By NBF News

'To love and to cherish, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part', is a refrain that many couples are familiar with. But going by recent statistics, all that no longer holds water and many couples are simply housemates, (maybe bed mates) but are no longer in love as the love has long gone, no thanks to resentment of each other.'

Dennis Inyang is the senior pastor of Sure Word Assembly in Okota, Lagos. He is the author of 'So You Want to Marry' and 'Ten Ways to get a Divorce, Ten Ways to Avoid it', amongst other motivational books. He has been married for two decades to his sweetheart and gospel artiste, Pastor Aity Inyang. Sunday Sun recently caught up with him to bare his mind on resentment in marriage, and how to avoid it. Excerpts…

So what's your view off resentment in marriage?
Part of the problem in marriage is that our young men wait for so long to get married because wedding is expensive, cost of getting a venue, feting the guests, clothes and so on. So we are encouraging our young men to marry early so that they can both grow together and adapt to each other. We need to deconstruct our ideas of marriage, so we encourage them to spend little, no reception, no train, and they can have it on Sunday whereby there's a crowd already. You don't need to print cards, the ceremony will be part of the service, and when you finish you can just hand out packs of refreshment.

After a big wedding ceremony, some couples pay debts for about a year after, and they start quarrelling and blaming each other, 'It's because of your large train, your wedding gown was so expensive…' and resentment could set in from that point. I think resentment is when a couple can no longer stand each other anymore - one party is put off by the other. The resentful one finds it difficult to relate well with the partner. Then small issues will provoke. They can't talk peacefully, don't want to sit with each other, they just want to go their separate ways, 'I just don't want to be a part of your life anymore'.

It can affect their day-to-day interactions like the marital bed; they find it difficult to make love to each other. When they do, it could be more of an obligation, 'I'm your wife, come and take your thing' or 'I'm your husband, let me do it, so that they won't say I'm doing it outside and be accused of infidelity.' Some even have children under that kind of atmosphere of 'no love, no affection'. They have those children out of obligation, not love or affection because they've been separated in their hearts.

As a pastor and counselor, you must have people coming to you with cases like these, what is the common thread that runs through these varying experiences?

I've had cases of people coming up to me to say, 'I don't want to do this anymore'. We've also seen cases of those who have been able to forgive and overcome the resentment, built bridges and are still married today when they previously thought they couldn't stand each other for a day any longer. Some have had good marriages thereafter.

Generally from what I've seen, the concurrent issue is unforgiveness.

Where hurts are not resolved, anger turns to bitterness, it becomes protracted and the person wants to get even. The aggrieved party could manifest this by withdrawing or becoming antagonistic depending on the person's personality. The person could easily pick a quarrel and find faults. It's an indication there is a hurt somewhere. And oftentimes, the moment that (hurt) is isolated, it is taken care of. At times the aggrieved partner may not admit, but if it is probed, sifted out and isolated, the person can overcome the resentment. But if it's not dealt with, they can grow apart.

Looking at it practically, would you say infidelity and lack of respect for the spouse can also be a common factor?

I have not really taken statistics but I know that where a party feels the other person is not treating him or her well, doesn't talk nicely, nor show affection, especially if it's a woman, she draws back. And in cases of physical violence, where the man beats the woman, and given that in our society the woman carries the blame, she becomes resentful of the fact that she is subjected to that kind of treatment. When the man apologises, the relationship can improve.

In instances of marital unfaithfulness, I've heard a woman say, 'I can't allow my husband ntouch me because I don't know where he's coming from', that is resentment.

Also when the woman becomes the breadwinner, especially when she feels he is lazy, resentment will develop. That can only be addressed when and if the man steps up to the plate. How much he's bringing may not be an issue, so far he brings something. On the man's side too, if the woman is not respectful, talks carelessly, the man may become resentful of the woman. Even when as a man, he compels obedience, submission (which is a wrong approach), it will lead to more crises, more altercations. That's when you see the man recoiling, keeps away from home and won't go out with her because he's not sure of how she'll behave or what she'll say.

So how can couples avoid resentment?
Like I always say to couples, whether young or old, marriage is dynamic; it can't run itself, it's a continuous thing. You don't marry and go to sleep, thinking that that settles it. Always look for areas that you need to work on. If your spouse is unhappy, you should find out why, don't just assume it has nothing to do with you. And don't try to give explanations; begin with 'I'm sorry'. After overcoming the anger, explanations can be given. Always be quick to resolve that feeling, if your spouse is unhappy. It is those seemingly tiny unresolved issues that give Satan a foot in the door. And I think forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. If you keep holding it, it will fester and your marriage will be in danger. Just choose to forgive, then the emotion will follow. The Bible says, 'Be angry but sin not, don't let the sun go down on your anger'. A man should not be bitter, because it leads to resentment.

How long have you been married, and have you ever had this problem of resentment in your marriage?

We'll be 21 years together in August and we've had it so good. It's been honeymoon all the way. And that is because we decided to enjoy our marriage and make it pleasant but that is not say we don't have misunderstanding, of course we do. Recently my wife and I were discussing about one of our friends, whose marriage was troubled, and my wife said it's because the man doesn't know how to say sorry, that he should come and learn from her husband (me). I don't only say sorry to my wife when I feel she's angry or unhappy, I also teach my people to do the same. I tell them that it's only a secure man that will say sorry. It's a sign of strength to be able to do so.

But do you also say sorry when you feel that you have not offended her?

Yes I do that even when I feel I've not offended her. When I see she's upset, I just tell her, 'I'm sorry you're feeling the way you're feeling. Then I'd ask her what exactly has offended her. When she calms down, we could discover that it was a misunderstanding. But if I didn't take the initiative to say sorry, it probably would have escalated.

Minute insignificant things bring trouble in marriage. Things like, 'you called me this, you called me that,' and it could get out of hand. And when it does, what caused it wouldn't be a factor anymore but the things we say at each other.

So has your marriage ever been threatened in all these years, because we do hear of pastors having problems in their marriages?

Not fundamentally, however, nobody succeeds in marriage because he is a pastor or a Christian. It is your decision to have a good marriage that will make a good marriage; the decision to love your spouse, warts and all. Many Christians have troubled marriages, and many are divorcing. Especially when people endure, everything appears well but one party is absorbing all the punches and at some point would want to call it quits. And this time around, it could be a pastor's wife that wants to quit and people would be thinking, 'that good man, what happened'.

That is why in marriage, spouses need to talk, talk and talk, air their grievances, talk about their hurts, let there be room for openness. In our own case, we are very open. There is hardly anything we don't talk about; we live as one - as the Bible enjoins us to do. When people lead secret lives, and have partitions, that's when problem sets in.

I teach on marriage, in fact I do that in for a whole month (August) every year. And I've come to know that marriages are crumbling more than ever before due to civilisation, pressure of work, changing values and so on, and even Christians are not immune. We need to get back to the right path. And couples need to talk about their problems to someone they can trust.

But I thought, couples were often admonished not to allow a third party…

Yes, but like I said, a trusted person, someone with more experience, that they respect, who is a better example or usually a pastor…

Some men don't like that
When a man says don't tell pastor, it's an admission of guilt and he doesn't want correction. If the wife can't correct him, then who will? I've come to find out that women seek help more than the men. We have a marriage clinic, where I encourage couples to come with their partners, yet some men won't come, until I specifically ask, and out of respect for me, they may come.

Women are better at marriage, they work at it but the men are carefree, and what they don't know is that they lose in the end. Divorce doesn't just happen, it takes a long time; it's not an event but a long process. But pride prevents some people from halting the process, humility to admit wrong. All you need is humility.