Mrs Ronke Ajayi is like many people who truly believe that marriage is made in heaven. That is if the couple allowed God right from the beginning to guide them into the union. In this interview she talks about the dos and don’ts of courtship. Excerpts…

I got married in August 2000 to Lamide Ajayi. We are both entrepreneurs and we have three children. My husband is into construction engineering while I distribute non-alcoholic drinks. I worship at Foursquare Gospel Church , Egbeda and work with teenagers and singles.

We also have a foundation known as Kingdom Pillars Foundation, through which we organize outreach programmes to educate secondary school students on issues of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, pornography and such other issues that have to deal with teenagers. We go from school to school.

The singles ministry is all about preparing singles for marriage. In this regard, we talk about the law of dating. One of the reasons people don’t get fulfillment in their marriage is that they don’t have a life of their own. Where this is the case, the individual will become dependent on another person, which is not supposed to be so. There is no human being that has been structured to fulfill all your needs. So that is why it is important that singles build a life for themselves, they should not be desperate. When people don’t have a life, they become desperate, dependent and despondent. All these things are not healthy. And once the other party sees that you are over-dependent, the relationship will suffer and may even be destroyed.

What do girls look out for in a man and what should they look out for in man?
We live in a culture that is highly materialistic and so when single ladies are looking for a spouse, you find that they are looking for a man who is settled and has a house, a car and probably a job in Chevron or MTN or GLO. Usually these are the things that they look out for and which are physical things. These things are not bad in themselves, but they should not be the first things to look out for in a guy.

When I talk to singles, I say they should look for a man (or a woman as this thing applies to both gender), who has the fear of God. This is very critical because somebody who loves God will be able to love you the way God wants him to love you and not necessarily a man that is very rich. Like the case of my husband and I, he wasn’t rich at the time we got married. He just started a small enterprise at a time when it wasn’t popular to be an entrepreneur.

To the people around, he wasn’t the type of man you would say a woman should get married to because he didn’t have a job in Chevron and worst of it was that he had family issues. He didn’t have money. Money is not the first thing that one should look at because it is a lifetime issue. Money is good because it will meet needs and other things but it is not the first thing.

So when I married my husband, he didn’t have fat salaries and I could count the number of shoes and clothes he had. He didn’t have a car but I looked at my husband and saw that he had potentials and loved God. I also saw that he knew the purpose of God for his life and was ready to fulfill that purpose. He wasn’t a lazy man because he was already working unlike someone who wasn’t working and not ready to work. He was doing something at hand and I could see all those things even though he didn’t have physical cash, but I saw potentials.

So I say to singles, don’t marry the container but look at the content because there are guys who are very rich now but in the long run they are nothing to write home about. Another thing is that most singles set criteria. Back in my school days, whenever we prayed for a spouse, one of my friends always said that she wanted a guy who was made and rich and who lives abroad.

When you tell her that her feelings were not the right criteria for a good husband, she would disagree, insisting that she knew what she wanted. These are the challenges of today’s singles – they want to meet up with certain criteria and believe they have to meet up forgetting that in destiny there is no competition. So every man should work and take things easy, follow God and do the right thing.

So when the lady is looking for a spouse, it should be someone who is God-fearing, and would share your values, share your vision and make you fulfilled. Then every other thing like cars, houses, thriving businesses and others will come over the years. Just like the bible says that he that finds a wife finds favour from God, if you find the right spouse and vice versa then there is favour with you and everything will be well as you go on in life’s journey.

How would one know the right spouse?
Knowing is very easy but you must know God. There is so much information that we can get it, but because we don’t know God we can’t access such information. It is sad that many of us think that we just appeared on the surface of this earth.

We must recognize God and know that He created us for a purpose. And so when you know that, you will know that it is not every man that a woman can marry but that there is a specific man for a specific woman. Before you can know this, you need to know what God created you for; it is only that you would be able to discover who God created you for, and thereby be able to know the person who can help you fulfill that purpose for God created you.

A lot of people particularly in Christendom want to know God when they want to know the spouse they want to marry or time for marriage. That is not the proper way; it is like when you have a daughter who wants to be your friend only when she needs something from you. It is not the ideal but you should have a relationship with God, fellowship with him, hate what He hates and love what He loves and as you do that he helps you with every aspect of your life like career and business.

When time comes to choose a spouse, marriage will not be a big deal. Before I got married, so many people came my way – pastors and Christians. Each time I took them to the Lord in prayers, I got instruction on how to go about them and when my husband came I knew he was the one. So an effective and functional relationship with God ensures that one will know the right spouse.

I also tell people that marriage is not all about sex. When a guy meets a girl, the next thing is that they have started sleeping with each other. That is not the order because marriage is not all about sex; there are so many things that go into marriage. When you go into marriage with that foundation, the marriage cannot be sustained if eventually you get married because there would not be trust between both partners. And it doesn’t allow for peace, progress and cohesion which a true marriage relationship needs and that is why it is important you walk in the way of God and keep yourself pure. Then there will be less divorce, separation and violent cases around which are as a result of dysfunctional homes.

We teach that people get it right when they meet with the guy, what things to look out for on the first date with the guy and he asks you to marry him. Start as friends, get to know him, his temperament, background and everything that needs to be known about him and as you do so take it to God in prayer simultaneously.

Do you agree with the belief that beautiful girls don’t marry on time?
I don’t agree that pretty girls don’t get married on time except if they are pretty girls who are proud, not humble or submissive and believe so much in their wealth. I know of a girl who started working as a young graduate, got everything going for her. Usually guys are afraid of such ladies – they feel that the lady is already made.

We tell guys not to be afraid if they are sure it is God’s direction for their life but to take time and be close to such person. That was the case with me and my husband; when we first met, we began as friends. Aside these mentioned points, about 5 percent are curses but most of them could be that she is so proud, insolent and not respectful. These are the things guys look out for when they want to marry; nobody man wants to marry a lady that will abuse his mother or mess him up before his friends. These are what I see that could make a pretty lady not marry early.

Why do men stray even when they are married?
First, let me say that whatever you allow in courtship, don’t expect to disallow it in marriage. Most times when people are in courtship, the guy has two or more ladies and usually everyone is aware and none of them is speaking against it and eventually one of them wins and when she enters the marriage she expects the man to change; he can’t change because he has been like that and she saw him like that.

On the part of the man, it has to do with indiscipline and lack of fear of God. A man that doesn’t know and love God can never love anybody, not even himself. A man that will love a woman must be a man who first loves God and has accepted the love of God for himself and is walking in that love of God. When we talk about the dos and don’ts of relationship, we say be careful who you want to marry and make sure he knows God.

A man who does not know God cannot love you because he hasn’t experienced the love of God, likewise the woman. Some women are married and are into extramarital relationships. So, any man or woman who doesn’t love God and is not walking in the fear of God, will do all sorts of things.
In addition to loving God, there is the need to discipline oneself and work on the emotions, be emotionally accountable. A lot of people are not emotionally accountable.

For example, the fact that you got married to a particular guy doesn’t mean you will not be attracted to some other people somewhere, sometime in your life but the difference between those who fall into such sin and those who don’t is basically emotional accountability. If you are emotionally accountable, you know that you are not only going to be faithful to your spouse with your mouth – speech and vows alone but also faithful in your thoughts so that when the thought of temptation and challenges come (because some women go to the length of wooing a man even when they know he is married) the place of discipline comes in; when you tame yourself and say that even though others are doing it, I can’t do it because of destiny, because I know where I am going to.

Most great men fall into the temptation of women, money, fame and so many other forms of temptation the devil brings across our way, but the one of men with women is a very critical issue and that is why every man must work on himself. We are humans even when we are Christians, spirit-filled and close to God. You must appreciate that limit so that when you are beginning to go off your boundary, you should know that this is not it and at that moment you should be accountable to your spouse.

Do you accept the view that men have a trait to always stray or go outside?
In my own opinion, I don’t think that it is what makes a real man. Part of what makes a man is integrity and it has to do with our emotions, feelings and how we handle issues and people around us. Particularly in Africa , a lot of men say if it feels right then let me have it, but should not be so. Everything we do is a seed and you will always come back to it. Like a woman I know, she had a business and was keeping an extramarital relationship.

What most men and women don’t know is that once you delve into the issue of infidelity, it is not just the physical body alone that it affects but everything about you even to your finances and business because it is a sin and sin gives the devil a foothold to attack. The lady was enjoying it, making contacts and having the fun because the husband wasn’t staying in Lagos and so was coming around.

I called her and told her that what she was doing would not prosper her husband. It goes for the man as well, no matter how the man or woman is toiling, infidelity doesn’t make a marriage to be strong, it doesn’t fortify the union, but rather it opens the marriage or family to the attacks of the devil which could come through the children, finances, business and so on. Once infidelity sets into the union, there is a legal ground for the devil to attack.

So that is why men should think beyond their physical urge because it goes beyond that. Once a man or woman goes into it, they are walking the path of destruction. The institution of marriage is ordained of God and we cannot talk about marriage and every other thing without God because He started it, so we must do it the way He wants it done.

Some people believe that long courtship enables the intending couple to know themselves better. So, how long should courtship last?
I don’t believe in courting for too long, but a maximum of two years is okay. The truth is that it takes a long while to really know a person. If you spend five years ‘courting and studying’ the person, how long will also spend learning about him when the marriage actually starts. The whole of the marital years are also supposed to be a learning period.

It is expected that you should discover new interesting things about your spouse daily. This keeps the marriage fresh. But if you are someone who is spirit-filled and prayerful, God will reveal the person. Like when I met my husband there were so many things God told me about him, his kind of person, his family background and his assignment; so I will say it is very important to work on all those details and get to know them.

What other things should be the foundation of marriage?
We should not put sex as a foundation in marriage. Communication in relationship is important. In every relationship, there are two types of communication – the verbal and non-verbal; for every relationship in marriage and in courtship, the verbal aspect is what is acceptable by God – keep talking and fining out as many things as possible from your spouse. It’s amazing that you want to get married to somebody and you don’t know his middle name, his secondary school and so much information and this is somebody you want to be joined together with forever.

That is why two years is encouraged and not a lengthy courtship because it may lead into sin and so many things. A recent study that interviewed a guy that broke off from a courtship of about five years said the reason he did it was that they had been living together and he was no longer sure of actually being in love with the lady or her body. When a guy has been sleeping with a lady and having all the fun, his commitment towards marriage is reduced because he has been having it, the things he should have in marriage, he is already having, so why get married?

Therefore, it is not good to have a long courtship. To avoid such sins, once you are sure and convinced about it, then you can go into marriage. Relationship experts say two years are in order, though some have it less than that to get to know somebody sufficiently. After all, people make enquiry if they want to go to the university or go into a business but why don’t we do the same when going into marriage?

How can one tell he or she is in love?
That is a very big question; how do you tell you are in love? Usually when you meet someone, there is usually this chemistry that makes you attracted to this person and say that you think that you feel you like this person and the person likes you in return and gradually you begin to talk and get to know surface information about the person, his name, place of work, which is known as the acquaintance level and from there it grows. But it is amazing how people just get into this process and simply assume that things will fall in place.

As things grow, you enter the friendship level where you get to know deeper things about him like his birthday, personal issues like his family, his values in the area of money and so on. This helps you know if you can flow together when you get married but when you jump this process and get married then you begin to discover things you didn’t know anything about him, which is like doing the courtship in marriage because you are married to a stranger.

Also it is not all courtship relationship that will end up in marriage. Besides, a broken courtship is better than a broken marriage; if a guy or lady is not ready to change during courtship then he cannot change in marriage because we are not yet perfect but are striving to get perfect and that is why in courtship we get to learn about our spouse’s character and learn to work on them or adapt to them.