Isn’t it interesting how easy it is to pass judgment on people in whose shoes we have never walked? It’s easy to raise our eyebrows in surprise, offer our unsolicited recommendations and strategies, and even become aloof or give side eyes because we just know we would do things differently.

Or would we?

On the other hand, it’s extremely sad when someone who has been a witness to the consequences of certain actions decides to go ahead and make the same mistakes. I continue to say that if we must learn difficult lessons from experience, then we should do our best to let it be the experience of others.

I watch people a lot. It comes with my line of work. I observe couples wherever I go. I notice glares across tables in restaurants, and that rude “So what?” that is laughed off nervously when it is realized that the pastor is just over someone’s shoulder and everyone at Family Sunday is staring. I see pursed lips and a vacuum cleaner that is switched on with a loud snap! and a rude vroom! to drown out the voice of a man making a humble request to his wife.

I’ve also seen the unmistakable blush from that 40-year old woman whose husband has just paid her a compliment, and the shy laugh from the couple whose children make fun of their lovey-doveyness. I know that it is possible to be a happy wife. And my prayer is that by God‘s grace, if the Lord tarries, when the time comes, I (and every other single woman) will remember these important things I’ve learned through the years:

1. People see a woman’s husband as she describes or defines him.
Words are powerful. A woman’s husband is or will become what she calls him. Any woman who compliments her man will have more reasons to compliment him. I am yet to meet a man who does not respond to genuine affirmation. (Here, try this: Thank a man profusely for holding a door open for you, and then slyly look over your shoulder and see if he will not perform ten more gentlemanly acts just out of the motivation you have provided.)

A woman’s words also come true in that they affect the way everyone sees her husband. If everything she says is negative – he chews his food like a primitive bushman, does not even know how to use a fork and knife, has socks that make the house stink, bores her with a monotonous bedroom technique, had the nerve to borrow sh. 500 from her the other day for airtime, and his children are embarrassed by him – then when people look at him, no matter how tall, dark and handsome, polished, suave, wealthy, hardworking and loving he is, all people will see is a smelly, monotonous embarrassment. A woman’s words can reduce a king to a grasshopper.

Interestingly, if he does not look like the conventional handsome man, picks his nose and does not know how to use a fork and knife, but his wife says nothing but good things about him, people will see him as a man’s man. I think it would be safe to say that the most desirable men are men whose wives respect them. Single women say “I want to get married to a man like him,” not knowing that any man with a good wife by his side can be “a man like him.”

The trick is not to lie to a man or flatter him falsely; rather, it is for a wife to choose to see the best in him. He has smelly socks and his children are embarrassed by him? Well, at least he’s faithful, knows how to work a suit and has children who would never dare to talk back at him or any other adult. I once heard a woman say she never says anything wrong about her husband. When other women complain, she listens sympathetically and says “God will help you, my dear.” And when they ask, “Doesn’t your husband do any wrong?” She shrugs and says “I am blessed. I thank God.”

2. People judge a woman’s husband by the way the woman carries herself.
I often say that if we want to know a man’s true character, we should take a look at his wife. If she is a hot mess, beat down, grouchy, and unkempt, then something is wrong somewhere because a man cannot lead if he cannot manage his own household. Then again, the Bible says the earth cannot stand an odious (a bitter) woman when she is married, so the grouchy, fussy, unkempt issues could be the woman’s own character. Any odious woman who wants a happy home needs to get her act together.

3. The giant that is not killed in Kasangati will resurface in Calabar.
The solution to problems is not to run away from them, but to face and deal with them. There is no such thing as irreconcilable differences. The only people who are incompatible for marriage are two relatives, two people of the same gender, and two people who are unequally yoked. Anything else can be worked out. Leaving one person for his flaws might seem easy, but in the long run, it causes problems. A woman who leaves her husband will have to deal with the harrowing complications of divorce, but she is also likely to meet someone new, with new idiosyncrasies with which she will have to learn to live. Guess what – everybody has flaws. Every marriage has issues. If the issues did not lie with her husband, i.e. if she is the problem, then she will carry her problems with her wherever she goes. It’s better to fight if there’s a possibility of winning, and of course with God, we cannot lose. Either the flesh dies, or the person dies. I say mortify the flesh.

4. Feminism is to marriage what Raid is to dudus.
If a wife must pick someone to emulate, she’s probably safer choosing her maid or her husband’s secretary than she is picking up  feministic novel or magazine. I think it’s safe to say that no godly man wants to marry a fellow man. A good wife, from what I gather, has a homemaker’s heart, a wise tongue, and an astute business sense, among other things. She is gentle, hospitable, and feminine. Her home (studio apartment, flat, hut, mansion or palace) is a haven,  a place ruled not by chaos and drama but by the Spirit of God, where a man of God can rest after going out there and conquering the world. Submission is such a blessing. I, for one, don’t mind the notion of just being a queen and letting the man do all the hard work, like leading and lifting. Any woman who will spend her adult years whining about the balancing act should simply not opt for it. Marriage is not for girls, it is for women. “Wifehood” is not for men, it is for women.

5. A peaceful home is better than riches.
Which means the size of a man’s wallet, the initials on his business card, and the number of figures in his salary do not define the man. It is better to live with less, materially, and enjoy peace and stability, than to have all the money in the world and go to sleep with a guilty conscience. A happy home is not defined by the cars in its driveway. Happy homes are inhabited by people who make an honest living, share what they have, raise upright children, and honor God above all things and people. Eat bitter leaves, but have peace and quiet.

6. Some smiles hide huge secrets.
And covetousness is a marriage-killer. You never know what price a woman paid to be able to glow like she does. You do not know if you would be willing to walk the path she has walked, fight the battles she has won and travail in prayer through the night like she did. People see Samuel, and not the years of Hannah’s prayers that on at least one occasion seemed drunken.

Many women use wide smiles and loud laughs to hide the pain they feel, and nobody knows that they cry in bed at night because despite a beautiful exterior, they feel incomplete and trapped. Wealth could come from a great career or stolen public funds. Beautiful scarves and flawless makeup can cover scars and wounds. Palatial residences could be venues for strange rituals or living spaces for two strangers who are bound only by law, faith and a certificate, but who otherwise bypass each other with loud silence every day. Sometimes smiles are genuine, and that’s a great thing. But nobody should ever envy another’s smile – God gave each of us a beautiful one of our own.

7. A woman is not a crock pot or a jiko/sigiri.
The devil is such a liar. He tries to get us to desire and pursue what is not good for us. One lie he constantly tells is that men are like microwaves and women are like crock pots. I believed this lie, too, until I read a book by P. Bunny Wilson and began to pay attention to what my friends said before and after they got married. The nature of the flesh is to crave what it cannot have.

When a woman is single, all she can think about (not literally, but you catch my drift) is sex. Without walking in the Spirit, she will try to find ways to sneak in a few things here and there, telling herself she will stop before she gets to the brink. Some of my more… erm, sexually excitable… friends, who could not wait to get married and thought they would explode if they did not just satisfy this urge, slowly began to lose their desire for sex when they got married. What changed? They bought into a lie and/or they stopped working it. It slowly became okay to sleep in a holey t-shirt, armpits all hairy and smelly and rollers in their hair. A wife’s body does not belong to her. Like someone wisely said, she is her husband’s sexual release. And we all know he does need that release and will get it somewhere.

8. Loole y’amanda tesimbibya ku Sheratoni*.
(You’ll never find a charcoal lorry in a Sheraton Hotel parking lot.) Is this not true? From observation, I have come to believe that every woman must refuse to be complacent. Don’t get me wrong. Social status is an ephemeral factor in this life. In heaven, we will all be equal so it really doesn’t matter what titles we have here. However, to be a man’s help meet, a woman has to be able to walk in step with this man. A person who can help me has something I a) need and b) do not have. Good men are few and far between and a woman has to remain “competitive” to be able to play her part in ensuring that the thought of straying does not even cross her man’s mind or stay there if it does. That means not just going to great lengths to look good and keep fit, but also things like ensuring that she is at par with him intellectually and that he would not be embarrassed to take her to an office party, for instance. I used to think that men were whiners and needed to stop being superficial because Christian women are modest and must walk around in vitambaa. But the bedroom is not a church building. Men appreciate it when their wives try to remain attractive instead of letting themselves go. Within reason, of course.

I know the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, but wow! I wish we women prayed for certain things as hard as we pray for husbands. Christian women pray and fast for years to get boyfriends. Then they pray harder for their boyfriends to propose. Then they pray hard for their weddings to be more fabulous than their friends’. Then they relax. Marriage is the time to pray and fast. It is harder to keep a man than to get one. And on that note:

9. Kindness and prayer will carry a relationship further and solve a problem more easily than criticism and nagging will.
Before a woman whines about what a pain, slob, liar, or cheat her husband is, it might be wise for her to ask this one question: “How have I prayed for him today?” I read something interesting today: praying for someone out of selfish motives or in order to manipulate their lives to go our way is actually witchcraft. Everybody responds to kindness. A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger. Through patience a prince can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone. Corrie ten Boom said, “Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.”

Children deserve their parents’ respect, too. They are human beings, they have feelings, and we often forget that they are the ones who will take the baton from their parents and run, making up for lost time, correcting past mistakes and leading the next generation. A woman who nags and criticizes her children (and yes, there is such a thing as nagging a child) will discourage them. Jesus said it is better for a man to have a millstone tied around his neck, and for him to be cast into the sea, than for him to reap his reward for keeping a child from Christ. A mother can forbid her children to come to Jesus by being a hypocrite (Deacon Mummy being sunshine and smiles at church but mistreating her household staff, or Mom lying to the police officer when she is pulled over for speeding right after morning family prayers), being hostile and angry, disrespecting her children’s father, or neglecting her role as a teacher in their lives.

I heard a woman say that she sets different alarms on her phone to pray for her family at different times. Each alarm indicates prayer time for one family member. I have come to conclude that any woman who desires to be a wife must embrace a life of ceaseless prayer. If  a woman marries a man of God, then if her words do not get through to her husband, she can ask God to do it for her.

10. It‘s about the little things.
Little things can make or break a marriage. Little foxes, a little leaven, a little sleep, slumber, and folding of the hands to rest (complacency), little faith, can destroy a marriage. “Little” words can destroy a child’s destiny. Some enemies will be driven out by little and little. The wife who can be trusted by her husband with little will be trusted by him with his all. Trials only last a little while. The little you have in the beginning, with diligence and faithfulness, is increased to much. A little playfulness can stop a fire of anger. It’s important, I’m learning, to root out bad seeds that are planted by friends, relatives, and miscellaneous commentators who always have an opinion about what is right or wrong for other people. Anger has to be dealt with as soon as it appears, otherwise it festers and is added on to and before long a woman feels extremely angry but has no idea why it’s happening or when it started. A little patience and understanding goes a long way.

Marriage is not a game or that thing people do after graduation. It’s a calling, and while grace abounds – overflows! – to sustain God’s children in it, it takes work. It should be entered into soberly.

A wise woman builds her house, but the foolish plucks it down with her hands… [But] which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? Lest perhaps, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish… (Prov 14:1, Luke 14:28-30.)