Mutual respect important in healthy relationship —Blessing Okareh

Blessing Okareh, a marriage counsellor, media professional and the publisher of Fortress Magazine, holds a Masters degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. In this interview with TAYO GESINDE, she says victims of domestic violence should run for their lives.


What motivated you to go into marriage counselling?

My marriage in the past seventeen years has opened my eyes to so many problems plaguing homes. It is not possible to counsel a person rightly,  if you have never experienced same or a similar situation. Such a counsellor would only be speaking from head knowledge. Today,  I can say that the reason I had a very turbulent marriage for many years was because I needed those experiences to be able to assist youths of marriageable age and young couples who are having troubled marriages. It is my passion and pleasure to encourage and support partners in marital relationships, both singles and married through difficult times because I believe that if God saved my marriage, there is no marriage He cannot save.

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You recently advised married couples not to see divorce as an option out of their marital troubles. What if there is domestic abuse/ violence?

Yes, I advise couples not to opt for divorce but will always add that if either of the partners is violent, they should separate.  Separation does not always mean moving out of the house completely but taking  a break for some time.  You can travel or find somewhere to rest.  Sometimes, the abused partner needs a break from the hostility as well as the emotional and physical stress. If not,  after a prolonged period of time, the victim’s health may begin to fail and also to avoid being killed. Therefore, run for your  life in the face of domestic violence.

Moreover, the children and their mother bear the brunt the most. Children are also  affected psychologically. In school they may be absent minded and lost in thought when teaching is on. The children may become wayward if their mother abandons them and leaves. They are therefore likely to be taken advantage of because they are vulnerable. Such children may join the wrong gang and be  lured into vices. On the part of the woman, if she decides to take her children with her,  she may be economically disadvantaged such that she may not be able to cater for them. This also depend on how many children she has to cater for. Even if she is financially capable, divorce deals a huge blow on the emotions. How strong is she to handle it such that she does not feel cheated and defeated? Many abused partners decide to endure because they are secretive. They often times don’t want a third party to know the truth about their families.


Some people are of the opinion that the society and religious institutions are to be blamed for couple killing each other because of their stance on divorce. What is your take on this?

Yes,  I will not totally deny this fact because many denominations and doctrines preach against divorce and separation in its totality. They tell  their congregation that God does not permit separation. I agree that God hates divorce but separation is not a sin. Separation is not divorce. Some couples have been separated for as much as 15 years and yet they got back together again. Society stigmatises divorcees and single parents. Even older singles who never got married are not well respected in society. These are some of the reasons marriage partners experiencing domestic violence may not speak out and just decide to continue to manage until it results in death or murder.


What are some of the things singles should look out for in a partner?

In choosing a life partner, it is important to look out for originality. When I say originality, I mean that you should be sure the person is not a pretender. Some guys and ladies alike pretend to be who they are not. This talks about a good character too. Look for genuine love. Is the person selfless or selfish and self centred?

Secondly, compatibility and this does not mean having the same temperaments. Your weakness should be your spouse’s strengths. That is why you see an extrovert marrying an introvert and they complement each other. Also, you should share the same values. Background check is very important – do not be blinded by love,  because marriage is a very good eye opener. In a nutshell, a truly God-fearing partner is the best.


 What are the causes of conflicts in marriage and how can they be resolved?

Many things cause disagreement or conflicts between couples. They include and are not limited to; Immaturity of couples (marriage is not for babies or mama’s boy),finances (not enough or more than enough), family interference (third parties, in-laws and friends),infidelity,  barreness or delay in child bearing, lack of trust and insecurity, comparing your spouse with your friend’s husband, lack of contentment, selfishness, sexual dysfunction or denial and self-centeredness.To deal with the conflict, the couple should first Identify the problem. Sometimes, conflicting couples are unable to pinpoint the cause of their conflicts, especially when it is more spiritual than physical. Then,  address such through prayers. Also,give it all it takes -study your partner, obey,  respect and submit to your husband.Do not always insist on having the last or final say as a woman. Do not fight for your right, instead allow God to fight for your right.  Also, go back to God in prayers,  forgive each other, consult the marriage manual; the Bible, Improve your sexual life,learn to appreciate each other. Celebrate each other’s achievements.

Do not capitalise on your spouse’s weakness or expose his weakness to the world.  To all women, I say be patient and tolerant.Finally pray for your partner and for the presence of the Lord in your home.


How can a woman successfully combine her career with the home front?

Women can successfully combine their careers and the home front. All that it requires is planning. Career women should bear in mind that after work, they need a peaceful home to return to. So,  the home front must not be neglected. Start by planning your time everyday. Outline your activities and prioritise  them. I admit that it is quite hectic when your children are still very young. There should be an understanding between the couple such that the husband will support his wife in the home with some chores. I know most men don’t like to hear this but if you love your wife and want her to live long,  then you should be of help. You can make life easier for her by providing the gadgets she needs such as washing machine, deep freezer, microwave, pressure pot to mention but a few.I must stress here,  that most husbands fear being taken for granted or disrespected when they offer help.Mutual respect is very important in having a healthy relationship. Let your husband know your work schedule or itinerary well ahead of time and if there is any change of activity different from what you told him, it is important to quickly call to inform him. This really builds trust and fortifies your love. It is important for women to manage their husbands and the home as well.


Advice to parents on how to raise godly children?

My advice for parents on child upbringing is to teach their children to know that one does not get everything he or she wants in life. When a parent gives a child everything he or she demands all of the time, that parent is not helping the child because when he grows into an adult, he or she will do anything to get what he wants even if it means committing crimes. The Bible says teach a child the way he should go and when he grows up, he will not depart from it. Bring up your child to fear God. If a child has the fear of God, he or she will have good morals and values. Be kind and loving but be firm as a parent. Your children must not have it their way always. God bless your home.


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