Jordan Graham (wife) and Cody Johnson (husband) got married 8 days before. Their party was the dream of any young couple - the cakes, the flowers, family members taking pictures, the minister happily joining them as they took the vow - till death do us part. Soon after they got married, they began to argue, maybe it was the stress of the marriage ceremony or some old issues that they had been managing during their courtship. Anyway, they proceeded on their honeymoon, then the arguments deepened. Jordan began to tell her friends about how she has already become somewhat unhappy with the novel marriage, and the friends encouraged her to talk things over with her husband. Honeymoon activities continued, but as they tried to enjoy their honeymoon, the arguments increased. So on this fateful day, as part of their affinity activity, they drove from their apartment to the Glacier National Park in Montana USA to sight see, and they got into an argument. As they argued, tempers raged and in a swift reaction to an irritating statement from Cody, Jordan, age 22, pushed her husband, face forward, and the guy stumbled and fell over the cliff. He died!
In shock, she left the place without reporting the matter to the police until the Husband was not seen at work by his colleagues. Enquiries began and she made severally inconsistent statements to the police - that he had gone out with his friends and had not come back, bla, bla, bla. Finally on the fifth day, she reported that she had found his body at the park and after much questioning she confirmed that they had an argument that escalated and she pushed him face forward and the guy fell off the cliff. Sad, isn’t it?
This feels to me like a moment of anger gone wrong. I have often tried to understand the dynamics of relationships. From managing small angers that has the potentials of escalating, to dealing with the big issues of domestic violence in homes. Where does it all start from? Can the issues that cause these kinds of distresses be nipped at the bud so that they don't escalate? What makes once-upon-a-time sweethearts become sworn enemies? The news is rife with stories of love gone awry.
When there is physical violence in homes, many times it is one way - The stronger person "bullying" the weaker. Most often than not the balance of power is tilted toward the stronger person, many times, the man. Basic reasons for that, most men marry women younger than them, sometimes far younger, and given that the women are younger, they are most likely not going to have achieved at the same level as the man, so age wise, the balance is well in favour of the man, and then that goes down the value chain - finance wise, contacts wise, ability to get things done and last of all, the ability to replace the wife with another one etc. One more thing, the women also bear children, and that in itself is a major distraction that keeps the women almost permanently unable to contend the power skew. It is on this basis that most men latch on to the "submission/subservient" rule for their wives. It is rare for the balance of power to shift in favour of the woman except in critical situations like ill health, loss of job, general misfortune, and even at that, the woman will only be able to contend the balance of power only if she has been started in the process of empowering herself especially financially.
Most wives in a home with violence try to live with the tyrant and manage the situation. Depending on their emotional intelligence, they endure the marriage patiently knowing that someday things may improve while they try to satisfy all the "master's" longings, some pray for some little misfortune to happen to the tyrant that sort of incapacitates him a bit and his ability to be tyrannical, all the while being conscious of the fact that the oppressor hold the "key" to their sustenance tomorrow, and that a big misfortune can spell doom for them and the children. Rarely will the weaker take the path of destruction - This is usually the case in Africa. Very few are chanced enough to take the path of self-empowerment - education, business, increasing their ability to earn, which is actually the better path to developing a voice and then having the chance of tilting the balance. This type of relationship is manageable, and that is why it rarely leads to divorce, most of our parents and grandparents lived under these conditions.
But the more dangerous is what is experienced among the elites, where small angers and the assumed right to always retaliate takes a rather dangerous turn. This is more the case in a home of "equals" where both spouses feel almost equally empowered, and the balance of power is centralized, as far as the perception of each person is concerned. Each one answers back, with nobody planning to let the other persons have the last word. Everyone is equally capable of inflicting as much pain, replacing each other or fending for their personal needs under any condition. In this our elite families, the man is not in a position to throw around the "submission" thingy because as soon as he does, he gets an equal and opposite reaction to "love" or worse still "Submit - as a two way behaviour" . This is where the love really gets awry and the question is what can make this type marriage work. Truth be told, most of us couples who have a lot of education are in this type of relationship where the balance of power is centralized. So how do we keep a great marriage and avoid the pitfall of these types of marriages. I have 3 factors that can help make it work.
One factor starts the process - The God factor. To have harmony and not destruction in these types of marriage, there has to be a third side that sorts of neutralizes the power and the ability of the two. The God factor is the most capable to do this. As long as one of the two couples, or better still both couple has the influence of the God factor working on them, the tendency to pull their own power base and retaliate will be lowered. When two equally empowered people live together in an atmosphere where none is willing to sheath the sword, only the grass will survive them. The God factor makes me willing to sheath my sword, regardless of what is thrown at me, because it presents me a higher ideal, a greater reward and a more compelling purpose. Because I see a compelling purpose for my relationship and the possibility of a better outcome, I am willing to exercise greater restraints even when things become tough or feel sour. As long as I can exercise restraints long enough, the flood will subside! It is hard to be in a relationship of equals where the God factor is completely absent and both parties are unwilling to seek it. In those cases, the tendency to sheath swords will be greatly weakened, conflict will almost never be resolved, and all sort of bad things can result. Having or seeking the God factor can be a strong stabilizing force for a home of equals.
Secondly, the Love factor. All my life, I thought love was a feeling. For one, I have always known that feelings were fickle. I have observed that the best things I have done in my life, I did not feel like doing. I know that if I left my life to my feelings, I would have been languishing somewhere at the backside of life today. I also realised that sometime, my actions are way ahead of my feelings, but my feelings eventually catches up if I continued on the path I was committed to. Then it dawned on me that if love was just a feeling, then there was trouble. As I grew older in marriage and gave space for the God factor to work on and in me, it occurred to me that love is not a feeling, love is a commitment. I do not love because I feel; I love because I am committed. The God factor helped me understand that a man that loves because he "feels" will be unstable in all his way. But a man that loves because he is "committed" reaps love and happiness daily. I made a decision to commit myself to walking in love, regardless of, inspite of, whether or whethern't. Since then, my feelings have always caught up with my commitment. Whether there is a feeling of love or not in my marriage, I am committed to loving my spouse, whether she does a nice thing or not, I am not shifting from the place of love - I like the I Corinthians 13 love life and I have committed myself to it. I have also committed myself to verbalizing my love to my spouse, whether I feel like it or not, whether things look good or not. I love her, and I say it, jokingly, seriously, I keep saying it. Sometimes, I get the word "leave me alone", but i know my words are getting home.
The third factor is the Discounting factor - What are you willing to trivialize? I can bet you that if you take everything that happens in your marriage relationship seriously, your marriage will break down. I heard Mike Murdock say this and it became my way - he said "What you are willing to walk away from or trivialize will determine what God will bring to you" Not everything that happened in your relationship should be reacted to. Learn to walk away and trivialize things. You don't need to react all the time. In Igbo, there is this proverb that says" E ne, a ghalu ka eji enwe onye nke" meaning it is by not always reacting to everything in your relationship that you sustain the relationships in your life. One of the biggest things I have learnt in marriage is to learn not to react to everything. It is wise sometimes to be the "fool" for the sake of your marriage. This is one of the points the God factor working in you will start to teach you. Sometimes, the God factor will say "allow" or it will say "ignore" or it will say "Don't" and if you listen and act accordingly, you will enjoy peace. One of the biggest multiplier of conflict in marriage is that urge to "reply the insult" Hold back, replying the insult all the time creates a power tussle in our elite family and deepens the hurt. It eats at the fabrics of the marriage and after a while, the marriage will collapse.
My final thoughts, start with the first factor, it will make the second easier and that in turn will make the third factor easier and the cycle goes on. I know happiness in marriage and a great family is not far-fetched and impossible in our "elite" home, it is possible, but it requires that we begin to culture these factors. I feel so sorry for Jordan Graham, except her lawyer proofs that pushing the husband off the cliff was un-intended, she might be going to jail for life for that moment of anger.
Anger, the Holy Scriptures says, lies in the bosom of fools.