Thursday, 28th September 2023

Happy ever after? keep the faith

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
28 May 2016   |   5:44 am
These words are uttered by the protagonist of The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, TifAni Fanelli, about a man who had seen her at her “stray dog lowest” and still stood by her.


These words are uttered by the protagonist of The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, TifAni Fanelli, about a man who had seen her at her “stray dog lowest” and still stood by her. Incidentally they also echo Marilyn Monroe’s words, “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure.

I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best” which at one point or another any woman may have pinned on her Pinterest or printed out to stick on her mirror.

These words also resonate with me as I celebrate my ten-year wedding anniversary this weekend. Yes, reader, 10 long years ago, I married him. The one man who has seen me at my “stray dog lowest” and handled me at my worst through those 10 long years and a few more before we got hitched. My ‘wise builder’.

In August 2008, following a wedding, where the pastor reminded the celebrants of the parable of the two builders, drawing on the lessons for couples embarking on the journey that is marriage, I wrote an ode to my husband entitled “The Wise Builder” inspired by Matthew 7:24-27:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Every wedding season I cast my mind over the unions we’ve celebrated and unions we’ve seen crumble. The sheer faith of two human beings in each other and in a future intertwined together as they embark on a journey of a lifetime still astounds me. Beyond, “love, cherish, honour”, in those vows what we promise each other is faith: faith in our future, faith in each other, faith that through the storms we will find the strength to sail our ship, that after countless mornings of waking up to their real non-filtered selves instead of their #iwokeuplikethis selfies, we will wake up yet another day happy to be waking up to that face and that body, greying hair, sagging skin, bulging waistline, slithering stretch marks and all… Humankind’s faith in humankind – that a man will not fail his wife, a woman will not fail her husband.

The August 2008 marriage has since crumbled – was it the groom who left no room for faith or the bride, once her blushing days over, forgot her faith in her husband? I ask those who are married, amongst us, whether it be for two years, 10 or 25: How many times have you wanted to walk away – even if it’s fleeting fantasy you wouldn’t dare admit to yourself? How many times do we feel like throwing the towel in? How many times do we need to take a break and count to ten and remind ourselves of the reasons we married this person, we promised our future, we had faith?

It is a shame that romantic comedies almost always end with a wedding and fail to show that ‘happy ever after’ is not always so happy! in reality, two people live happily ever after only if they make the conscious decision to work at their relationship every day, through thick and thin, through the storm, through each and every single rock they hit along the way.

Therefore today, I feel grateful I share this journey with a ‘wise builder’ – a wise man who carried on each time I despaired, who kept the faith each time I threw in the towel, who fought for both of us each time my shovel hit a rock and I was ready to quit. In time I got to learn that each fight was a building block of that mansion we wanted to live in for eternity. Until what we had in front of us was the mansion of our union – tall, strong, rock solid. Then came the rain… and the streams… and the wind… But we had worked so hard, our mansion was so strong; we did not crumble down, we did not fall, we rode the storm. Only because standing by my side is a wise man, brave and strong. One I have built my house with, one I trust with my whole being, one who I know will never let me down.

If I have one word of advice for those this wedding season, as one who’s had her fair share of rocks and stones and rain and storms, don’t buy the myth of ‘happy ever after’; remember that your ‘happy ever after’ will need daily hard work and much shoveling and constant faith – not just in the Creator but in each other.

As for my ‘wise builder’ who’s built a house with me, I thank you for your faith in me; for cheering me on, for daily shoving me out of my comfort zone, for holding a magnifying mirror to me every time I fall out of faith in me for waking up to my #iwokeuplikethis face every morning and loving every inch of the B-cupped, big-bootied, thunder-thighed 5.5 of me. Loving me not unconditionally, but on the condition that I love myself.