I had just finished a session on Assertive Skills. We broke for tea/coffee and it was a perfect time for me to catch my breath. I went to the coffee table and poured myself a cup of tea. I wanted to rest my feet since I had the whole day to facilitate. I should mingle with the participants but having to facilitate a whole day takes it toil on me and every available second to rest is a welcome one. I had 30minutes of break to stretch my legs. I put my cup of tea on the table while I flipped through my presentation. “So far so good” I thought to myself. “I have managed my time very well so far and I will be glad if I can finish before the allotted time. I wonder if I would be able to achieve this” I thought again. “The class is vibrant and full of energy. Whenever it is like this, it could be a bit tricky trying to stick to time.” I thought as I flipped through the pages trying to familiarise myself with the presentation.
“Good morning” one of the participants greeted me. I looked up from my presentation to see who it was. “Good morning “I answered her. I remembered her as I smiled at her. I had noticed her in class. Though, she did not make any contributions to the topic we just had but I noticed she was very attentive and interested in what I said. She took time jotting a lot and I had observed that she was very fascinated with the topic.
“My name is
” she said introducing herself. “I enjoyed the class we just had and I have some questions that I want to ask if you don’t mind” she said shyly. “Oh! It is ok. Please feel free to ask me any question.” I said smiling but moaning to myself that my 30minutes of peace had just gone. I may be lucky though and she may not take up all the time. I thought hopefully. “I have this problem. I am not assertive at all and I have found out that people tend to take me for granted” She said. I waited for her to continue wondering where this was leading to. ”I have a problem with my husband” she whispered as she looked around. “I am at my wits end and I really don’t know what to do.” She said glumly. I really didn’t want to dabble into anybody’s private matter but she looked so disturbed that I had to ask her what the problem was. Ada
“My husband humiliates me. In fact, he enjoys humiliating me. I really don’t understand how to put it.” She paused and I waited patiently for her to gather her thoughts because I knew it must be difficult for her as she must be suffering enough to want to share this with a total stranger “Let me say that sometimes he would decide not to talk to me for no apparent reason. When I try to find out what could have gone wrong, he would not answer me but acted as if he was a wounded lion. The more I try to find out the more he withdrew into his shell and this could go on for weeks. Whenever he decided that he was ready to talk, he would simply tell me to check myself. I really don’t know how to handle this type of malice. Also, he puts me down in front of our friends and family, worst still, in front of the children. I have tried to raise the issues with him but he ignores me. He believes everything is my fault and I should examine myself.” She said looking embarrassed but deeply hurt and perplexed.
I looked up to the heavens for help. “How do I begin to counsel this woman?” I thought to myself. “Has he always being like this? I mean even during courtship?” I asked.
“Not exactly. He used to be moody a lot when we courted but this public disgrace is new. The point is, it is getting worst. He bad mouths me amongst our friends, claiming I am no good. He would call my parents and come up with all sorts of accusations even if for all I know at that particular time, we had no disagreement. You will not believe the number of times we had to go for family meetings to sort out one problem or the other. I believe that we should not wash our dirty linen in public so I kept quiet most of the time. Moreover, I don’t have energy for all the allegations. I often get embarrassed by all the things he got to say, so I keep quiet. Now, I am being viewed like the wicked person. Do you know that he wept the other day at my uncle’s house when we went for yet another meeting? I am asking myself some questions here. Am I a wicked person?” She asked anxiously. I knew that was rhetoric because I didn’t know her at all to determine that but I realised that she was really troubled and needed to talk to somebody
“First, I think you should stop taking the fall for everything that happens in your marriage. Remember, it takes two to tango.” I said. “There are deeper issues here which I believe you and your husband should sit down to discuss.”
“I have tried to discuss this with him” She cuts in. “This has not worked out in anyway. He ends up blaming me for everything and anything. I try to satisfy him in everyway but the more I try, the more dissatisfied he becomes. He criticizes everything I do. I am never good. I try really. I do try. I don’t know what to do. I am desperate here. I want my marriage to work but I don’t know how to make it work” she cried out. I looked around a bit uncomfortable with the discussion. I realised I may not be able to advice her as she wanted. By this time, other participants were back in the class.
“You know what; can we meet during lunch break? Unfortunately, I have to continue with the presentation. I asked reaching out to her. I patted her hand and hope that the next topic, Building Positive Self-Esteem may address some of her issues.
I looked at her as she went back to her seat. I had no clue on how to help her. I am no marriage counsellor but I am used to the position of ‘one size fits all’ most participants tend to put facilitators especially if you are handling a topic that addresses both personal and official life. I concentrated on starting the class somehow wishing that she would not come back to me during lunch break.
I finished my second presentation just before lunch break. I was a bit preoccupied with how I was going to handle the problem
presented to me. We had enough time before lunch. I knew I should seize the opportunity of the break to rest since I had two more sessions to go but I couldn’t get Ada off my mind. I sat down wondering why many marriages were failing at the speed of light. From what Ada Ada told me, it was easy to blame ’s husband but I know that issues in marriage are not always clear cut. I waited patiently for her to approach me again. I looked at her as she approached my table. ”Madam, I hope you don’t mind my disturbing you like this?” She asked shyly. I shook my head. I gestured to her to take the seat close to me. I guess I was doing my one good deed for that day at least if she leaves the class feeling better then, I would have achieved a lot. Ada took her seat and kept quiet. I realised she wasn’t going to talk unless I prompted her. Ada
?” I said tentatively “I quite appreciate the trust you have in me for you to share something as private as this. “ Ada
“I really do appreciate you. I am usually not like this but I am overwhelmed as it is. I am lost at what to do. I didn’t bargain for all these. I had hoped for a beautiful marriage. My father was wonderful and very attentive. I had prayed for that kind of marriage but alas!” she said heaving a deep sigh.
“There is nothing wrong about hoping for a beautiful marriage especially if your parents made a huge success out of theirs. The truth is that marriage is hard work and both parties must be willing to make it work. Unfortunately, in our society, it is often believed it is the duty of the woman to make the home. We women are often blamed for whatever goes wrong in our marriage. We carry the burden of making our marriage work when there is a lot out of control. We try hard to make it work forgetting that it is the responsibility of both parties. We are often told the woman makes the home and because we have being brought up to believe such, we do everything including spoiling the man to the point of creating a monster.”
“A monster? How?” she asked perplexed
“It is what we do unconsciously. It starts form the courtship stage when probably out of love or because we just don’t want to topple the apple cart, or just too desperate not to fail, we accept whatever is dished out to us believing that things would change once we are married. Things don’t ever change. My advice to you is, you need to set boundaries and make it clear that there are things you would not take. For example, whenever he goes into his ‘not talking mode’, leave him. Give him space. Do whatever you have to do as a wife but don’t go fidgeting around him. He does it so often because he knows it gets at you. You have to be the matured person here. Be calm and control your emotions. Do not disrespect him in anyway and don’t show any sign of anger. Just take it that he needs to work out his emotions.” I said “You should be more emphatic when you are expressing your beliefs and opinion but at the same time have respect for his opinion. “ I advised. “Keeping quiet in the face of his accusations is agreeing to them. I am not saying you should join issues with him but you need to state your side as clearly as possible. Whatever you do, do not accept responsibilities for what you didn’t do.” I continued. ”You are not responsible for anybody’s happiness. His choice to be either happy or sad is way beyond your control. You can only try. You need to communicate more. Communication is an essential ingredient in any relationship.” I said to her holding her hands. “Basically, what I am saying is that you need to be more assertive.”
“Do you think things would change if I do all these?” she asked apprehensively.
“It is not a magic wand and it takes more than you to make your marriage work but I know that if you lovingly change your attitude towards him, things may change. I really don’t have all the answers but I pray that things work out for you.