Same Difference

When people from different Countries or Continents get into a relationship, differences are kind of obvious.  The minute you realise you have feelings for someone ‘different’, all kinds of questions begin to go off in your head like ‘what will my family say?’, or if you are as brutally honest as I tend to be, maybe a more basic question like “would Valentine’s Day be flowers and chocolate, or tickets to see Basketmouth live!?”

I’m chatting with this guy who believes I will be his wife.  I ask him “why did you end your last relationship?”  “She was rude” was his reply.  Alarm bells went off in my head. What exactly is that supposed to mean? His ex-girlfriend just happened to be someone I knew from my past; one of those seniors I avoided in Secondary school, as she was a no-nonsense type of girl, but we had a few things in common.  I asked myself would I have to watch my tongue so consciously if I maintained a relationship with this person?”  I really want to be free in my own home and I need to be able to express myself when I am angry, without feeling like I’m talking to my father or uncle.  The nine years between this guy and myself suddenly felt like three decades.  We went our different ways.  He went back to the ex and married her.

Two years later, I am in my Pastor’s living room.  I have brought the ‘Man in my life’ to him and we are being counselled by this Father and his wife. “Have you talked about your cultural differences?” he asks.  “We are from the same tribe, so we don’t have many differences”.  The older couple look at each other and smile. “Daughter, you are not as Nigerian as you think anymore.  You are more British in your ways and this young Man has only been here a few years.  You have a lot of differences to talk about.”  This hadn’t crossed my mind before he said it, but as we left his house, I remembered a guy I really liked who was Nigerian, but even more British than myself.  When I talked with passion about all the various traditional meals I could cook, he would argue that he could comfortably eat crunchy nut cereal all day.  After our conversations, I would be deep in thought about whether we could accommodate each other’s preferences.  Could I give up eating yam peppersoup and Ukasi soup for Yorkshire puddings, Cottage pies and Sunday roast?  This actually became a serious prayer point.  Thankfully I didn’t have to find out. Since the meeting with my Pastor, I have made it a serious point to be conscious of the areas where we differ.  This helps me to deal with conflict in our home a lot better than I would have done otherwise.

For example, my husband’s family have had a lot of physical battles for many years. This has influenced some of his reflex actions in life.  When I ask my husband a simple question such as “please are you going out soon?”, his initial response tends to be “EH?” (said in a typical naija accent with force!).  I hate being yelled at and I used to interpret that as “I dare you to ask me that question again”, and most times I respond with “O its nothing, don’t worry”.  It took a couple of years for me to realise that he actually didn’t mean to shut me up, but genuinely wanted me to repeat myself to make sure he understood my request.  I also noticed members of his family responding the same way to each other – so I wasn’t the common denominator.  I have brought this to his attention and it’s something we are working on together.  I have to remind myself that he is not angry when he responds like that, and he needs to remember that I shrink back when he raises his voice. Yet we are both from the same tribe and country.

Outside my personal experience, the most interesting inter-racial marriage story I have heard is of a man and woman of God whom I respect greatly.  The African man met a lovely English lass and after hearing from God, courted and married her. Their differences erupted on day one.  Our lad was used to being waited on, and he fully expected this in marriage. Our lass was used to daddy bringing breakfast in bed and fully expected hubby to take on this role.  So, they both waited in bed that morning, each wondering what the other person was waiting for.  You can imagine how quickly the honeymoon ended.  It took seven years to get to a place of peace within that marriage.  They’ve been married now for over fifty years and they are still going strong.  How did they last that long with such unrealistic expectations at the beginning?  God is the author of marriage, and (as I was reminded recently) marriage was created before the fall of man.  If you want to have a great marriage, follow the manual of the Creator.

So what has age or race got to do with this marriage matter? As little or as much as you decide that it should.  Now I’m sure that’s not the kind of answer you want to hear but it is true.  You could meet a 38yr old man who acts and thinks like a 24yr old.  As the 33-year-old woman he is dating, what does his physical age have to do with your perception of who he is?  Yes, there is a certain level of maturity that is expected with age but we also know that there are many who have had to mature a lot quicker than others due to life circumstances, and others still who have refused to mature. 

I say Same Difference to all these issues relating to race or age. This is because these are not the real issues.  Race and Age are obvious before marriage and I am sure we all relate to people of different age groups and racial backgrounds in everyday life.  I always wanted to marry someone older than me.  I didn’t think I could respect someone younger when the going gets tough (this is me o!) and I really didn’t want to take a chance on that, so it was one of the top five items on my Mr. Right list. He had to be somewhere between 3-8yrs age difference (so the guy at the start was pushing my cut off mark really…).  I have friends who have said they would happily marry someone 15 -20yrs older because they find the men within their age bracket a little immature.  It’s their prerogative.  God didn’t give any rules on this area and some people believe Boaz was much older than Ruth in the bible.  However, you as an individual need to really understand what you can and cannot deal with. For example, it’s your 40th birthday and your 33yr old husband wants to mark a celebration for you in church. He looks older so people don’t really know, but now the whole church is about to find out.  On the scale of important issues, this seems really trivial, but is this an issue for you?  Or a man is going through a mid-life crisis and his twenty something year old wife cannot understand why he is stressing himself… … hmmm. 

The issue is our attitude in marriage and to marriage.  You really have to go in with your eyes open and mean your wedding vows when you say them.  Storms will come. It’s inevitable; but through the storm, Christ is indeed the Lord of all.

Loving against the odds!

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