The power of “sure”: How one word shapes relationships

handsMy husband is Senegalese. I am not. That means the beginning of our marriage was full of cultural adjustments that were tough but beneficial. Like his incredibly big and open heart. This man will give away our belonging in a minute. He’s also quick to invite people to visit… or live with us. It’s the West African way: teranga, a Wolof word that can be loosely translated as hospitality, but its far more than that. It’s not just about obligatory niceties. It’s about going above and beyond to make a person feel loved, to let them know you truly appreciate their presence. I can’t front; I was annoyed at first. Like, “Who are these people and where is all my stuff?” But my heart softened and I think I’m much kinder and more considerate because of it. Guess I developed a bit of teranga myself.

Another adjustment I had to make was hearing the word “sure” all the time. He used to say it with the cutest little accent, which has since faded. *Insert one lonely tear* Any time I’d ask him a question or to do something, he’d use that word, and I really liked it. Like most people, I was used to “yes” and “ok,” but he said sure for everything. I couldn’t really pinpoint why I liked it so much, but I did! Made me feel good. It took a while for me to realize that embedded in the word sure is the indication that not only is the person willing to meet your request, but they’re actually happy to do. Sure is teranga, hospitality of the highest order.

Think about it. Is it even possible to say sure with malice or annoyance in your voice? It’s the word we use when we’re eager to please, happy to be of service. It lets the person know, “You’re not bothering me. I want to help you.” How good does it feel when someone responds that way?

Business owners (good ones) say sure when customers ask to customize orders. Grandmothers say sure when grandchildren ask for yet another piece of candy. Fathers say sure when weary children ask to be carried. It’s a word of genuine appreciation of presence. That’s why I felt giddy when he said it. It wasn’t the accent; it was the love the word comes wrapped in, the gentle whisper of eager service. Every relationship needs that. To know your life partner wants to serve you, derives joy from serving you, produces a sense of security and respect that only pushes you to want to do the same. And so a cycle of service is created. This is where love lives and grows. The ebb and flow of marriage is still there, but the undercurrent of service always brings it back to balance. So I guess it isn’t really the word that’s magical. It’s the intentions that drive the word, the kindness behind it. So much packed into those four little letters.

It’s not just marriages that can benefit from its use. I try to use it in every relationship of value. I make a point to say sure to my children as frequently as possible. “Say ‘sure,’ mommy,” my son will say. He notices when I don’t. He hasn’t told me as much, but I think he gets the same feeling I got when I first heard his dad say it to me. He’s only five, but he’s astute enough to feel the good in it. I think we all are.

Nadirah Angail

photo credit: Wilson Sanchez


Happy Marriages are Built on Like, Not Love

Photo credit: Morgan SessionsBut people don’t get married because of like. It isn’t like that makes you sync up your life plans and sell off all your extra belonging that won’t fit into the new house you’ll soon share. It’s not like that makes you buy dresses and order cakes and book venues. Love does all that! Love brings couples together, and love is what keeps them there, right?

Perhaps. For sure, love can be the impetus to work through trying situations, but like makes you want to do it.  Like makes it easier to compromise, easier to forgive, easier to be kind. Love just makes it easier to tolerate a stale marriage.

I know, none of this sounds good. No one wants to accept that love isn’t the panacea we’re taught it is. It’s much easier and funner to believe that love is like every singer says it is, like every romantic movie says it is. We want to believe that those tear-jerker scenes in The Notebook are love personified. They’re not. They’re just Hollywood’s glitzy reflection of the imaginary magical love we believe we should all aspire to.

And that’s why so many relationships fail. We’re all waiting for this magical love to sprinkle its easy-dusty over our lives. We think once we find someone to love, the hard work is over. When we discover that this is not at all true, we assume the love is gone and the relationship is, therefore, over. Poor us. We were never taught the truth.

Love builds the foundation, but like constantly renews it

Think of your family members, aunts, uncles, cousins. I bet you love them, don’t you? Even that cousin you almost came to blows with, you live him. You know that if push came to shove, that’s family and there is no breaking the bond. But do you like them all? Probably not. And tell me, how often do you make an effort to be around the ones you don’t like, and when you are around them, do you have a good time? Or do you just tolerate them because they’re family and you love them? That’s what love does. It makes you tolerate things, and put up with things, and grin and bare things. Love is that last rung on the ladder that keeps you from letting go. And thank God for that rung! I love love. I need it. It’s crucial in times of crisis. But when it comes to the day-to-day business of being a happy spouse, like is what you need.

As long as the like is maintained, the love will be protected, But if you let the like wither, the love will crack and crumble. It will shed and splinter, peel and chip. It will fall away from you just as easily as you fell into it.

How to increase like

Like has to develop naturally. It can’t be forced or feigned. It has to happen on its own, but that doesn’t mean couples who are struggling to likes each other have to give up. All it means is that you have to create the type of environment where like can reemerge. That’s all that has to happen. Because surely there was a time when you liked each other. The like was there! It can come back.

First, remember he’s not that bad. Likeless couples tend to create internal images of their spouses that only focus on the negative. You forget he used to make you laugh. You forget he gives the best massages in town. You forget his Michael Jackson impression is both horrible and epic at the same time. The only thing you’ve been able to remember is that he gets on your nerves. Well, you get on his nerves too, but you two don’t have to punish yourselves because of it.

Commit to spending more time together, but it has to be private (read: no kids) and relaxed (read: no talk of agitating issues). What you do is up to you, but I beg of you, no movies! Your like won’t grow back because you sat in a loud, dark room and starred at a screen for 90 minutes. It might also be a good idea to skip a romantic dinner, just for now. That might be too awkward for a couple who feels they’ve grown apart. Instead, choose something interactive, something that requires that you talk or do some type of activity together. Take a fun class at a local community college, do karaoke, cook a meal. Find a way to engage and connect, and make a habit of it. It’s not enough to have a good time once.

Remember how nice you were when you first met? Get back to that. Be sweet, thoughtful, funny, flirty. You probably didn’t notice you stopped doing these things. You only noticed that he stopped. Funny how that works.

As the two of you reconnect and renew your like, thereby refreshing your love, you will create the type of rapport that makes it easier to speak truthfully and candidly. You’ll be able to peacefully address those topics that used to send you into a tailspin.

Remember, it is your undeniable right to suffer through a “tolerable” marriage, but why would you want to? Why not have a joyous marriage? You have a right to that also.

~Nadirah Angail

On Love vs. Finance: Which is More Important in Marriage?

If my memory serves me correctly, the popular childhood refrain explains it all: First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. That’s how it works, right? (Well, minus that baby carriage part. These days, babies show up wheneva, but that’s another topic.) It seems most people would agree that love is a prerequisite for marriage, but that hasn’t always been the case.

Historically, love was not that big of a deal. Often times it grew out of marriage, but wasn’t necessarily there before. Why is that? It’s simple, really. Marriage wasn’t about being with the one you love. It was about creating stable families and communities. Marriage was about protecting the collective, safeguarding the whole. They wanted to make sure the two would produce children and raise them to be productive citizens, thereby ensuring the future of society.  Was it romantic? Not really. But did it work? Yep.

These days, things work pretty differently. The old, business-like model has given way to a heart-ruled approach that gives love and emotional connection top billing. Suddenly, marriage was exciting. It was more than just a fact of life. It was something we looked forward to, yearned for. The heart was running the show, and along with that came the poorly thought out decisions our hearts sometimes coax us into making.

Does that mean marrying for love is a bad idea? Of course not.  I was thoroughly in love with my husband when we married, so I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise, but I also knew that love alone (as strong as it is) would not be enough to make our marriage successful. Love can make you better, but it can also make you foolish.

Love can make an honest and faithful person stay with a cheater. Love can make a kind-hearted man stay with a woman who is emotionally unstable. Love can make a woman repeatedly get pregnant by a lazy, jobless man.  Love is just love. Like an immature child, it’s self centered and only considers itself. That’s why it feels so good, and that’s also why it can be so unstable.

There has to be something more. Couples have to know that even when they’re trapped in discontent, cut off from the peace and solace love usually provides, the marriage can still survive. There should be a deeper commitment, a bridge that carries you back to ease. Is a healthy bank statement enough to be that bridge? Probably not (rich people break up every day), but it is a huge help to at least know that the bills are paid and your belly is full, especially when you have children.

In regards to the question, “Which is more important?”  I can’t give a straight forward answer. You could marry a wealthy jerk and end up divorced just as quickly as anyone else, but I will suggest that women in particular need to pay more attention to finances and not feel guilty because of it. No woman wants to be perceives as a gold digger, but often times this fear prevents us from asking the important questions that need to be addressed. In the same way that our debt and financial history is relevant, so is his. Does he have a savings account? Is there anything in it? Does he have any debt? If so, what kind? Does he have a 5-year financial plan? These are the types of questions a woman should be comfortable asking a man before marriage.

It’s not about finding the richest guy possible. It’s about making a thorough assessment of compatibility, one that does more than simply consider how in love you may be with a person. As women, we must constantly be aware of our wombs – that empty, life-giving space that we could soon find occupied, thanks to the men we let into our lives. And that occupant (God willing) will grow into a small person who will require lots of attention and resources. That’s money. That’s time. That’s attention, energy and love. We owe it to ourselves and our little future occupants to know there’s more to marriage than just love.

~Nadirah Angail

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