‘Valentine’s Day carries no much significance than other days’
Taiye Aluko the Chief Executive Officer of RareGems Counselling and Coaching, a centre that helps people cross from ignorance to awareness, hopelessness to hope and discomfort to ease. With over 16 years experience in couple counselling, actively working in her local church as a Premarital Counselor, the Happy Home Builder is on a mission is to help couples find happiness and bliss in marriage so that they can flourish in life, the work place and society. She holds certifications in Person Centered Counselling, Psychology Counselling, Marriage and Relationship Counselling, Relationship Coaching and is also a Certified Prepare Enrich Facilitator and couples mentor. She believes that there will be a decline in mental health issues when marriages work better. Aluko volunteers at the Ikoyi Marriage Registry, giving talks on principles for a successful marriage. She holds a degree in Law from the Obafemi Awolowo University and was called into the Nigerian Bar in 1992. She also holds an MBA from the PAN African University and is also a certified Prepare Enrich facilitator. She worked in leading law firms before starting an active career in banking, which spanned over 18 years, until 2013 when she decided to follow her passion for counseling. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her vision for seeing marriages work, as well as the significance of Valentine’s Day.
With background in law and then banking, what endeared you to marriage counselling?
In 2004, I was posted to the Marriage Counselling Department of my church at the time. I discovered that it was something that gave me great joy, seeing the transformation in the lives of couples as they became aware of what marriage is really all about. I began to see that working with couples was something that I did effortlessly and something that you can wake me up from sleep to do. It gives me great joy and the feedback from couples has always made it all worthwhile.
You’re passionate about helping couples find happiness and bliss, how are you able to achieve this goal?
I work as a marriage counsellor and coach; I work using the 1-2-1 model of engagement. The beauty of this model of engagement is that it allows me to form a relationship with my couples, understand their journey and meet them on their level; it is never a one size fits all. I find that with the privacy, couples are free to be open and discuss the challenges they are facing; this is usually not possible with group counselling or coaching. Often times, they do the work; I am just there to guide then and show them now. There is no judgment and confidentiality is guaranteed.
It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, how significant is this day to couples?
All over the world, February 14 is celebrated as a day of love. Personally, I believe that if couples have to wait for a particular day in the year to show love, then there is a problem; love is to be expressed every day. So, to me, Valentine’s Day carries no much significance than other days, but then again, couples who believe in it, can take advantage of the hype created around that day to be more intentional in expressing love to each other.
Who should celebrate Valentine’s Day and amid COVID-19, how best can couples and loved ones spread love and not virus?
Everyone can celebrate valentine; it represents a season of love and everyone wants to experience love. If you are single, celebrate yourself by showing love to yourself. If you are married, celebrate your spouse. It’s also a season that reminds us of the power of love; you can seek someone out to show love to. Go out of your way to show love and kindness; gifts, thoughtful messages, creating experiences at home, little acts of kindness that speak volumes. Sitting down together to just listen to your partner… I find that people really want to be heard and understood. So, listening is a great way to show that you care.
What has your experiences been in your field of practice?
It has been a pretty interesting experience; people are coming from different backgrounds and experiences. All these come into play in our marriages because we are the sum total of our life experiences. So, when we get married, we don’t just marry a person, we marry their journey and all they have been through in life. When these experiences are negative or have been disempowering, we find that it always shows up in our relationships.
A lot of marriages today are faced with challenges that have led to separation or divorce, what in your opinion is largely responsible?
From my experience, I would say that there are number of influences; lack of preparation ranks high. People tend to assume that the same relationship they had when they were dating, is the relationship they will have as a married couple; nothing could be further from the truth. So, I find couples have little or no understanding of the basics and the transition that their relationship will go through. They are unprepared to handle changing phases, as they journey through life together. That is why I am big on preparation because there is nothing that cannot be learnt, unlearnt and re-learnt.
Communication skills can be learnt; conflict resolution skills can be learnt. They don’t teach how to be married in the classrooms and oftentimes our parent’s experiences won’t serve because their era and generation was different.
In an era where women are taking up roles that used to be for men, how does it influence marital life and relationships?
I once asked a question of my facebook page, ‘why is it that so many marriages are falling in today’s world, even in Africa that is supposed to be family oriented? I got many interesting responses, but one that really resonated with me was the response from our family doctor. She said that the rise of the woman is leading to the downfall of the man. What she meant was that as women become more influential in marketplace and take up visible leadership roles, it is having a negative effect on the home front. The interesting question is why is this so?
I am never one to prescribe a one size fits all, but I believe it goes back to this issue of learning how to adjust to changing seasons and phases in a relationship cycle. How can a power-woman, who is also a wife, be a leader in the office, but also realise that she has a husband who still wants her to respect and look up to him as the head at home? How can a man who is married to such a woman, celebrate her successes as his and not be intimidated by them? In the end, it boils down to commitment to make it work and the sacrifices and behaviour modifications that they are both willing to make.
What key roles should women not joke with in their homes?
I personally believe that this is conversation between the couples. You have the traditional roles, but I think largely gone are the days of the traditional roles, when you would hear a woman’s place is in the kitchen and the ‘other room’. Now, you have men who cook and love to cook; many women are working as hard and sometimes even harder than the men. Each relationship is different, so it’s up to the couples to have that conversation and not assume. Another thing to note is that roles are not often static and they can change over time.
16 years after, how would you access the impact of your work so far?
My company Raregems has been in existence for four years now, but I have worked as a counsellor for 16 years. I started out in my church and I still serve in the marriage-counselling department of my church. I started Raregems to reach those who do not want to come to church for counselling and those who may also not marry in the church. The progress has been slow, but I am gaining traction and hopefully more progress will be made in the months and years ahead.
With your experience in marriage, what specific lessons should women take home?
I always say that marriage is a good thing because it is a God thing. God created the institution of marriage and nothing He created is bad. For women, I say submission is not an outdated concept; submission is actually an attitude of the heart. It doesn’t make you a doormat or a lesser person. As a woman, when you understand the value you carry you find it easier to defer to your husband’s leadership and authority. I would also say to women that it pays to do it God’s way, because God has the blueprint and manufacturers manual for marriage.
How do you juggle your many roles with being a wife and mum?
It’s pretty simple really, I am blessed with a vey supportive husband; he sees what I do, and is my biggest support system. Also I am an empty nester; two of my children are in University and my last baby who is 15 is in boarding school. I believe that as a woman, you should get the help you need in the home front.
What is your life mantra?
Life is a continuing journey; we never really arrive, so make up your mind to enjoy the ride.
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