My parents got married on March 1, 1984. As I made them jollof rice for their anniversary this year, I reminisced on the parts of their marriage I’d been aware of. I’ve spent more time with my parents in the past year than I have in a long time, thanks to COVID, and I realize that you only need to learn one lesson about marriage to do it right. And that is: You can’t change your spouse.
My mother is the same person she was when I was younger, and so is my father. They have the same habits, the same differences and largely the same arguments. My father is organized and loves to pick things up from the exact place he put them. My mother needs three spare keys to her car and doesn’t wear a wedding band because she’s misplaced too many.
My father is a private man who keeps few friends and even fewer acquaintances. My mother is popular everywhere she goes and has friends in every neighbourhood. She’s so well-known that I call her “SUG President,” short for Student Union President.
I know too many people who get married and expect that their partner will miraculously transform into a better person because they’ve signed a document. Many divorces are a result of someone realizing that they got exactly who they married. There are no software updates on your spouse. You don’t get to add on custom fittings after the honeymoon. Who you choose is who you get.
I’m not saying that people don’t improve as a result of the connection to their partners, some do. My mum became an avid reader because of my dad and she’s become bolder too. However, the person she is at her core hasn’t changed. My father is a friendlier person now, but he’s still largely the same Femi Sotubo I remember from my childhood.
This lesson seems simple enough, but think about it. If you knew that the person you were planning to marry would never change, would you still marry them? If you realized that your spouse would never be any different than they are today, would you continue to argue with them over everything? I’m guessing the answer is no.
Change is hard and even when people change, it’s because of a personal decision. You can’t change anybody because you have a hard enough time trying to change yourself. So why not focus on what you can control?
It’s like Rumi said: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” If you approach marriage, and really all human relationships with this mindset, you’ll have a more enjoyable experience.
Disclaimer: I’m not teaching this lesson, I learned and am still learning it from the married people around me.