By NBF News
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Right from the moment the first man set eyes on the first woman and exclaimed 'this is the flesh of my flesh and the bone of my bones', marriage and the intimacy that accompanies it (please read, sex) has never ceased to excite the neurons in the brains of humans.

No other word in the English lexicon or any other language has stirred poets more than that three-letter word! The activity it describes is the foundation for the highest number of websites on the Internet (and they draw young people like nectar attracts bees). Just ask the international organization that controls Internet domain names and addresses.

Quite interesting is the fact that more political careers have been ruined by it than any other cause. Yet sex, continues to intoxicate just like alcohol. Except that it doesn't make you fall into a gutter when you are drunk with it. Instead it sends you to Cloud-9 when the experience is really good. Ask any woman who has ever reached that altitude and she will confirm this with a nice smile that slowly spreads to the corners of her mouth, giving you a peek at her dentition.

Over time, romance and excitement can fade, even in the strongest relationships. But Pastor Osondu Anyalechi, a Pentecostal minister, who worked for years with Texaco and retired as an accountant before going into pineapple farming, and has done great work teaching couples about how to build good families and God-based intimate, marital relationships says that getting back the excitement and intimacy of first days of being in love is both possible and necessary.

'I want a couple to be the same way they were the night they got married,' says Anyalechi, who has been married for 32 years having wedded in 1978.

What do you find most interesting about your wife?

First, my wife is very sincere. If you give her money to keep for you, even if you put counterfeit notes in the package, it does not bother her. Come back after 10 or 20 years, she will give you the package exactly the way you handed it over to her. But if you give me, if I needed change, I could take from it and replace the same amount in with a different denomination. Or if I used the money to do something, I could give you a cheque for the whole amount. But my wife is not like that - she will hand to you the exact package you left with her. That is how she is.

My wife is a very wonderful woman. I worked in Texaco and then retired and the then came to be a pastor. Of course you cannot compare the salary of an accountant in Texaco with the stipend of a pastor. I have a farm where I plant pineapples in Ogun State. All the money the church pays me I invest it in the farm. My wife takes care of the food in the house. When the children were in school, she paid their fees. It is a wonderful thing to have somebody like her. Normally, it is the man that would provide for the family. But she knows what I am doing. While I am building for tomorrow, the future, by investing the money I am paid by the church, she is using her money to make sure the present time is comfortable for everybody. God helping us , our last child is out from school.

How did you meet?
Before the civil war I went to Ibiaku, Akwa Ibom. At that time there were only three good secondary schools for girls in the Eastern Region then - Union Secondary School, Ibiaku; Elelenwa Girls College, Port Harcourt and Queens College, Enugu. If you were briallinat girls, you were expected to attend one of the se schools. She went to Ibiaku.

So one day, we went to the school to watch a play - Taming of the Shrew - and I was told that there was an Ovim girl in the Form Three in the school. I waved it off, wondering what business I had with a junior female student. I just didn't care. During the civil war I was in-charge of civil defence in my area. Then on a certain day, one young lady came to ask me about civil defence and I explained to her. I asked her name and she told me Instead of joining civil defence, she joined the Red Cross. I was also in the Red Cross.

During that period, I wrote a play - Just Reprisal - and gave roles to different people to act. The following day she came back to tell me that she had memorized her lines. I was surprised and sought to know which school she was intending and in what class. She said she was a student of Union Secondary School, Ibiaku. I then remembered what I was told previously. By this time, she was in Form five.

One of my friends suggested that I should befriend her. I was still an unbeliever then. I had a girlfriend then, who she knew. Then by 1971 I got Federal government scholarship and was in the university. She came to see me and I bought snacks for her. She didn't know I had plans for her. In those days we used to live students in a room. After eating my snacks she laid on my bed.

I went close to her and tried to touch her, she recoiled, wondering what I wanted to do. I asked her if she was ignorant and different from other women. She was shocked at my attitude. She said that she had confided in her mother that I was different from other men. With the conduct I displayed, she had become convinced that all men were the same. She added that I had betrayed the confidence she had in me. She was a member of the Scripture Union. I those days, nobody took SU members serious. I practically chased her out of my room, and made up my mind that I would never see her again. Then in 1972, I became born again.

While I was engaged in a long vacation job with Union Bank, Aba branch in 1973, I had a revelation to marry her. For 15 months, I didn't tell her. I wanted to be sure I heard correctly. Also, I was afraid that if I approached her she would say that I had failed the first time to lure her into sin and now I had come through another way by claiming that I was born-again.

Eventually, I expressed my feelings to her. She spent 18 months before she responded and accepted my proposal. Those months were tortuous for me. During the interval, I remembered a girl from Kwara State who I had once known. We had been corresponding through letters. I wrote a letter asking to know whether she was married. The Holy Spirit rebuked me and said that writing to another girl asking whether she was married amounted to spiritual prostitution. Before posting the letter, I removed the offensive paragraph. Then I decided to take the rest of faith and wait.

When the reply from my wife came, I took the letter and hid in a toilet where I read it carefully. The summary of it was that she accepted my marriage proposal. She attached her picture to the letter. I was very happy.

Less than a few hours, another letter came from her. I was scared initially, because I thought the first one was meant to tease me; I believed that the second one was the real rejection of my proposal. Once again, I took the letter back to the toilet to read. In the letter, she revealed that when she went to the library to read, every book she opened, all she saw in it was my name. It was not that her mind was playing tricks on her. She said that the second letter was intended to reaffirm her decision to marry me.

Apart from being sincere, what other thing would you say has made the marriage turn out successful?

We are friends and we share a lot. There is nothing we share. She is my prayer partner. Our first alarm rings by 3 am. If we don't wake up, the next one is by 4.15 am. From that time, we share and pray till 5.30 am before we come out to the sitting room for the general family devotion hour. Prayer is key part our marriage. We fast together and often go on retreat. I learnt that the deeper we go into the bible, the more romantic is our union. We are sincere, we are frank. We tell ourselves the truth. If I do something she doesn't like, she will tell me. She is my friend. There is perfect transparency in our relationship.

My wife loves to dress well. Most men will compliment their wives if they dress particularly well. I don't. I know that if I openly commend her, she will dress more fantastically (laughter). But honestly, inwardly, I am very happy when I see her wearing something very appealing. I call my wife the woman with the beautiful legs. Really she has beautiful legs, even at her age. Everybody in the church knows I call her the woman with the beautiful legs.

What are the ingredients of a successful marriage?

Number one is God. If you remove God, what you have is infatuation. Since we married, we have never used abusive words like 'stupid', 'idiot' or foolish person on each other. We have never fought - even in the dream. How can we? We have never quarreled. I have a sharp voice. But that woman is a wonderful woman. She won't say one word. I talk more to make her talk back, she will keep quiet - she doesn't want to say a thing she would go back to God to ask for forgiveness.

It is better to avoid that. One other thing was that we decided that we would never engage in pre-marital sex. We won't do a thing we would go back to God to ask for forgiveness. I married her as a chaste lady. If I had defiled her in 1971, what would have been my testimony? But God kept her a chaste lady till 1978 when we wedded.

Right from the past, sex has been an issue. And in the present time, attitudes have changed. What really should be the role of sex in a marital relationship?

It is very saddening that we are seeing too much abuse of sex nowadays. People start from sex to the church. They state sleeping together, and when they are tied or get pregnant, they now come to the pastor to say they want to get married. In the beginning it was not so. I didn't marry like that at all. You have to start by joining before the marriage is consummated. Sex is very important in marriage. It is very central to it. It should not be abused. If you follow the rule of the game the way God intended it, there would be no problem whatsoever. When you marry, sex is the oil that lubricates marriage.

Another form of abuse is in the area of sex denial. Or when a woman demands something from the man, and the man says no, then she retaliates by denying him sex. Women have told me that sometimes their husbands deny them sex. One woman in particular said her husband would stay for long hours watching television, moving from one programme to the other including home video just to ensure that he would not sleep with her. It was deliberate action on the part of the man - and this was a couple desiring to have a child!

With respect to marital relationship and sex, are there certain mistakes that couples make?

One major mistake which Christian women married to ministers of the gospel make is that they think sex means nothing to their husbands - just because they are very spiritual men. This is not true. Whether you are a believer or unbeliever, you have this flesh and you are married. God has made the man to desire women more than women desire men.

Generally, men are aroused by sight and women by touch. Some women just say 'my husband is a man of God, sex doesn't mean anything to him.' This is a very wrong destructive assumption.

And on the part of the men, there is the erroneous belief that women are only meant to bear children. That's why they keep their money away from their wives. It is not right. The money belongs to both of you. If you ask any man, he will tell you the things he shares in common with his wife. But when you ask him how many times his wife has signed a cheque and drawn money from his account, he would probably say never! In fact I met a man in Onitsha where I went to minister and I asked him whether his wife knows about his financial affairs. He retorted: How can I tell a woman about my money?

The simplest way of gauging the state of a marriage and how well the couple know each other is this: If man travels out and there is a fundraising in church or community, can the wife pledge money on his behalf? Would she say, wait till my husband returns? If any woman says that, then there is a problem there. When you see a couple that have an intimate, transparent and romantic relationship the signs are very obvious.

In what ways can couples improve marital sex?
The first thing is that they should know God in a personal way. I have found out that the closer my wife and myself are to God, the more intimate we are; the closer you are to God, the more intimate your relationship will be.

Second, men should remove the barrier, which treats the wife as a stranger. Your wife is an extension of yourself. Third, the man must not cheat. It is when a man goes out to cheat that he would not naturally desire intimacy with his wife. A woman once told me that when her husband returns from visiting his mistress, he would be weak and not interested in making love with her.

And when a woman is denied marital intimacy at home, such a woman could be tempted to seek pleasure outside her home or probably with the family driver.

In foreign countries, you find that men go out with their wives every weekend. They dine out, go to movies or watch a stage play at the theatre. In our culture this does not happen except now that modernization is changing our lifestyle. Without a doubt going out together improves relationship between couples. Then again, married people should adopt the practice of attending couples' seminars, where they can learn new things that would improve their marital relationship.

Recently, I met the General Overseer of a church and asked him when he last attended a couples' seminar. He said that he had never been to any couples' seminar. I was shocked. It was not because he didn't have the time, but the problem was that he did not even know there was need to attend couples' seminars. Honestly, and this is really disturbing, most men don't attend couples' seminars. Men have this erroneous belief that they know everything in marriage. But the truth is that attending couples' seminars help to improve marital relationship from the sitting room to the bedroom.

Again, it helps a lot for the couple to share and lavish attention on each other. When the relations of the man come on a visit that is the best time for the man to pamper his wife. Let them see you romantically feeding her - the same way you fed her at the wedding reception, when you gave her cake and wine. Honestly, there is no better way to send a woman wife heading towards Cloud-9 than for his relations to see him pampering the wife in their presence. It will work wonders on your wife's medulla oblongata. When you regularly pamper your wife, whether relations are there or not, marital love is built between the couple. Men should seek to re-discover their youth by doing the same things they did when they were courting their wives.