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‘Marriage is not a christian institution, It’s an institution for humans’ – Modupe Ehirim

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Who we marry is one of the most important decisions in life. One that will influence the level of happiness, growth, and success, like no other choice. However, the concept of marriage has taken a new turn in the last couple of years, as we’ve witnessed not only a high rate of divorce and separation but partners devising violent methods to end their marriage. Modupe Ehirim is changing that narrative through her Right Fit Marriage Academy, where she works with men and women to become persons that their spouses look forward to coming home too.

Using The Right Fit Marriage Program, Modupe Ehirim guides married people to intentionally design and build healthy and long-lasting marriages. She is a Certified SYMBIS (Save Your Marriage Before It Starts) Facilitator. The SYMBIS Assessment gives you a personalized road map to making your marriage everything it was meant to be. She is also a Certified Family Systems Engineering Practitioner. The Network of FSE Practitioners comprises professionals who work to restore dignity to human relationships in marriage, parenting and family life.

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Modupe has varied experiences. She graduated with First Class Honours in Chemical Engineering from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1980. She then worked for with the Central Bank of Nigeria (Building and Engineering Services) for seventeen years before setting up a retail book business which she operated for thirteen years. She has served on the National Executive Committees of two business membership organisations Christian Booksellers Association Nigeria (CBAN) and NECA’ss Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW). She is currently a member of the board of OASIS International, Publishers of the Africa Study Bible.

She mentors young people, helping them to chart their lives’ paths. She is also the Counsellor on the popular weekly Relationship and Marriage Show, Make We Talk Am on WaZoBia 95.1 FM Radio. Modupe he is happily married to Boniface, her husband of over thirty-four years, and together with four lovely children. In her words “ I grew up in a family where relationships were considered really important”.

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Childhood Preparation
I grew up in a family where relationships were considered really important. I was privileged to see my parents courageously addressing difficult issues with one another and with other family members. My mum, in particular, used every opportunity to teach us interpersonal skills and help us use these skills in practical ways. When I told my parents, I wanted to marry someone from a different ethnic group, my mother went out to make several inquiries about this group and the culture and practices. She shared her findings with me and took the time to help me to understand the long term implications of what I wanted to do. Her goal wasn’t to frighten me. Rather she wanted me to go into my marriage with a full understanding of what an inter-ethnic marriage involved.

I remember her saying, “When you go to the village, and your inlaws are speaking their language, don’t assume they’re gossiping about you. You don’t understand what they are saying.

Working in the banking sector for almost 2 decades and pitching my tent in the relationship management sector.

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I’m an engineer by training, so I can say I’ve had a lifelong interest in how things work, investigating causes and effects. I approached different phases of my life – marriage, parenting, career, friendships, faith – with curiosity as to what is required to succeed in each phase. At each point, I would do a lot of reading and research into these issues and come up with systems, structures and processes that I could use to build the fabric of relationships. In the society we live in, people tend to approach these things from an emotional or religious standpoint and while there is nothing wrong with that, I wanted to ensure I approached things from an intellectual standpoint as well. So even while I worked in the bank and across other sectors, I was simultaneously building capacity in managing relationships. But as I matured in age and had to optimize my time and energy, I decided to focus my effort on giving back and sharing all of the knowledge and experience I had gathered. And the relationship management sector was where I saw the most need and where I felt I could have the most impact.

Vital lessons from my 40 years plus marriage
Fundamentally, people are different. They have different origins, life experiences and exposure. Expectedly, perspectives on important issues are different. Conflict simply means that we have different perspectives on issues that are of significant value to both of us. It is important to always stand in your partner’s shoes and look at issues through their eyes so you can also understand their intentions and not just their actions. As our people say, there are many roads to the market. So the aim is not to insist that your partner takes the route you know, the aim is to ensure that you help them get to the market regardless. And when there is conflict, the aim should not be proving you are right to win arguments, but communicating patiently to ensure that both parties goals are aligned.

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Being a Certified SYMBIS Facilitator, and its impact on marriages and domestic relationships
SYMBIS (Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts) is one of the tools Family Life Practitioners use in their work. It is a diagnostic tool that helps new couples flag and lower their risk factors and also helps them optimize their combined strengths as a couple. It does this by assessing everything from psychological wellbeing to revealing how their combined personalities can be leveraged for optimal success. As an SYMBIS Facilitator, I use the report generated from the assessment to guide couples through honest discussions in which they level their expectations of marriage and of themselves and come up with a personalised strategy for growing a healthy marital relationship. We also have the SYMBIS+ for couples who are already married but who want to improve their relationship.

Inspiration behind MOE Advisory Limited
Some six years ago, I observed that many people came to social media to seek guidance in dealing with various marriage and relationship issues. I was alarmed at the nature of the advice that was shared without consideration for the total context of issues being treated. I thought that it wasn’t enough to complain and decided to set up a platform where such requests for guidance will be treated from a principle-based perspective. The online platform has now grown to over 11,000 members across 81 countries. Furthermore, I came to realise that a lot of the issues my members faced were not limited to the conflict in marriage but rather a general lack of emotional intelligence in dealing with human relationships. So from then on, I started providing advisory on relationship management beyond marriage, extending into the corporate space.

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I was privileged to work at the Central Bank of Nigeria for two decades so I have a wide range of corporate experience managing and being managed by people. I also channelled this experience to help my members navigate relationships with teammates, subordinates and superiors at work. My vision is to help build an emotionally intelligent workforce.

Challenges “New school” folks face when engaging with the older generation in the workplace and how can they manage it properly

Times have changed. Most people my age grew up, socialized, married and worked in the same communities with people who shared similar life experiences to them. With the new school, their reality is a lot more different. Their social experience is a lot more diverse and also a lot more digital. And because of that both parties often approach the same issues with very different perspectives informed. This often leads to conflict. To manage this properly, the new school workforce has to understand the social paradigms of the older generation and the limitations this imposes on them. They need to understand that, most of the time, the root cause of the perceived differences is more ignorance than spite. And then, they have to be proactive and consider ways they can bridge the gap from a position of empathy, to educate and interact with the older generation in an emotionally intelligent manner.

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Being a relationship counsellor and social Entrepreneur
Getting people to understand that the other person isn’t always the problem. A lot of people are quick to see the problem in their colleagues’ actions but not self-aware enough to see how they could react and communicate better in certain situations. I think this stems from our inability to be vulnerable, to look in the mirror and admit our shortcomings. Then beyond that, there’s the perception of shame that comes with seeking out help. So most people tend to take the easy way out, to pretend there is no issue while keeping up appearances. As a relationship counsellor, it becomes a challenge to solve problems that people aren’t willing to admit they have.

And as a social entrepreneur, the major challenge is the poor infrastructure. I offer personalised sessions to working-class clients and so a lot of these sessions have to be held remotely via social media which may not be the most reliable due to electricity and internet shortcomings. Also, there’s the cultural problem where people don’t perceive advisory as something they should pay for because they are used to getting free counselling from church or family members. And even when people are willing to pay, there’s a limit to how a lot of clients can pay due to their low financial capacity.

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On young people being informed on the purpose of building strong interpersonal relationships
No, I don’t think they are. In private and public spaces, personal conversations and mass media, we tend to speak more about the pains of unhealthy relationships. And while these pains are real and present dangers, there is little spoken about the real and present solutions to these problems. So young people begin to think that interpersonal relationships are problematic by default and synonymous with pain. I think these conversations should extend beyond the pains of relationships and instead explore the foundations of healthy relationships such as empathy, good communication, understanding boundaries and conflict resolution.

To the person experiencing Domestic Violence in Marriage
Firstly, I will reassure them that it is never their fault, then I will encourage them to get help. Personally, I believe not everyone is equipped with the resources to ascertain the risks and provide support to domestic violence victims. However, there are agencies such as the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team, Project Alert, Media Concern for Women and Children Initiative (MEDIACON) and others who know how best to help trauma victims in whatever way they need it most. These organizations and others like them collaborate and work together. Once you reach one of them, they are able to connect you with their colleagues in your location. These are the sort of people I would direct a person who is experiencing Domestic Violence to get help from.

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On the role, the church should play in Marriage
This is an interesting question that comes up again and again. The first marriage is not a Christian institution. It is a human institution. What this means is that there are marriages that do not take the Christian standards and perspectives as their guide. That said, the church has an important role to play. Encouraging and supporting church members to maintain genuinely healthy marital relationships that are models in the community is the primary role the church can play. This requires a willingness to address dysfunction issues like adultery and abuse. If the church does this, such relationships will provide templates for community members to build their own marriages with.

Being a Woman of Rubies
I’m a Woman of Rubies because I recognise that I am uniquely created by God for the positions and roles I have in life.

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I’m constantly looking to let myself shine, regardless of the position I find myself or the age I reach. This means constantly learning, growing capacity and reinventing myself to meet the needs of those I look to impact and inspire.

For those who are afraid of marriage because of the high rate of separation and divorce

What you focus on grows. If you feed your mind with reports of marriage crises and fatalities, your mind will accept that as the only reality. However, if you feed your mind with reports of healthy and thriving marriages and follow it up with honest inquiry of what makes such marriages work, you will be rightly equipped to make your own relationship work. In The Right Fit Marriage Academy, an arm of MOE Advisory Limited, we have members of our community who experienced significant paradigm shifts and lost their fear of marriage as they did what I just advised. Today they are in healthy and happy marriages.

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