‘Our Romance Story’ is an interview conducted By Chidi & Victor Akunna of the FOUNDATION FOR FAMILY AFFAIRS.
Happy reading! I hope you find inspiration in our story. We tried as much as possible to be real and say it the way it is. It’s a story that spanned over 2 decades of our lives. This is just a summary! Lol!
FFA: Thank you for sharing your Romance Story with us. Can we meet you, please?
Kemmy: I am Kemi Odutayo. COO of Me4 Communications, a media firm. I am also the founder of Me4 Initiatives, a non-profit organisation. I am also a blogger, author and host of #ListenUpNG on twitter. #ListenUpNG is a weekly mentoring event on Twitter where I host other passionate men and women of experience and expertise in their areas of influence. We mentor our audience on how to foster healthy relationships in our society. It is one of the Me4 Initiatives.
Kay: I am Kayode Odutayo, popularly referred to as PKO. I’m a graduate of Mechanical Engineering and worked for years as an IT professional at managerial level. Presently, I’m in full-time ministry as an Associate Pastor in my home church, Daystar Christian Centre, Oregun, Lagos and it’s been almost 10 years now. Recently, I have the added responsibility of pastoring the Daystar Online Church. I am passionate about marriages and family and express this via an initiative tagged ‘Marital Issues With PKO’.
FFA: Wow! It is an honour to meet such a phenomenal team. You both are making impact through great initiatives, thank you for all you do. How long have you been married?
Come 23rd of December this year 2017, our marriage will be 17years!!! We first met in 1991 though.
FFA: Wow! 17 years! At what point did you decide to marry him and what attracted him to you?
Kemmy: It will shock you to know that for me, it was like love at first sight! Lol! Immediately I saw him, something dropped in my heart that this may just be the one you have been waiting for! Ironically, at that time, I was praying about my choice of a life partner. I was in my 2nd year at the University of Lagos. He came to visit his older brother’s fiancée that was staying in the same room as I was. He was good-looking, fun loving, compassionate and God-fearing. What is there not to like? Lol.
FFA: What is there not to like?! Fire on Ma!
These attributes resonated with me so much that I was captivated. We talked almost non-stop. He was going through a particularly trying period at home then due to his parents’ separation. I was there for him. Some years later, I started doubting if he felt the same way about me. He never said anything romantically; at least not different from what he said to his other female friends. I know he had several because he’s a great listener and confidante. I started to wonder if I was just one of them or someone special. I prayed and tried to take my mind off it, but all to no avail till I was convinced to ask questions about our relationship. I refused to continue our ‘relationship’ based on assumptions. I felt it was time to have a serious talk and that is what I did. I asked about his other relationships and I asked specifically where he thought ours was headed. This was in my final year. He couldn’t give me a specific answer, but decided to think about it and get back to me. Lol! Can you imagine?
FFA: That was brave, but it was the right thing to do! It is very important to define the relationship so you know where you are going and the limits of your expectations. Over to you, PKO.
Kay: I met my wife in 1991 at UNILAG. She was one of the roommates of my brother’s wife (then fiancée). We became friends in 1992. She was someone that I could talk and share things with and she listened. I told her practically everything about me; my relationships and about everything happening in my life. I even told her when I left the relationship I was in then. She was my best friend. In 1995, a question was asked, ‘what is between you and ‘Sharon’? (not her real name). Sharon was another female friend I had then too. I was able to answer that question plainly and without a pause, but when the question was asked, “what is between you and Kemi?” I realised that I could not give a simple and direct answer like before. I decided to go for a retreat and pray about it at the Redemption Camp. I was confused initially. She had some qualities I wanted in a wife, but lacked some like ‘ability to sing’! Lol.
Love without bounds
FFA: This is getting interesting!
Kay: I love music. I was the music director in my home church back then and in my school fellowship. There I was, contemplating going into a relationship with someone who is tone deaf and couldn’t sing if her life depended on it. Lolz. In fact, she didn’t like singing, neither was she interested in playing any musical instruments. Amazingly and despite all these, I got an inner peace that she was going to be my wife. She was my daughter in the Lord; a protégée too. Lol
FFA: Love has no bounds! That was real and hot. 😀🔥How did you propose?
Kay: On 20 September
1996, I was convinced that she was going to be my wife. I told her that I loved her and I would like her to be my wife, though I didn’t have a dime to my name save the pocket money I received from my parents. I told her I may not have material things yet, as we were still in school, but I know I have a place in God and I would like her to share that place with me. She knew about my past relationships, so there was no need to talk much about that again. She said she was going to pray about it. On 4 October 1996, she said, “YES”!
FFA: Yes, yes, yes! Having those dates in mind after many years is impressive!
What is your definition of Intimacy?
Kemmy: Hmmm. To me, intimacy means being ‘naked but not ashamed’. The ability to share inside jokes and side looks that no one else knows about. Knowing that we are on the same team no matter what. To me, it means being able to discuss anything and everything without fear of judgement or reprisal.
FFA: Deep!!! Over to you, PKO.
Kay: Ehmmmmm. Intimacy to me is being appreciated and not being taken for granted. To me, it’s making each other feel good and not feel as if you are being compared with other people. It means being sensitive to people’s emotions and always wanting to be around each other.
FFA: Thank you so much for that. You both speak from a unique depth of wisdom!
How do you fill your romance-tank; improve intimacy; and take intimacy to the next level?
Kemmy: This part of our relationship was seriously affected in the early years of our marriage. As the years went by, with kids and other commitments here and there, we grew apart. In fact, communication broke down. We have this ‘habit’ of taking stock of our relationship occasionally. When we realised we had grown apart and it seemed there was no more love, we decided to address the issue by going back to some of those things we were fond of doing at the initial stage.
FFA: Hmm! Thanks for your authenticity!!! Spouses must be deliberate about doing things that boost the romance and intimacy in their marriage. Please share some of the things you did.
Kemmy: Talking, sharing jokes, praying together, strategic planning, watching movies and taking time out for retreats and weekend get-aways. Recently, we have inculcated the habit of taking long walks which affords us the opportunity to talk and talk again. Lol.
FFA: Lol! More talking sessions = stronger bonds. Yes, PKO?
Kay: Spending time with each other and talking about many things. Our communication was affected earlier in our marriage because sometimes, I felt unappreciated. I felt she was always trying to make me act and be like who I was not. I felt she compared me in her mind with her ideal man and I fell short of her ‘impossible standards’. I felt she was hindering me from being who I was! I felt she always wanted to correct me and mould me. All these affected me and our communication. I avoided spending time at home, especially with her. I would always say, “I will not be telling you things again”. Before we got married, she always listened to me, but when we got married, she talked more and listened less, lol. She also made me feel bad for telling her my secrets or my activities of the day. She always had something to say about how I could have done or said something better. Anyway, we decided to go back to our relationship and work at it, and here we are, telling our story. We are still working on it.
FFA: Hmmm… thank you for sharing that with our tribe, marriage should be worked on. Like we would often say, “how we nurture our marriages determine how they grow”. Do you have family rituals/routines that help you bond with each other?
Kemmy: Praying, eating together, family meetings, going to the movies, taking walks, vacations.
Kay: …family meeting and going out together
FFA: Great! How have you been able to navigate through the challenges of each phase of your marriage?
Kemmy: Hmmm. Challenges are part of life and we have certainly had our fair share. We still do. At a point, it got so bad that I even contemplated calling it quit. We had grown apart that it seemed we were growing in different directions and there was no meeting point. His refusal to see or address this was so frustrating. I know I wasn’t a saint. I’ve not done marriage before, lol. I guess I was quite opinionated back then. My head was in the clouds. I believed things were to be done at a certain time and in a certain way. I’m used to charging at issues head-on, but this wasn’t so with hubby.
FFA: More like a clash of personalities. 😀
Kemmy: Loads of things were going on that I was not comfortable with. I thought I was being a helper as I was meant to be, but it was counterproductive. He felt I was pushy and bossy, while I felt he was a bit laid back and lackadaisical about issues. He is a Phlegmatic with a dose of Sanguine, while I am choleric. I got bitter, sad, depressed, obese, frustrated and disillusioned. My reality was so different from my expectations of “…and they lived happily ever after”. I just couldn’t understand what went wrong and this guy wasn’t talking! However, one thing kept us during those trying times was our individual relationship with God. We were no longer praying together, but separately. We decided to go for counselling from experienced and trusted friends who God used to give us clarity and healing.
FFA: Awesome! You sought solution.
Kemmy: Counselling afforded both of us the opportunity of opening up to share past hurts, grievances, bitterness, reservations and expectations, we weighed our attitudes and decisions against the Word of God we believe in. It was not a walk in the park, but it was a new beginning. We decided to take baby steps from there on, trusting God to lead us. We decided to trust and obey Him and to look at each other through God’s eyes.
FFA: Fantastic! This is so refreshing because many couples believe that once the love dissipates, they can never make a comeback. Thank you so much for sharing!
Kay: Yes, openness. We tried to talk about issues. We went back to what we used to do during courtship. Did I mention that we used to go and read together at Science block in UNILAG? We would walk down and come back together. We prayed together, though not as much as before because of the challenges we had with our Communication, but we are still building on it. Now, she likes to talk, I’m still finding it a bit difficult, but it’s getting better. She loves to hear about everything that happened in the office like I used to gist her before, but old habit especially bad ones aren’t so easy to break. To God be the glory, we are no longer in the rut where our marriage was, we are working at it and we are getting better every blessed day.
FFA: Amazing! Your experience brings hope, there is hope for every marriage; if the parties involved are willing, there is a way.
What advice do you have for singles/the engaged?
Kemmy: I strongly advise that you marry your friend or you ensure that you befriend who you choose to marry.
FFA: Solid point! Thank you so much!
Kemmy: Challenges and conflicts are easier to resolve in a friendly and non-judgemental atmosphere. I advise you know how God speaks to you; how you come about your conviction about the relationship. I tell you, this will keep you going in trying times. I will also want to say that, a broken engagement is better than a broken marriage. Take note of those red flags, don’t ignore them. Address them. Study each other’s temperaments, personalities, love languages, vision, dreams, and talents. Is he or she accountable to anybody? Check whether you have the grace to cope before taking that leap. Talk! Talk! Talk! Follow your heart, but please take your brain with you!
Kay: Don’t take each other for granted. Don’t work towards changing your partner. You don’t have power to change your partner, but you have power to influence change. Accept each other the way you are now and plan to grow together. Think of adding value to one another and never compare your partner with anyone. Let your partner feel cool about himself or herself first, then and only then can you introduce something new to each other that will compel growth. Go for seminars, visit new places (like my wife was the first person that took me to an eatery, Sweet Sensation to be exact. Lol). Pull each other towards God at all times. Go to a Church that you both believe in. Have similar values. Above all have a counsellor or mentor.
FFA: That was explosive! Super nuggets, very practical.
Any encouraging words for couples going through a challenging time?
Kemmy: Hmmm. This too shall pass. Whatever challenges you are presently passing through, know for a fact that YOU WILL PASS THROUGH IT SUCCESSFULLY IF YOU ARE WILLING AND OBEDIENT. Don’t die in silence. If the challenge is getting more and more complicated, speak out. Speak out to the right people. Seek counsel. Don’t just throw in the towel.
Join support groups where you can vent and rant, yet receive wise counsel in a non-judgemental atmosphere. That’s the vision of my #ThisThingCalledMarriageNG Whatsapp and Facebook Support Groups for women. Fight for your marriage. It’s an avenue God wants to use to mould you and bring out the best in you. Whatever you are seeing now, in the beginning, it was not so. You can get your ‘mojo’ back. Seek the services of a professional counsellor that you both respect.
God hasn’t brought you this far to abandon you. There is a reason you both said ‘I DO’ in the first place. It may be buried under loads of baggage that comes with time, frustration, infidelity, bitterness, hurt, etc., but IT IS STILL THERE nevertheless. Find it. No two marriages are exactly the same because the parties involved are entirely different, so stop the comparison. The grass is not greener on the other side. They just decided to keep watering their garden non. Having a good marriage is a deliberate and consistent decision. Love grows given the right environment.
Kay: Isaiah 1:19. If you are willing and obedient you will eat the good of the land. God wouldn’t have allowed you to marry if there is no good in that marriage, but both of you must be willing to make it work. Stop living in denial or suffering in silence, talk to someone. Don’t always fight to win but fight to be understood. Sometimes, it may require silence to be understood while sometimes it may be by talking. Don’t give up on yourself because of what you are going through, it will soon come to pass. You have to be deliberate to make it work. You are not alone in it. Learn to separate issues from the person. Join God fearing groups that talk about solutions and not just problems. Like on my platform, MARITAL ISSUE WITH PKO, I chat with over a thousand people daily. We share practical marital issues and we draw wisdom from each other to find solutions to issues. Above all, spend time to pray about it. Don’t assume that all is well. Talk to God about everything. All shall be well with you. Enjoy grace.
FFA: Wow! Wow! Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your Romance Story. You are an inspirational duo! God bless you!