By Morrisen Mamutse MSc
Very few, if any will guess this one right but definitely this is what’s missing.
Usually when marriages hit the rocky bumpy road, we point fingers on each other, blame the unknown spirits, witchcraft, bad omen, curses, sometimes blame ourselves (a rarity though!), the list is endless.
Forget it! That’s not why marriages suffer. I bet you all these are simply “opportunistic infections”. The real cause is what I will point out here.
Flashback to 2004, there I was sitting on the wooden benches of the Chiredzi Magistrate’s Court (Zimbabwe). The chambers were empty and spacious except for a couple of voices brave enough to speak in these chambers where cases have been won and lost, people freed or sent to prison.
I always become intensely thoughtful whenever I come to places of significant influence to people’s lives like this one. This day was no different. It was momentous, life changing and overwhelmingly significant a step in someone’s life such that I always look back to it with absolute soberness of thought.
It was the day someone signed a marriage certificate in front of a marriage officer!
Looking back now and having thorough reflections of the whole marriage process especially where couples and their witnesses sign a certificate of marriage, I can candidly point out that unless this process is improved with new ideas and thinking, equipped with more tools and strategies, it will remain a chaotic, shambolic and most uninspiring exercise for many that want to embark on this eventful era of life. Here is why..,
For many of us that have been on this journey, we know that the bride and groom to be gets some advice, coaching and guidance on how to be a good life partner prior to marrying. I believe many a people have had the privilege of getting such priceless information.
Beautiful as the information can be, guess what, its generic. None of the advisers can really be me, you, her or him. Neither can they implement the advice for the newlyweds. No! That’s what makes marriages so unique. The implementation is solely for the two that exchange vows to take care of.
It’s a pact of two souls, a mutual soul based contract. I will repeat…it’s a pact of two souls! Not only that, it’s a contract meant to last till eternity and the two should live and uphold the articles of their contract.
Yes, it is a contract. A quick search on the internet about marriage will bring up the meaning of this word as, “……a sacred contract/vow…”.
It’s the contract bit that boggles my mind, not because I am thinking people should not sign it but because I am asking myself why people sign a contract with no written articles and terms of references? Why are people authenticating and endorsing on something they don’t have written implementation manuals for? That’s the problem marriages face. People signing a “contract agreement” and then be expected to uphold verbalised articles?
What happens then when all hell breaks loose? Go back to that certificate with less than 100 words written on it as reference point? Most people would always say…” but you signed!” the next question is …” sign for what?” That’s where the unwritten marriage values, commitments, vows and promises are quoted. Like REALLY? What a shame…!
If people can’t be trusted on their word everywhere else such that they are given documents to read then sign to show they understand what’s expected of them, including the code of conduct, why on earth is it universally assumed that only in marriage, yes only in marriage, people will be honest enough to stick to their word?
Please educate me wherever you are in the world if there is anybody that has ever signed a contract that’s unaccompanied with terms and conditions that SPECIFICALLY state expectations, other than in marriage. Talk to me if you have ever tried to implement an all-important programme in any other aspect of life without a written reference document to guide you other than in marriage.
Remind me if I am forgetting that most people quote the Holy religious books as reference points of how this marriage “contract” will be delivered. Wake me up from this nightmare if I am dreaming of the Holy Books reference verses being generic and not person specific.
I do not require the reminders though neither am I asleep to have a nightmare. I am fully aware and conscious to the fact that the verses are excellent guidelines applicable to the whole world. I am fully aware of various verses in faith books that guide, encourage, celebrate, rebuke, warn and counsel prospective and married couples, yet to rely on those alone is not enough as they are not person and circumstance specific. Where are the contract step by step guides for your SPECIFIC marriage, for my SPECIFIC marriage? That’s where the problem is.
We are the stupidest creatures on Earth to sign ourselves into a life binding, sacred contract that has no specifics, WRITTEN terms and conditions, operational guidelines that will be read back to us as reminders when push comes to shove or reviewed as applicable.
I know changes will occur, people grow up and think differently, so should the working documents in marriage. Nothing would inspire a marriage better than knowing the documents review dates are approaching. I bet you, each part will dig up the document and read it through to update themselves of their word and what they agreed to being in their marriage.
Marriage is such a contract the World has come to accept it can operate efficiently and effectively with just one document signed (maybe two for those that do pre-nuptials) without any manuals supplied in written form as points of reference in the future.
That’s why the subject of marriage has become so unpopular and problems ridden contrary to its “sacred” title which should have made it appetising and enjoyable. If marriage was an item, commodity or company trading on the stock market, how many would buy shares in it right now?
I believe in marriages, I want them to work as intended. The helper and pillar of support intended reasons for having a life partner and bits, I am all for that. That’s why I am coming up with this spanking idea that marriage certificates should be accompanied by memorandums of commitment drafted by the couple and each signs the other’s and the documents are theirs to keep as reference points. Surely every contract must have reference terms, operational guides and review milestones.
If people can document their wishes and instructions in a will for implementation when they are dead, why is this sacred commitment for the living so empty of detail? I know couples are told they should compromise when they hit a difficult patch. Shouldn’t couples be compromising based on which specific clause of their memorandum of commitment that needs reviewing?
Wouldn’t it reduce arguments in marriages if a partner was shown a clause they are breaching from a document they signed? That’s why the marriage concept is struggling people. That’s why arguments escalate from one subject to another and the results are usually messy to say the least.
Let’s discuss this subject. Let’s shape it for our children. Let’s embark on a free-flowing conversational journey on what we can do to keep the sacred issue alive and appealing to the younger generation. In my upcoming book entitled “Empowering the Young Adult”, I am writing on this issue in full detail to help our young people not to fall into the same pitfalls we fell into (and maybe many are still languishing in the pit). I want them to be innovative with the subject of marriage.
I want them to agree on their individual marriage terms and conditions, operational and implementation procedures of their terms and conditions and finally I want them to be empowered with information on how they can wrestle their marriages fate from being determined and run by the courts and community and put that power into their hands.
I call this the A.C.C.E.P.T. concept.
This concept will guide them to happy relationships and marriages. The word “young” in the title means anyone that reacts to new information in typical fashion that young people by age do. They usually accept new ways, try them and feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Young in the title is not an age determiner of who the book is for, so anyone “young” in the mind, soul, spirit and even physically will find the approaches discussed in the book quite fresh, flexible and implementable.
Just a little taster about A.C.C.E.P.T. It’s a concept I coined to summarise a series of revolving themes that will reshape relationships and marriages for the better, forever. It recognises that marriages are meant to be forever so the themes work in a cycle that can be re-jigged by the user to suit their SPECIFIC circumstances. I argue that there should be APPROVAL in every relationship and this must be done by the two involved, so they can take full responsibility of their lives fate.
The two should then CREATE the rules governing their life journey, write them down, agree by signing to them and treasure them as their guide document to a happy life and as terms of references whenever challenges arise. (I have “stolen” this article you are reading from the CREATE segment of ACCEPT concept as a taster!) CHALLENGES will come as they always do. On this section of the concept, I emphasise the power of positivism as the most effective anti missile weapon a couple can ever use. I speak mostly of the solutions bit than describing the challenges.
ENABLING each other, waal, what can I say about this one, it’s the icing on the cake yet a dormant volcano that requires soulful intellect and divine skill to balance the expectations about being a supportive enabler while keeping the main thing the main thing.
TRANSFORM is all about what should happen next after someone has gone through all the above stages. There will obviously be feedback from all angles of life as to how you do the things you do. That’s inevitable. The most fulfilling part of my life is when I can transform myself for the better in response to feedback from within and around me.
Expect the book early next year and I can guarantee you it will change many mindsets about life’s key social themes for the better.
As for here and now, for those in marriages and thinking everything will work out without written manuals, lets own up, it’s not working for many a people…or let’s say history and tradition failed us. Why take the trouble of documenting operational articles, one may ask? Because marriage is a till eternity contract that has been operated without respect.
Now it’s time to give it the respect it deserves, some dignity. It requires tailor made manuals because it is user specific! It’s never too late to draft and adopt terms and conditions if the couple is committed to making their marriage work. This concept can be adopted at any stage in the marriage cycle and will so much help inform disciplinary proceedings just like codes of conduct at work do. (Imagine reading terms and conditions you signed some 10 years ago and realising you have gone off tangent on 65% of them! Would you blame your better half for being mad at you?)
What then and if…,
What if your partner does not agree with clauses you put in your document? That’s where compromises come into play, that’s when you make informed decisions of whether that relationship is the best for you before committing to signing the marriage document. The marriage certificate should be the seal of approval of each other’s agreed and signed terms and conditions.
Reviews can be called for at any given period. If national constitutions and laws are debated and amended, why can’t a working marriage document follow suit? Surely amendments can be agreed, signed and adopted. Will every couple can draft their own documents? Maybe not.
So how can they get one that suits them? Marriage counsellors and related professionals can make a living from drafting templates based on themes their clients mainly consult on. The details will then be yours. Not all company owners drafted their own memorandums, yet they are in business.
All they did was they bought packages closely related to their business models then tweaked some bits to make the documents theirs. The key point here is if one has a document reminding them of what they signed for upon entering this contract, kurasa muswe kunoita kushoma! (Complacency will be minimised). We always remember there is a contract of employment when the boss starts to mention it after a mischief and we all fall into line.
A former boss of mine would always say “…remember what you signed for when you scribbled on that dotted line young man …!” That always served as a reminder for me to refresh my mind on the terms of the contract, policies and procedures thus adjust and align myself with expectations of my job role.
Now imagine marriages being decorated and blessed with such supporting documents….,
I wish every prospective spouse reads this before committing to marriage.
Haaa, Ndagaya! (What a thought!)
Morrisen is a UK based Zimbabwean motivational speaker, development practitioner and writer. He is the founder of Young Adults and Youth Empowerment and Development University (YAAYEDU) an interactive platform for the young at heart to share intelligent and lived experience ideas to shape the future generation’s world. YAAYEDU is launching early next year. Contact: [email protected] +44 7535 899 053