Rev. Eguavoen Oviaesu and his wife, Pastor Regina Oviaesu have been married for 40 years now. But to the adorable couple, it is as if they got married just yesterday as the love that first brought them together is still aglow in their eyes and in their actions.
In a chat with DailySun in Benin, Rev. Oviaesu, a graduate of the Universities of Ibadan and Benin, and his wife, a politician and businesswoman, went down memory lane on how it began and why it has lasted this long without any thought of separation or divorce.
The couple also talked about lessons intending and newly married couples could draw from their marriage.
How did you meet your wife?
Rev. Eguavoen: It all took place between 1975 and 1976 when I was preparing for my Advanced Level GCE. My cousin had a friend with whom they used to read at the British Council Library. The house was later occupied by the New Nigeria Bank at Ring Road, Benin.
We were reading for our GCE and we used to go to the library together. Whenever I went to the library to read, I would always meet my cousin and her friend. So, whenever their car came to pick her, three of us would ride home in it together.
So, that was how we built a relationship. After my GCE, I saw that she was a nice girl. I told my cousin that I would like to have her as my future wife if need be. So, that was how we developed our relationship.
Why did you accept his marriage proposal?
Madam Regina: It’s funny. Well, accepting his proposal was like a divine arrangement. This is because I didn’t really know that I would accept him. But his cousin who happened to be my very good friend had spoken to me about him.
She told me that her cousin was a very nice guy, that any person that got married to him would be a very happy woman in the future. I think for me, she had already done the groundwork for him. So, I was looking forward to seeing him because I desired to marry a man that would make me happy for the rest of my life.
I thank God that so far, it has been well. Just like she said, I had been happily married to my husband. He is a loving and caring man.
What was her reaction when you proposed?
Rev. Eguavoen: The proposal came later; it was friendship before proposal. We were friends from 1975, 76 until when I went to the University. By the time I finished from the university, she was at the University of Calabar when I was doing my youth service. In 1981, I proposed to her. Well, I was already a born again Christian then.
I was not ready to play around. I wanted to be serious, to be married. So I proposed to her. But the funny thing was that she was still looking at me with the eye of someone who was not a born again Christian. But as God would have it, instead of saying no to me, she said yes. That was how she accepted my proposal.
Did anyone oppose your marriage?
Madam Regina: Not at all. His parents and mine were very happy. It was only my grandmother that was worried because her own cousin was married to my husband’s grandfather. She just said ‘oh, Oviaesu you are coming again?’ But all along, she didn’t hesitate.
I think my dad was happier that I was going to get married to somebody very close to their own family because they all grew up in Akpakpava. So, the Oviaesus and the Erhahons somehow knew themselves very well. There was really no opposition at all. My mother-in-law was very happy and pampered me all the time. She was very happy that I was going to marry her son.
Was there any opposition from your end, sir?
Rev. Eguavoen: There was none. There had never been. But all my brothers were married to non-natives. I was the only one that got married to a Benin native. That made my mother to love my wife. She was a beloved to her. There was no opposition.
What were the challenges?
Madam Regina: There were no challenges. We were already Christians and we knew what marriage was all about. We made sure that we lived as Christians and practised what we read in the scriptures.
The challenge I would say was in trying to put our future together, raising our children in a proper way and giving them the best because we grew up getting the best from our parents.
What about you, sir?
Rev. Eguavoen: Well, I got married when I was a teacher. The first challenge we had was that I was teaching in a village: Siloko Grammar School. It was a challenge to get my wife to be with me in the village. This is because she had never been to any village before then.
But eventually she got used to it. But by the time she got pregnant, she did not want to stay in the village anymore. So I had to transfer my posting to Benin. From Siloko Grammar School I was transferred to Anglican Girls Grammar School in Benin.
It was while there that I did my post-graduate exams. Well, like any struggling person, I had to make money to take care of my family. My children came in quick succession, four of them. They all came and one had to manage the family. I had to prepare for them.
What is special about your husband?
Madam Regina: He is a simple person, loving and caring. He loves his family, puts his family first in everything. That is what makes him special. And above all, he has the fear of God.
Is there anything he does you don’t like?
Madam Regina: Uhmmm, one thing he does that I don’t like is rough driving.
Sir, what has kept this marriage for this long?
Rev. Eguavoen: It is God. He brought us together. And He’s been nurturing us and helping us. And we’ve been obeying Him to see that that purpose is not defeated.
Tell us your happiest moments in this marriage.
Madam Regina: It is when I feel God’s presence. And at times when my husband pampers me, buys me ice cream, asks me what I want, shows much love and concern, and tries to make me feel like a queen. That is my happiest moment.
How will you describe your wife?
Rev. Eguavoen: She is a workaholic, a perfectionist, and she wants the best for the family – for the children and me. She desires every good thing for us. She is an up-and-going person. That is why I love her.
How were you able to take care of your kids while they were growing up?
Madam Regina: Well, it was not easy but I had a mother-in-law that was a super midwife. She had a maternity. She was a very caring mother and grandmother. She helped me to take care of the children.
When it came to things that I didn’t really understand about raising children health-wise, she gave me a lot of advice and helped me to make sure that the children were well-taken care of. She helped me quite a lot.
With or without house help, my mum would come in. She was very sacrificial. So, everybody’s hand was on deck because I almost had four children in three years. This is because they all came in quick succession. Because the children were like quadruplets, my mum and my mother-in-law were always there to help.
On my own, I also worked tirelessly to attend to their needs. That’s how the children were able to grow up and were able to help themselves and even with doing some house chores.
How do you handle third party interference?
Madam Regina: I never experienced that. I didn’t even have the need to feel like having my parents or my mum or his parents come in. I just felt that marriage was for all of us. And if we succeed, it is for the family. So, I didn’t see my mother-in-law interfering because there were some decisions we took that my mother-in-law would want to say or my mother would say, ‘this is what I feel is right.’ But I never saw them interfering.
How do you handle your wife when she is angry?
Rev. Eguavoen: I got to know that love really is not the sustainer of marriage but understanding. Right from the beginning, I tried to understand my wife. I tried to understand her weaknesses and strengths.
Whenever she is angry, I try to tickle her. I call her some pet names. I try to mimic her. I call her Chin-chin. And when I call her that, it makes things easy. At worse, if the thing is so hard, I just step aside. I just give room. After then, the whole thing would die down. But in all, God has been helping us.
How do you solve your problem?
Rev. Eguavoen: We pray together. When we got married, the vicar told us that the bedroom is the high court of justice. Before we sleep, we try to see that we iron out things.
Do you have a pet name for your wife?
Rev. Eguavoen: Her pet name is ‘Honey’ because she has always been like honey right from the beginning.
How do you know when your husband is angry?
Madam Regina: Ah, the whole house would be vibrating.
How do you handle it?
Madam Regina: I would just ignore him or give him some distance.
How do you handle difficult situations in your marriage?
Rev. Eguavoen: Well, no matter how difficult things are, we present them to God. And, you know, soft answer turns away wrath. We try not to allow anger take over. Most times when my children misbehaved and there was the likelihood to use hard words, I end up using soft words and allow God to have His way.
What are those things she does that you don’t like?
Rev. Eguavoen: I call it “mukumuku.” Whenever she is angry, she keeps malice sometimes. So that is why I call it “mukumuku.” Whenever she is angry, she would not want to talk. But because of the funny way I call it, I would say ‘you’ve started your mukumuku again,’ she would laugh it off. Well, the best thing is to laugh off some of those things that people regard as heavy.
Why do marriages crash nowadays?
Rev. Eguavoen: Marriage is not for boys and girls; it is for mature men and women. You must be mature before you can get into marriage. If you are not mature, you may crash your marriage. The reason you find some celebrities get into marriage but two weeks after they are out is because their love is ephemeral. But over the years, I have come to know that love attracts but it doesn’t sustain.
Understanding your spouse sustains a marriage. Love brings people together but it is understanding that establishes them. Once you know the weakness of your partner, you try to downplay the weakness and try to encourage the good part. And the more you encourage the good part, the more the thing magnifies.
My wife is a very hardworking woman and I can’t take that away from her. No matter how hard or whatever, do you know what I tell her? I said she is a woman to other men. But to me she is my baby. So, it is understanding that sustains marriage. If a man goes into marriage but does not understand his wife, in no time their marriage would crash.
Madam Regina: Marriages crash because of the crop of young ladies we have nowadays. They don’t have values; they do things anyhow. I don’t know if they were taught or they just chose not to learn. Most of them are very reckless; they don’t care. They just want to have the best of their time. And, that is how it is.
They don’t care how it comes. In those days, a woman would decide that, ‘I want to make life with my husband; I want to make life better for my family.’ She would decide to sit and struggle with her husband, love, care for him and care for his family. But the girls we have these days are praying for their mother or father-in-law to die.
She doesn’t like in-laws coming around. You see a young girl telling her husband that “as we are just getting married, none of your family members should enter our house.” She would be taking care of her own family. But how long would she continue with that kind of behaviour? At the end of the day, the whole thing would crash because they say blood is thicker than water.
The man would always find his family. At the end of the day, you would be out of the game. So, life is give-and-take. You just have to learn how to give to your husband’s family and take from them. You will also need to help your own family. That way, life will be more peaceful for you.
What is your advice to newly married couples?
Madam Regina: They should keep the virtues and ordinances of their matrimony. You have sworn to God to keep your marriage, your body. Your everything should be for your husband. You should have that behind your mind.
Your husband loves you and you must pay him back by respecting him and giving him your kindness and care. Once you are able to do that, I don’t think that there is anything that would break your marriage. Whatever both of you agrees together in prayer, God will grant you.
What is your advice to young men who want to go into marriage?
Rev. Eguavoen: They should look for people who are their friends. My wife was my friend before we got married. She is still my friend. Friends stay together. So, they should get married to their friends. For 40 years now, we’ve been together; it shows we have become friends.