The date is September 2013, about 3.5 years after the proposal and 2.5 years after our wedding. Patrick Omukhango and I had scaled through the first year in marriage and started finding our footing to peacefully live together and build our friendship. When we thought the ship had finally sailed smoothly, we started noticing some character deformations in each other that could not be ignored. This is the love of my life, I am the love of his life – how do I tell him that he has to work on this area or the other without wounding his ego? How does he tell me that I need to work on this area or another without ending with a melt down?
For entertainment and to muse on God’s talent on this earth, sometimes I watch America’s / Britain’s Got Talent. When contestants who are not good in the talent they are showcasing come along, often the judges would ask, “Who did you come with?” Then they mention the family members with them. Then the judges ask, “Have you ever performed this act to them?” “Yes”, the contestant responds. “And what did they say?” The judges prod further. “They said I was good at it and I could win,” the contestant responds. You can see the sadness and disbelief from the audience, thinking, the contestant’s family or friends did him/her a disservice.
We all deserve someone who can correct us, speaking the truth in love in all things – both our speech and our lives expressing His truth – so we can grow up in all things into Him, following His example who is the Head – Christ. Ephesians 4:15 Amplified (emphasis mine). So in marriage, speaking the truth is very Scriptural but ‘the how’ and ‘the when’ are equally important.
Sweetheart, you talk too much,
Honey, you overwork and neglect our family,
Darling, you are not spending enough time with the kids and me,
Babe, I think you gossip a lot with your friends,
Sweetie, you can do a bit more to provide for our family,
Dear, you are too harsh on the kids
… You are lazy
… Your walk with God is struggling yet you pretend to your friends at church you are doing very well,
… You have a problem with lying,
… Your spending is extravagant and too impulsive,
… You don’t bring me gifts,
… You don’t cook very well (that might hurt so much!)
… I don’t enjoy sex when we do this or that (that might hurt too, a lot)
The list goes on and on. It does not mean that you don’t love your spouse if you need to tell them the truth and it does not mean that your spouse does not love you if they tell you the truth. But even for the most blissful marriages, if you out-rightly tell off your spouse (as it is) you can end up ship-wrecking your friendship and marriage.
So, Patrick and I figured there must be a-how-to for every marriage. In 2013, by God’s grace, we devised a way that works for us. We called it CONFESSION.
The rules of engagement?
1. Find an appropriate time when we are both in a bright mood – so sometimes the issue can wait for days or weeks or even months.
2. You have to start the conversation with the word CONFESSION so your spouse knows that you are going to hit them with hard truth.
3. The intention is not to hurt or bring down your spouse but to build so the tone should be highly considered.
4. Both spouses cannot carry the conversation beyond the confession space or bring it up in a disagreement in the future.
For so many years now, this simple tool has worked for Patrick and I to correct each other in love. It will still hurt but we would rather hear of our weaknesses from each other than from other people or from life’s circumstances. And it hurts so much to hear your love tell you some things, but because the foundation is love, it becomes a good motivation for you to change.
Sometimes the confession is not just about weaknesses, it could be about how you want your spouse to love you. Men, not all women want to be brought for flowers or chocolate. She might be needing something else – so how does she tell you to stop bringing flowers?
Maybe she just wants sugarcane instead Like when I was expectant with our second born, Ella, sugarcane for Kes 20 was all the favour Patrick could do me. Oh and PK chewing gum – forget the flowers!
Maybe she is a seemingly strong outgoing woman and you seemingly are not – she needs you to know how to love her. You can find some tips from Jimmy and Roberts book ‘Strong Women and the Men Who Love Them‘
Women, maybe your husband just needs clean socks, clean boxers and ironed shirts every morning – even when the dirty ones he wore the day before did not make it to the dirty clothes basket and you have to fish for them from all over the bedroom.
Maybe he just needs you to get some cooking lessons and prepare him a meal fit for a king with whatever little or much resources your family has. Maybe your husband wants you to become a lover wife not a mother wife – yes, there’s a difference. You might find great tips from Debra White, author of Romancing Your husband.
There is a strategy that works for every couple – you two just need to find yours. There’s no one-fits-all strategy, and what works for my marriage might not work for yours. But if you don’t find a safe space to tell each other somethings, one day someone will have enough of everything. Find a safe space to do CONFESSION, or whatever / whichever thing will work for you two.
So I checked with other couples on what has worked for them. Julius Mwebia, the author of Conceive Achieve and Patron of YOUTH impact mentorship programme. and his wife Frashiah Mwebia, celebrating 27 years in marriage also have their strategy weapon.
Because of the busyness of life, it’s possible to see each other on a daily basis, live in the same house but not build a friendship – you become more like housemates. So Julius and Frashiah agreed that Julius would give his wife one weekend in the month where they both can do whatever she desired. He would not object to whatever she chose, shopping, cooking, lying in bed, watching a movie, just talking, whatever she wanted. And Frashiah would give her husband a weekend in the month where they would both do whatever he wanted. This is one of the strategies that has worked to keep their friendship going strong for almost 3 decades now. When I attended their 25 years anniversary in Chuka a couple years back, it was an awesome experience that left many desiring for a genuine love in marriage – I knew marriage can work. They were in love! So when Julius shared this strategy in a couples retreat we were holding in Mombasa, through a partnership between CLC Kenya and Pst. John and Winnie Kombe’s Imani Mission & Friends in 2018, I purposed to try and implement it for Patrick and I. We are not yet there in consistency but we keep trying.
Another couple we borrowed a tip from is Baraka Paul and Pamela Rita Munyi of Sheaves Coaching & Mentoring Ltd who back in 2012 would have a scheduled lunch date every week to discuss, not their children, jobs, business or any other issues, but themselves. They focused on their love for each other, their dreams and aspirations and challenges they are facing individually. Sometimes you might think you know your spouse and the season they are in just because you see them every day. Ask your husband or wife what their dreams for the current year are. Are they going through internal challenges you can help them pray about, talk about or find a solution?
#ConfessionTip1: Did I mention that even in the safe space to do confession you cannot tell your lazy husband, ‘sweetie you are lazy’? Maybe try, ‘Sweetie, confession, I think you can do much more in life than you are currently doing. I find you spend so much time watching TV and I think if you picked another hobby that can develop you, you might find much more fulfillment. And I will be your number one fan when you start the hobby.’ The motivation is there. He will at least try.
#ConfessionTip2: You also cannot tell your wife that her cooking is terrible. Maybe try, ‘Babe, I was watching Jamie Oliver food documentary and men! The way he fried that chicken?! I wished you could learn a few cooking lessons so you can spoil me and the kids with such food. I can fantasize you cooking such kind of meals. The way I know you, you can easily become great at it too’. She will be on YouTube learning the following day. The motivation is there. She will at least try.