Please note that this series contains some sexually explicit content, violence and offensive language. It is not appropriate for children nor an immature and sensitive audience.
A SMALL WORLD - SEASON THREE
Copyright © Ufuomaee
Temi’s Journal entry, 23rd September 2016. 11:05 pm.
How Do I Feel Today? Relieved. I finally told Oyinda the truth and he took it a little better than I expected. So glad to have that off my chest.
What Do I Hope To Achieve Today? Well, the day is already over. Tomorrow, I hope I can face my friends’ disappointment when they realise the truth. I know Lola will be really hurt that I never told her.
What Did I Learn Today? My case is not unusual, and maybe that means there’s hope or maybe it’s just a pathetic reality. I will take the lesson that there is hope even in the darkest place.
How Do I Feel About My Marriage Right Now? Sad. Disappointed. Angry. Exhausted.
I’m glad I came for the retreat. Don’t know if I would have been able to tell Oyinda the truth about me and Michael otherwise. I still don’t want to get back with him. Even if there’s hope for us, I just want to be free. I want a new beginning.
Temi put her pen down and sighed. Oyinda had left her alone, since she told him about her infidelity. Even if he refused to confess his, she was glad to at least be right by telling the truth. Her only burden now was accepting that she was an adulteress, who wasn’t ready to repent of her sin. It didn’t seem fair that she’d have one affair and she’d be racked with guilt to repent and stop, while her husband could carry on affairs without feeling a need to even confess to anything!
When she woke up the following morning, she was surprised to see that Oyinda hadn’t returned to sleep beside her. Had he returned home last night? That would have been very dangerous. She hoped he was safe, wherever he was.
But if he’d gone, what did that mean for them and the retreat? Did she even want to be part of this retreat? Why was she here?
Temi looked at the clock on the wall. It was only quarter past seven in the morning. They were supposed to meet at 8 am. But what was the point if her husband had already gone?
She got out of bed and went to freshen up in the bathroom. She was hungry, so she thought she’d get some breakfast and then take a cab home. Of course, she would have to meet her friends and explain her departure. She felt bad though, especially for Danny, who was celebrating his birthday, and who, no doubt, had suffered personal expense to organise this retreat for all of them.
She frowned. Should she just stay? And enjoy the break? Even without Oyinda? It was an idea she entertained as she opened the door to leave her cabin.
She came face to face with Oyinda. He seemed as shocked as she to find her standing there.
“I thought you left,” she said, even as he said, “I just came to get you.”
“Oh,” they said together.
“I was going to have breakfast,” Temi said.
“We have a meeting in five minutes. We can have breakfast after.”
“So, you still want to do this counselling thing, even with what I told you?” Temi was surprised.
“Yes,” was all he said. He reached out to hold her hand, and Temi was shocked beyond measure.
“Are you sure?” She stopped him as they got on the road. “I mean, I’d understand if you didn’t.”
“Temi, it’s because of issues like what we have that people come to retreats like this. I’m not perfect either. We just have to give this a fighting chance.”
Temi swallowed. She would never have believed it if someone had told her that that would be her husband’s response to the news that she’d been unfaithful. “Okay. We’re already here.”
Oyinda nodded and then continued to lead the way to the meeting room. As they walked, hand in hand, a thought occurred to Temi. “Where did you sleep?”
“I rented a cabin.”
Temi smiled. Oyinda had too much money and pride. “Did it have TV?”
“Did you watch?”
“Okay…” Temi swallowed. “Are you staying there tonight?”
Oyinda swallowed. “I don’t know. I just needed the space to clear my head. Let’s see how it goes.”
Lola had saved space for Temi and Oyinda, and she turned to the door when she heard it open, just after 8 am. She smiled upon seeing her friends holding hands and looking sober. Was a miracle happening already?
Temi sat next to Lola and Oyinda took his seat by his wife. They both leaned over and greeted their other friends, who were already seated. Tolu, Danny and Bolu smiled at them, happy to know that they hadn’t given up on the retreat.
“So, how was your night?” Tunde asked the group.
They mostly just nodded. A couple of people said “Fine” or “Okay”.
“Were you able to write in your journals?” he asked.
There were a lot of blank faces staring back at him. It appeared most people had forgotten to do so. Temi answered, “Yes. But not this morning. I’ll probably do so after breakfast.”
“Yeah, I wrote in my journal this morning. I was too tired last night,” Danny said, feeling guilty about the lie. He’d been very busy doing other things last night.
“Yeah, me too,” a couple other people said.
“Okay. Please, try to do this diligently. It will help your growth,” Tunde said.
“Well, today, like we said yesterday, you choose your groups…” Bolanle started. Someone put up their hands. “Go on…”
“Is it only newlyweds that are in the Honeymooners group?”
“Very good question. And the answer is no. The group is also for those enjoying a blissful marriage, and who would like to maintain that bliss from year to year. The exercises and counselling they engage in are less intensive than those in the Mountain Climbers or Voyagers group.”
“Any other questions?” Tunde asked.
The room remained quiet. “Okay, so, if you’ve chosen your groups, please move to your designated spots, and then we can begin.”
There was some shuffling as people moved about. Danny and Tolu went to the Honeymooners group. Lola and Bolu decided that the Mountain Climbers group made more sense to them. And Temi and Oyinda settled into the Voyagers group.
The Honeymooners were led by Bolanle, while her husband took the Mountain Climbers. The Voyagers group had the pastor and his wife working together to counsel them. The Honeymooners moved out to the poolside to continue their session, while the Mountain Climbers chose the tennis courts for their meeting. The Voyagers stayed in the meeting room.
Temi and Oyinda waved bye to their friends and settled back into their seats again. Four other couples were in their group. Temi remembered them, as she’d thought how similar their situations were when they shared about the reasons they had come for the retreat.
Pastor Okeke and his wife suggested that they do introductions, which they did again. Then Mrs Okeke shared sheets of paper and pens with all the spouses. On each sheet, the instructions were written:
“Write a detailed letter to your spouse, with the following headings:
- Why I fell in love with you.
- Why I married you.
- What I still like/love about you.
- What I do not like/love about you.
- Why I feel things have gotten so bad.
- How I hope things will change.
- What I am prepared to do to save our marriage.”
“If you need more paper, please do not be afraid to ask,” Pastor Okeke said.
“What if we need more time?” Funke asked.
“Take as much time as you need. We won’t proceed until you’ve been able to pour your heart out. Speak honestly.”
In the Honeymooners group, Bolanle took the couples on effective communication and the role and significance of non-verbal communication.
“It is very easy for resentment to begin to creep in because of a small communication breakdown. You may think your spouse has heard you and is ignoring you, when they actually didn’t hear or maybe they heard, but didn’t understand you. You need to be careful and dutiful with communication. You can never overdo it. Keep trying to communicate; to speak more clearly, to listen more carefully, to ask questions, to show an interest…because this is how you will build understanding, trust and intimacy. Without these, you do not have a marriage,” she said.
Danny and Tolu nodded, as they appreciated the message. The small group of three couples also engaged in some communication games and activities, to illustrate effective and ineffective communication styles, and also typical incidences when there’s a communication failure.
Among the games they played was the blindfold game, where each spouse took a turn to wear a blindfold, while their husband or wife would guide them through an obstacle course. With the pool being the obstacle, it was truly an exhilarating game for all involved. They had to be attentive, responsive and trusting of their partner’s instructions, so that they wouldn’t fall in and get soaked.
With the blindfolds, they were also able to play the game, “Get It Together”. Phillip and Kesie started out with Kesie wearing the blindfold, and Phillip giving her instructions to build a tower using building blocks. Greg and Chinelo joined in with Chinelo blindfolded, and Greg giving her instructions on another construction design. Danny and Tolu joined in last, with Tolu wearing the blindfold. All the ladies had to be able to differentiate and listen and trust the instructions from their spouses, in order to successfully complete their designs. When they were done with that round, the men wore the blindfolds and had to listen to and trust their wives.
They all had so much fun with the activities and learned that communication isn’t as easy as it looks. There’s a lot of awareness, work and consistency that goes into effective communication. As small as it may appear to many, it is often the stone that brings down a giant or the bridge that brings together two adversaries. When Bolanle shared this analogy, she was keen to point out that it took many stones strategically placed to make a bridge, implying that it is takes more to bring people to unity that it does to break them apart.
In the Mountain Climbers group, Tunde taught on the subject of forgiveness. It was a lesson Bolu and Lola had learnt through their trial last year – the power of forgiveness. But Tunde shared a new perspective.
“I want you to ask yourself, and try to answer…what is the one thing my spouse will do that I will never forgive? Try to answer that. If you can answer that, then you are not ready for marriage. Marriage will break you. You will not survive it. Marriage survives only on unconditional love, so that there is nothing your spouse can do to you that is unforgivable.
“When you marry someone, it is on the knowledge that they are flawed, and will make mistakes, and it is with the faith that you will never give up on them, no matter what happens. Likewise, there is nothing we can do that God will never forgive. That knowledge doesn’t free us to sin, but liberates us to live…knowing that we are loved and safe, and there is grace enough, no matter what.”
To practice the freedom and power of forgiveness, the fourteen participants in the group were each given a sheet of paper to write their confessions to their spouses. Every secret they may have been hiding in their hearts, every fear or anxiety, every failure. They were to write down their confessions, and then an apology with a request for forgiveness. If they had no secrets to confess to their spouses, then they should write the confessions they would make to God, as if He were physically present.
The couples took fifteen minutes on this exercise before exchanging their papers for their spouse’s. Lola smiled as she collected Bolu’s sheet. He appeared agitated and hesitant, which made her a little nervous. He collected hers, and they opened their confessions together.
“My confessions. I’m not as happy about your sabbatical as I pretended to be. I just think now may not be a good time, because we have financial burdens. But I want to support your decision. I’m nervous also because I haven’t been making any money, but have been draining our savings. I’m worried we won’t cope if you decide to quit from the firm after your sabbatical. Please forgive me and help me understand. – Lola.”
“I met someone a day before Valentine’s Day and again on Tolu’s wedding day. I don’t know her, but she came to my office this week to ask me to handle a case for her. I’m very attracted to her, and I’ve even had a few dreams about her. I’ve never done anything with her, and I decided to request to work from home until my sabbatical, to make sure I have no contact with her again. I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry I feel this way. And I love you. Please forgive me. – Bolu.”
They both looked at each other, Lola more alarmed than Bolu. He mouthed, “I’m sorry.” And it was very hard for Lola to utter the words, “I forgive you.”
After they had all shared their confessions and expressed understanding and forgiveness to each other, Tunde encouraged the couples with more counsel.
“The Bible admonishes us to confess our sins to one another and to receive forgiveness. We are also told to forgive our brethren as many times a day as they offend us. If we do not forgive one another, we shouldn’t expect forgiveness from God. Christianity without forgiveness isn’t Christianity. Marriage without forgiveness isn’t love. So, please practice making confessions and giving forgiveness to one another regularly, so that your marriage will be free of secrets and bitterness, which can choke the life out of any relationship.”
To be continued...
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