“Hello,” Clara said to the receptionist at the front desk. “I’m here to see Mr. Iben Shedrack.”
The young receptionist lifted her head from her computer. “You’re welcome Ma. Is this your first time being here?”
She was a dark young girl with a plump body. Her thick natural hair was held up in a neat bun on the top of her head and her round face was devoid of makeup. Clara thought she needed some foundation, that would have covered some of those pimples she had on.
“Yes, it is.”
“You are welcome Ma. Please fill this form while you wait.” She slid an A4-sized paper to Clara. “He is attending to someone at the moment”
“Okay.” Clara obliged. She picked the sheet off the desk and strolled to an empty seat in the minimum-sized reception room.
She went through the form answering all required questions. When finished, she walked to the receptionist, handed her the completed form then walked back to her seat.
Seated, Clara glanced around at her surroundings observantly, three other persons were sitting and waiting. One was an aged man, who looked sixty. He was reading the Punch Newspaper with his legs crossed.
The other was a couple, she could tell that they were married by their matching wedding bands. They were young. The man looked like he was in his mid-thirties, and the woman, she guessed, was barely thirty.
The couple was disagreeing about something in hushed voices. The wife had her arms crossed against her chest with a steady frown on her face. The man was leaning forward on his knees, with his keys dangling angrily between his thighs. He was responding to his partner, just not rewarding her with a gaze.
The door to Mr. Iben’s office swung open. A woman with a young girl walked out.
“Mr. Benson!” the receptionist called, “You may go in now, Sir”.
The aged man folded the newspaper and dropped it on the table in front of him. He made his way into the office, closing the door behind him.
This might take a while, Clara taught to herself, placing her handbag on the space beside her.
She relaxed further into the chair, crossing her arms across her chest and her leg against the other.
She took in the view of the room, admiring its aquamarine walls. The reception desk was oval-shaped, large, and brown. She could see the receptionist’s head and chest clearly, although it was slightly shielded by the transparent glass which made part of the upper deck.
The ash and blue waiting chairs were all placed against the wall, facing the reception desk, with a wooden brown table in the middle.
There was a frame on the wall that read, “Create the things you wish existed” and another that read, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen”
The old man stepped out of the Counselor’s office. Without waiting to be invited in, the young couple scrambled to their feet and made their way inside.
Clara’s phone rang. She searched her purse and pulled it out. It was her husband. She hesitated, then answered anyway.
“Hello?” she said.
“Where are you?”
“I’m out, why?”
“Better go and pick the kids when they close from school”
“It’s your turn to pick them up, why do I have to do it?”
“I’m going somewhere, you better go and pick them”
“Do you know…”
He dropped the call before she could finish her statement.
Clara fumed. She began typing him a text with fast fingers.
I don’t blame you. You should be ashamed of yourself. I know you are not going anywhere. You better go and pick them because I am far away.
“Ma!” the receptionist raised her voice. “It’s your turn now.”
“Oh sorry!” she apologized, rising to her feet. “I was absent-minded”
She flung her handbag over her left shoulder and walked into the Counselor’s office.
“Good afternoon Sir.” She managed a smile, closing the door behind her.
Mr. Iben looked down at the form sitting in his laps. “Clara Adebayo?”
“Please sit,” he motioned to the sofa opposite him.
“Thank you, Sir,” Clara said, taking the seat.
The counselor let her settle in for a few seconds before asking. “So, what is the matter?”
She heaved, and tears started to form in the corners of her eyes. “I’m tired of my marriage Sir.”
“Okay?. What makes you tired?”
A tear ran down her cheek. “We fight all the time. We cannot go a week without having an ugly fight. Our kids watch us fight and that hurts me even more. This is not the life I wanted for myself, I’m tired. He is so mean to me. A few moments ago, he called me and harshly demanded that I should go and pick the kids. It’s his turn to pick them this week, yet he said I should do it, lying that he has somewhere to go to. I know he doesn’t have anywhere serious to go to because he is on leave. And even if he did, why would he choose that over picking up his kids from school? He just wants to spite me, I know it. And that is just one example, I could go all day mentioning the things he does wrong. Okay, the toilet seat pulled out, he is the one that usually fixes it, because I don’t know how to do it. I asked him to do it, I even placed the seat on top of the toilet so that he could see it when he goes to use the toilet, that was three days ago, to this moment, it is still leaning against our bathroom wall where he had removed it and placed it, and he knows I don’t use the toilet without its toilet seat. I have resulted in sharing our kid’s toilet, and he does not care. So many things. I’m just tired. I want out!”
“Okay.” Mr. Iben looked down at the form ” You’ve being married for three years?”
She nodded, sniffing.
“And you have two children?”
She smiled briefly, “Two boys”
He lifted his gaze to stare at her. “Tell me, how was the first year of your Marriage?”
“It was wonderful. He did nice things for me. We were best of friends, but now, we cannot even share the sitting room because we can’t stand each other.”
“So, he was not always like this.”
“No. He just changed. Says I’m stubborn, says I speak back at him. I simply give him replies to the things he says to me. I have the right to be angry too. I just wish I didn’t marry him. If I had married my ex, I’m sure I would have been happier.”
Mr.Iben half-smiled. “But we can never know anyone completely. We only know them enough to make a decision. And how we defend that decision depends on our level of maturity. Your ex could have been a better husband, or not, but we don’t know any of that. People seem easy to be with until they become your responsibility, and live with you.”
He shifted in his chair and sat up straight. “Your form says that you are a Christian.”
“Yes, I am.”
“And you care about living a righteous life?”
“Yes I do. I am a born-again Christian”.
“I have been married for thirty years. I have two daughters, both married, the boy who is the last one is rounding up his Master’s program. From my experience Mrs. Claura, instead of focusing on all the things that a person, in this case, your husband does wrong, it is always better to focus on the things that they are doing right.” He paused before continuing. “Is there anything that your husband is doing right?”
Clara shrugged. “He pays the kid’s fees. Provides for us. He loves his kids. H-He doesn’t stand in the way of my dreams.”
“Then I want you to focus on those things. I brought up your Religion because I am a Christian too. As Christians, we live by the Grace of God, we are alive by his grace. He forgives us our sins, all the time. So if we who are filth, are forgiven by God, live by his Grace, and would make heaven by the same Grace, we should be able to extend that same Grace to every other person. Forgive your husband for his wrongs, and let your focus be on the things he gets right. You must learn the act of forgiveness, it is extremely vital for every Marriage. Let it go, even when he doesn’t ask for it. Imagine what your home would be like if you didn’t give him an answer to every painful word he says to you…”
“He has hurt me so much, Sir. I don’t know if I can let everything go, just like that, especially when he hasn’t said he is sorry.”
“You can, and you must. I know that right now, going your separate ways looks like the best idea, but you two would suffer it. It’s never easy on the divorced, and worst off, on their children.”
The tears won’t stop running down her face.
“Mrs. Claura, you have to forget about changing your husband, focus on yourself. Be a better person. Refuse to be moved by his painful actions. When he says horrible things to you, do not give him a reply. When you are angry, do not speak to him either, cool off, and then approach him. Focus on improving yourself, and when he sees that change in you, he would be ashamed of his actions, and be forced to change too. But if you keep on going back and forth with him, exchanging words, he is going to feel challenged, and when a man feels like he is being attacked, he strikes back.”
“But why do I have to be the one to make those changes? Besides, what if I do them and yet he doesn’t change?”
“You keep doing them anyway. Tell yourself that you are doing it for God and for your children who are watching. Look at it as you obeying God and do it with all your heart. Marriage is God’s institution, and he is going to reward those who carry out their roles effectively. It shouldn’t matter whether your husband appreciates all you do or not because God would see it, and he would reward you. Rewards my child, come in different forms. It could be a long life, good health, your kids doing great at school, thieves never attacking your home, it could be anything, but know this, God would definitely reward your efforts. And shouldn’t that matter more than anything else?”
“So, if you care about God at all, do these things. And do them for your children whom you love. Those kids need both of you. They need to see you happy, together. They need your home to be stable, for them to be able to thrive in life. Your fights hurt them, more than you can even comprehend, and it affects all areas of their lives negatively.”
Claura nodded in agreement.
“Promise me that you would at least try?”
She wiped at her face with the back of her hands, nodding her head.
“When next he comes at you with painful words, actions or inactions, keep mute. Tell yourself, you are doing it for the love of God and that of your children. Repeat that in your heart until he goes away. Then, if it is that vital for you to talk about, approach him when you don’t feel so angry anymore, and he is in a better mood, and talk to him softly. If he wouldn’t cooperate, excuse yourself and let it go, in other to avoid being dragged down to anger yourself. We must not win all our battles.”
She nodded. “Thank you, Sir”
“Let’s say you get a divorce. Ten years down the line, would you applaud yourself for going away from him, or would you feel like you could have tried harder, that there was more that you could have done to try to save your Marriage?. I want you to think about that. I’ll see you again next week. My receptionist would give you a date, and you can get my personal number from her as well, call me when it gets too hard.”
Clara nodded. She rose from the couch with cheeks dried up. “Thank you. I would try my best.”
Mr. Iben leaned back into his chair. smiling up at her. “Please do.”
She walked out of his office feeling empowered, and with a new point of view.
“For my kids”, she told herself, “and for the love of God”.