Is there a secret to a successful marriage? Why do some couples succeed and others fail? Is it all a matter of chance? Where is the “Happy ever after” Promised Land? Well one thing is certain; if there is indeed a secret that ensures a successful marriage, then many couples in our contemporary culture have never found it. So what is it?

Before continuing let me give you a small story. Back in 2012, I met a very beautiful girl. Trust me; I had never seen someone with such a heavenly smile. Since I am a very good guy (some will agree, others may not and it’s okay), I just needed to get to know her and so a friendship was sparked. We spent a lot of time together be it in school revising or in auditorium watching plays, which was our best hangout. Almost two years in this friendship things started to change for me. Goodbyes meant loneliness, sadness, sleepless nights and just like Claude Kelly, I hated goodbyes. I hated the buses that would take her home after an afternoon together, I hated the feeling that an hour was going to pass without her next to me and was a clear indication that what I needed was not just a friendship but something more. I needed her in my life forever, so I decided to shift gears and a dating relationship started.

Another 2 years into dating, I married my campus sweetheart. It was a beautiful sunny day in the middle of the Nairobi ‘winter’. Time froze and my eyes decided to sweat (not tearing nor crying) when she walked down the aisle. I knew without a shadow of doubt that I was the luckiest man in the world. I knew that I was going to intentionally love and cherish her all the days of our lives. And with that conviction I vowed the following:

I MICHEL, take you VIOLA

To be my wedded wife,

To have and to hold, from this day forward,

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,

In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,

Till death do us part,

According to God’s holy law

And this is my solemn vow.

Amen

And just like that, after signing a few documents required by the law of the land, we were handed a certificate of marriage. Just a few words and now we have a certificate of what? MARRIAGE!!! Not a certificate of dating because on that day we graduated from dating/courtship and we started a new chapter with a certificate. No wonder marriages fail. Who works hard after getting a certificate? Why should you revise every day for the national exam “EXETAT” when you have your diploma? Why?

Our certificate was handed to us and here we are with the key to the Happy Ever After land. Our first destination the moon, where we found honey in plenty but unfortunately we were not meant to live on the moon so we had to land back on earth; and just like that we went from roses to dishes and chores in our humble home. Days and weeks passed after landing back and things started to become normal. I am now a married man, I go to work every morning and when I come back home I find dinner, talk through the day, laugh and talk some more and go to sleep. And it started becoming like a routine and which became to feel like a boring cycle, but which of course we would always break once in a while by going out and do what we used to do before receiving the certificate.

The first few months required a lot of adjustments. For a very long time I had lived alone, slept alone and now I needed to accommodate someone who told me how much I had snored the previous night. I started feeling like I was being changed to be someone else, and trust me, I resisted while trying to change her and make her who I wanted her to be. Imagine the fights, the misunderstandings in that house with two people trying to change each other to fit each other’s selfish needs. Frustrations came in plenty; the fear of ending up like many other couples we had seen. After all, how special are we? That person who divorced last week was some time ago the one uttering those vows to her, for better, for worse, for richer or whatever. So really, who are we?

In the midst of this shipwreck we anchored ourselves on the word of God, but mostly on the principle we had learnt during our marriage preparation classes. You see people like parties and a wedding is a special one where families come together and money, time and all sorts of resources are invested for the sake of one day. But many times, very few remember to invest in the marriage. If the same amount of attention we pay to the wedding day was paid to our marriages, the land of “Happy Ever After” would be nearer.

Before getting married we had decided to invest in our marriage, to get equipped to know what we are entering into. We signed up for an experience known as NDOA from Mavuno church. Now wait!! What is this NDOA experience am I talking about? Ndoa is a Swahili noun for marriage. It is a 10-week interactive and experiential marriage preparation and enrichment experience designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge it takes to build a strong, lasting marriage – the real happily ever after! Over these 10 weeks, couples get to explore different topics like conflicts resolutions, personalities and how though opposites attract they also attack, finances (where do we invest, how do we support family members), how to relate with In-laws and Out-laws etc. Basically different topics that couples can explore to strengthen their marriages.

Marriages are booming everywhere. As a matter of fact invites keep dropping in for this coming wedding season, and I know it is going to be awesome to see my friends get hitched. However, the rate of divorce is also soaring and reaching the highest level ever in history. As much as you know that you are different and that you can never divorce, trust me it requires more than just a willing heart or determination. The road of “Happily ever after” requires preparation, planning and excellent execution. You must die to self every single day. I look at it as the way Jesus looked at the cost of being a disciple, he said: ”If one of you is planning to build a tower, you sit down first and figure out what it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don’t, you will not be able to finish the tower after laying the foundation; and all who see what happened will make fun of you. You began to build but can’t finish the job!’ they will say.” (Luke14: 28-30).

The ball is in your court; you can set a foundation that will last you forever with your lover. If you are planning on getting married soon, come and let us plan and prepare together and help you anticipate marriage issues and prepare you to pro-actively address them; and if you are married and feel like your foundation is shaking, come as well and let’s seek to improve the quality of your union – I am with you on this one.