Editor’s note: There is almost nothing more beautiful than love that has stood the test of time. That’s why this month, BellaNaija Features and BellaNaija Weddings bring you beautiful stories of couples whose love has not waned through the years with The Ever After Special Valentine Edition series.
Today, Funmilayo and Demola Awonuga, who have been married since 1987, share their insights on love, marriage and the forever journey. We take you on a dive into their Ever After story. Ride with us!
Friendship is one of the most beautiful things in the world. A friend is like a shield for you when life hits you emotionally, psychologically and otherwise –ly in the world. Friends share in your joy, pain, sorrow, help you solve life’s problems – like being booless on Valentine’s Day, and connect you with your life partner, like Funmilayo’s friend Awonuga connected her with her still later via phone call – a man she didn’t like.
Funmilayo Awonuga: He told me he was from Ijebu and I went – ‘what? Ijebu? I don’t want anyone from Ijebu. I am from Ekiti state so I really didn’t want anyone from Ijebu.
After she rejected him, they broke up, but, do you remember Funmilayo Awonuga’s friend? She had not. 3 years later…
Funmilayo Awonuga: I completed my teacher training in Ikorodu when I met my friend in Bariga. She asked: how is brother Demola? I went: “I don’t talk to him anymore; I don’t want to marry an Ijebu man. Then my friend found a way to reunite us but I was still firm: I didn’t want to marry someone from Ijebu.
Turn Mr. and Mrs. Awonuga into fictional characters and you’ve got it Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Pride and prejudice stood in the way of their love, but Mr. Darcy, though shy, loved Elizabeth Bennet.
Demolish Awonuga: Every time I heard her voice on the phone, it made me feel a certain way and I just say in my heart, “I love this girl.” That’s what made me fall in love with her. I told my friend that I wanted to marry her.
But like Elizabeth Bennet who once swore never to love Mr. Darcy, Funmilayo Awonuga had sworn not to marry an Ijebu man. However, like Elizabeth, she eventually fell yakata for Mr. Awonuga.
In September 1987, they got married in the Celestial Church of Christ, Akoka. 2 months later, they had their first child.
They say that the few years of marriage are a mixture of the good and the sour, the happy and the bitter. Sometimes, you look into each other’s eyes and fall in love again. Other times, you wonder what the hell you were thinking when you walked down the aisle. Wahala, love, joy, anger, frustrations, and almost… resignation.
Demolish Awonuga: Exactly during our one year anniversary, something happened that would have broken this marriage but we thank God.
Demolish Awonuga: We had different characters and for me, as a man, I thank God for my father who always told me: “Today you are married, you have to eliminate certain habits.”
I got married at the age of 30 and for those first years, there were some challenges that we faced and I only thank God or my father’s advice and for giving me the spirit to be able to endure.
Indeed, they endured and Come September, they will celebrate 36 years of marriage. What is the secret?
Funmilayo Awonuga: Because we did not court for a long time before marriage, the first years were not so easy. But when I was a single woman, I decided that whoever I was going to marry, I would marry for life – without divorce. I was 25 when I got married and had already decided that there was no going back.
I had a way to lower the tension; I just keep dancing. It always makes me happy. Even when the other is angry, I will laugh and dance. When you are angry and the person you are angry with laughs and dances, the tension will go down. But when both are broken, it is not good.
It takes two to tango in marriage, and then three to dismantle it. Funmilayo Awonuga may never hit it off, but he has something that makes his skin crawl.
Demolish Awonuga: My wife doesn’t like to see me with other women. Even so far, he can’t stand it. So, wherever I am, I always try to be careful not to hurt myself.
Mrs. Awonuga’s gripe may be other women hanging around, but Mr. Awonuga’s gripe is that people are interfering in his marriage. One thing the two have in common? It does not host third parties.
Funmilayo Awonuga: When we got married again, my husband told me, “I don’t want any form of interference in our marriage.” So we do not welcome visitors, family members or any sort. So far, we don’t go to family members’ houses or people’s houses, we just mind our own business. I have never had any form of bitterness in my family, nor in-laws coming to solve our problems. We always solve things by ourselves without interference.
When I had my first child, I almost broke down because I did everything by myself. I was able to manage this very well because my husband was very supportive. She is a very good cook and was the one who took care of the children. My younger sister also came to attend the line.
People say that what doesn’t break us makes us stronger. And this is true, especially in marriages. Differences should not be catalysts for destruction, especially if the foundation is solid.
Funmilayo Awonuga: What we advise couples to do is to calm down in the early stages. It could be hard for people, especially those who are not yet comfortable as a couple. However, it is important to study each other and know your dos and don’ts.
Demolish Awonuga: You must have a spirit of bearing with others. Get used to absorbing things. Know that you are from different families and allow the spirit of God to guide you. Always pray before you go to bed, when you wake up, and when you go out.
This resistance extends to finances. People say money business is serious, and they are right. Is your money our money? Is my money just mine? A few disagreements over naira notes and marriage can be knee-jerk, bumping forward or falling apart.
Funmilayo Awonuga: What is mine is his all he has is mine.
Demolish Awonuga: I always believed that I had to take care of our children. So, I will go and buy all the food and things that my children need. At the end of each month, when I get my salary, I first collect my children and put everything they need in order. My wife has always been the type of person who doesn’t like her husband doing everything alone without her support. She would always add her money without my knowledge so that everything would be enough and be more than I expected.
Funmilayo Awonuga: When I got married, I didn’t work. When I got a job in Lagos State, I was not paid until months later. But we supported each other throughout.
The support paid off. More than 35 years and the fire is still burning. They keep finding ways to make sure their love doesn’t wane. In fact, Mr. Awonuga has an unconventional way of being romantic.
Demolish Awonuga: Whatever the spirit of God leads me, I do. It is God who gives me inspiration and ideas.
Demolish Awonuga: I heard a story about this pastor who needed to go to church and his wife needed his attention. He ignored it at first and went to church. Just before he was about to set up the altar, a voice told him to go back and set up his house. You can’t be a pastor and your house is on fire. Pastoral ministry begins at home. I give God the glory that when it comes to romance, I don’t mess with my wife. I do the right thing at the right time.
Funmilayo Awonuga: The romance is still there. Sexually, we are good; we study to keep this fire. Everything can dry up at menopause, but we will keep trying.
Ride on, Mr. and Mrs. Awonuga. And that this oil never dries.
Did you miss the first edition of The Ever After Series? Read all the episodes here.
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