Pastor Keme Christopher is a marriage and family life coach. With his wife, Pastor Theresa, he is the visionary of Ikotun-based Family Building Mandate which has a divine mandate to help couples enjoy their marriage.   In this interview with Our Community Newspaper’s John Ogunsemore, he addressed the challenges leading to domestic violence in marriages. Excerpt…

What is an ideal marriage?

Every marriage is of God. It is just that cultures adapt it to suit their lifestyle. God is the one that, without consulting anybody, brought about the marriage institution. Christian marriage is a man and his wife joined together in one flesh in God. God is involved in the relationship. Marriage is so critical to God in two arears: one, it is from the marriage relationship that you get children to rule the world he has created; secondly, the family is God’s authority point on earth. So, God has interest, and if He has so much interest, He won’t allow it to be managed by human beings. God designed the marriage institution to be managed by Him and so He wants to be involved and participate in it.

So the crises we are having in marriages all over the world is because we are not acknowledging God in the marriage institution. We allow the tradition of men to dictate the pace of how marriage relationships should go about. That is where we have the problems.

Based on what you have said, when couples are having issues and it gets so bad that it results in physical violence, is there an option of divorce?    

I am a servant of God and I am called by God to strengthen marriage relationships and build families in God. So, I am going to speak as a mouthpiece of God in this matter. Remember that in the Bible some people came to ask Jesus Christ same question that ‘On what ground should we divorce?’ And he told them that ‘Have you not read that he who made them in the beginning made them male and female and said: For this purpose shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh.’ So God did not have in mind for marriage to separate because they are joined in Him.

Where it now becomes a threat to life, the Christian approach is that we should find a solution and most of the time we are coming to proffer solution at a critical point. The solutions should have been preventive rather than curative.

For instance, most marriages have a foundational problem. In an instance where a woman because she wants to marry a man goes to meet a ‘babalawo’ to charm the man, and the charm works, from inception that marriage is on a wrong foundation. That marriage will not really last. By the time the charm’s effort wears off, the man’s eyes will clear and he’ll come back to his senses. That could be a cause of violence. Two, when people get married, they marry their persons, not situations. Most times people marry for the sake of being able to say ‘I am married’. They sometimes marry to escape their long delay in marriage. Also, they marry to either satisfy their parents or for convenience purposes. Probably the man has money and they marry the money, not the person.

Now to the violent cases, if you marry a person, and they are one in the eyes of God as the neck and the head are one, will you because the neck has a wound cut off the head? So foundationally, people’s reasons for getting married are wrong, and when you have this wrong setting, there is bound to be crises.

In a preventive way, before people get married they have to go for what is called premarital counselling. In pre-marital counselling, what we are looking out for is: do they really match themselves? Can they really be husband and wife? This is because marriage has demands and if you marry someone there are demands on both sides. Are they emotionally balanced enough to meet these demands? Marriage also has challenges. Will they be able to overcome these challenges emotionally? Those are the things we counsel people on when they want to get married.

Divorce comes when issues have been neglected; one, the foundation wasn’t right, and two they were not taught how to manage the relationship right. Remember, marriage is an emotional relationship; two emotions are involved. In Christendom, we don’t support divorce. What we are doing is to get the foundation right and expose the couple in marriage to relationship skills. If you get those things right, there won’t be need for divorce.

You placed emphasis on pre-marital counselling as a solution to many marital challenges. What of couples who not have the opportunity to attend pre-marital counselling classes but are now married and are having problems in their marriage?

For many of those who did not have the opportunity to attend pre-marital counselling and are now having issues, those issues stem from lack of knowledge. Now we give them marital counselling because marriage has problems and we have solutions to those problems. Husband and wife should know that they are one. That should be understood.

Secondly, when they have issues they must identify those they can meet for advice. That is why there are marriage counsellors, even in the church.  Then the marriage counsellor will have a meeting with them. The purpose of that marriage counsellor is to guide them on how to relate. The first one (pre-marital counselling) is for whether they can fit in into a relationship. But now they are already in the relationship but they are having challenges. The first thing is to make them understand that: one, they are one; two, they are to look for each other’s benefit; three, they should also understand that marriage is on three platforms.

One is the covenant that they made to each other: I will marry you; I will be good to you; I will be there with you; I will not leave you. Those are promises they made to each other. You can’t have a marriage without those promises, and they are life-long promises.

We also have covenant of one flesh. That is sexual intercourse. The promise entails that ‘I will not share my body with anyone else, only you’.

The last one is the marriage relationship. How they will relate. And that is where the problem lies. Most husband and wife do not know how to relate. To relate effectively, you must know your spouse very well. What is the person’s make-up, tendencies? How do I now adapt because I was an individual person and now we are married forever? How do we manage our differences? Remember also that marriage is a complimentary relationship; there are some things that you have but I don’t have and I am coming into a relationship with you. I should be able to know where to fit in to help you and vice versa. You begin to develop your strength in those areas. That is what we call relationship equilibrium.

Relationship equilibrium simply means that both parties are supplying what each other needs to a balanced level. But the moment I am not supplying my own part to you, you will be suffering from the lack of that and along the line you will begin to make demands. And when you are making a demand and I am not supplying, you may want to go violent.

Domestic violence is as a result of lack of relationship equilibrium. For example, husband and wife are supposed to have sex together as often as they can. That’s what the Bible says, except both of you agree to have a break to, for instance, go and pray. Now, it could be that either of the couple is sexually hyperactive and the other one is not. So how do you balance this one? That is their issue. They can balance it if they talk about it. But if it is not balanced and the man is demanding and his wife can’t meet up, he may become angry and want to take it by force. If she refuses, he may want to go physical. So, unnecessary demands could result to domestic violence. Domestic violence is an emotional outburst of anger expressed in physical attack. We come to have that because they are unable to balance the demands of each other. And also relationship equilibrium means that one party is equipped enough to be able to meet the demand of the other party.

I have only given the example of sexual demand, right? But there are also other areas – financial demands. When the woman is the demanding type – buy me this, buy me that – and the man does not have the money to meet up that, to defend himself in that way, he may want to be violent especially if the wife doesn’t understand. I am trying to bring two extreme cases. Physiologically, men are more aggressive in sexual drive than women.  The other way round, socially women are more demanding than men. If she wants to buy this or that and the man doesn’t have the money, he may feel bad and to cover up that he may want to be aggressive. She may also feel denied because as a man you should be able to take care of your wife but what if he doesn’t have? In these two scenarios, to balance it all, they should be contented with whatever they are providing to each other.

That is when understanding now comes in. Once they have that understanding, they relate on that. In that way, we’d be able to solve the issues of couples who have conflict.

Conflict could also come from the individual’s background, how they’re brought up. That’s why the remote cause of domestic violence is parental neglect. This is because it is expected that parents should be able to groom and guide their children into good marriage. That is not only by instructing them, but that could be achieved by the lifestyle that the parents are living and the children are watching. When somebody comes from a polygamous background, there is always issue of rivalry leading to neglect. If a daughter has seen her mother being neglected by her father, she might not like it. If she sees her father being beaten or abused by her father, she may see men as bad. That will follow her to her new marriage and anything the man does she remembers what her father used to do and becomes defensive. On the other way round, the mother may be the aggressive type, and the son may be observing and may not like it. If he gets into marriage, and the wife happens to be the talkative type, the moment she talks, he sees her as trying to insult him as his mother used to insult his father. That is the remote cause of domestic violence – their background is interplaying and they cannot find a centre point to meet. What we do in such cases is to call them, know their background and make them realise their marriage is unique and not like their parents’ own.

Read the next edition of Our Community Newspaper for Pastor Christopher’s solutions to domestic violence and other problems facing marriages today.