced.
How do you apologise when you wrong her?
Husband: In instances, where we quarrel at night, and in the morning, I prepare and go out, and when return, I must put up a cheerful countenance as a matter of priority such that my wife would have no option but to key into my happy mood. I don’t allow our quarrel to last till sunset. I would play and make it up so that we return to normal. And it’s been a healthy strategy which has helped us sustain our marriage this far.
Can you remember an advice that has been of use in this long journey with your wife?
Husband: I wouldn’t say yes, but I saw marriage from my parents’ perspective and I desired to adopt the style, somehow for so many reasons. First, I never saw them fight or engage in violence of any type. I never witnessed my father raise his hand over my mum. They might disagree but they would eventually agree. They would talk and sort out their differences together, so I saw marriage from that angle.
And even after my marriage, I noticed that my parents in-law also enjoyed some spousal cordiality so, I loved it and have always wanted to emulate them. I am glad that our union has come this far and we are still counting.
I didn’t look out to marry someone from a royal family or a multi-millionaire’s home, I looked out to marry a friend, someone whom I dearly love and whom I can ultimately grow in life with and in the event of any misunderstanding, we can sort ourselves out.
What’s your candid advice to young people going into marriage?
Husband: For young people who are going into marriage, they should understand that marriage is an institution ordained by God, and it will be blissful if they respect each other’s feelings. It is their duty to make it work and they can actually work it out to succeed because if you set your mind on it, you can make it work.
Again, communication is vital in marriage. You must endeavour to listen to each other’s views. Learn to be patient. If you don’t exercise restraint and patience, small cases will snowball into uncontrollable situations.