Many people regard me as a relationship coach; I have been invited to several meetings including that of married people to talk about marriage and relationships. I remember one of those meetings I had at one of the Assemblies of God Churches, the resident Pastor called me aside and said to me “Son, you’ve got this amazing wisdom at work in you! As a married man, you communicated to me too! Everything you said came with authority and precision. I would love to have you here in bigger meetings.” I have also helped many people in their relationships, I have counselled few married people too and they got direction. However, I say this in all sincerity; I don’t move about with that label or tag of a “relationship coach” because I am still on the learning process and chose not to go about with any tag. Whatever I decide to talk about is what I have learnt from God’s word and Christian resources, what I have gathered from other people’s experiences or maybe what I think is right. Ultimately, I have also learnt greatly from various people I had sat under their ministrations or leadership. I have given myself scholarship by not limiting myself to the norms and experiences; I have done many online courses and attended marriage training. All my writings and teachings are results of knowledge which have grown in the place of meetings, personal studies, inspirations, first and second-hand experiences.
Now the big question is; should singles teach about marriage? Do they have enough experience to instruct married people? Is it not like a blind leading the one that isn’t blind? These and many more are good questions waiting to be answered and I am going to give my own personal opinions on them. I have had many people throw these questions at me and for good reasons I have decided to give my answers on them at this time. I was actually working on an article but felt it is important to write this before releasing that article.
Experience alone isn’t the yardstick to measure knowledge. Do you have to make mistakes to teach people how to avoid mistakes? Do you have to die and resurrect to teach people to stay healthy? Do you need to build a television to teach people the science behind that technology? Do you need to become a tree to teach people how the tree grows? Knowledge also comes from the place of study and sometimes it is also revelation-based too. For the sake of argument, I don’t want to dwell on the knowledge that comes from revelation but let me touch it a little. The Bible is not a marriage book but it contains certain truths about marriage and in the study of those words the Holy Spirit can shed light on shady areas and bring clarity. In the Old Testament, there were no marriage coaches and counsellors; people learned from their parents but also learnt from instructions already given in the scriptures, these instructions were not given to the instructors because they were married. In the New Testament, it was the same, Paul even made some instructions for married couples even while He wasn’t married; some were based on personal opinions and some were based on what was written in the scriptures.
Now, far from knowledge based on revelations, it can also come from the place of personal study and from what we learnt in experiences whether first or second hand. I remember one certain time, we had a music tutor in school that couldn’t play the keyboard but was able to tell people who play keyboard what to do and when they did it they got the desired result. I also know people who play keyboard but cannot properly teach music or even the keyboard they play. My point exactly is, being married or being single is not a qualification for being able to teach on relationships. In some countries, being a Bachelor of Science certificate holder doesn’t qualify you as a teacher; it may qualify you as a practitioner but not as a teacher or coach but someone with Bachelor of Education is qualified to teach.
We are scared that singles don’t have enough experience to talk about marriage; maybe it is about sex or about keeping a home and we forget the world has reached its peak of the information age. Many of us have never had sex before but we know about all the sexual positions and even the nicknames they are called. As good as experience is, as helpful as it will be, it is not enough because what you experienced is peculiar to you and your perception of life, it may not apply generally, it may not apply in another culture, it may not make sense once you play it out in another setting. Some things obtainable in Nigeria are not obtainable in India because there is cultural diversity. Your experience may help some but it cannot help all! There are people who learn because they want to help teach others and make them better. There are singles that are so well learned on marriage courses. There are people who have prepared themselves so much for marriage and there are people who entered marriage unprepared.
As much as there is the abuse of privilege and so many claims of knowledge out there, we shouldn’t say it is because there are singles that are in the business of coaching relationships; we shouldn’t say that singles who offer random advice on relationships are breaking homes. Being single isn’t what made them unprofessional! There are also married couples who are quack! They are quack because they are quack and not because they are singles. They are unlearned and therefore teach what they feel is true. For instance, a married woman was counselling a young woman who was going through physical abuse from her husband and she said to her “you just have to stay and pray. Keep enduring those punches, it is the true test of love. I went through it too but I survived.” What kind of advice is that? Yeah! She had experience and she forgot that some others who had that kind of experience met the grave early! People should teach what they have learnt so well and know is working and not just what they experienced. It is the knowledge that makes you know what to teach out of your experience and what not to teach out of it.
Professionally, there are trained relationship coaches who started their career as singles! They do as much better as a coach who is married. Being a trained relationship coach doesn’t mean your own marriage and relationship must work! You don’t have to have all of the illness a patient has before treating them and in the same way you also don’t even have to be married to be able to be a good counsellor. Being married doesn’t make you a better relationship coach; being trained and learned is what makes you a better coach.
Let me also bring this in; we do not preach what we do, we rather do what we preach. What do I mean by this? We aren’t called to teach people what we do but what we know is true! However, as we teach it we also learn to apply it to our individual lives. I am not saying our experiences don’t count, it counts so well and in fact, it is a big factor but I am saying that sometimes people teach the truth and discipline themselves to practice that truth not because they want to prove a point but because they know it is the truth.
I have been an advocate of sexual equality and uniqueness and I have always believed domestic chores aren’t specific gender-based roles and anyone could do the dishes and all of that. I have also been an advocate of reflecting these things in marriages and relationships in the most appropriate way. I live in a country where a majority believes the woman is the person to do the dishes and other domestic chores but because of what I believe to be true, I practised what I teach and advocate in my relationships. I had never had a woman visit me to do my chores for me and sometimes I visit her to do her own chores just because I wanted to also let her know that chores aren’t specific gender-based roles. Sometimes, I would visit and do the dishes and the laundries in an environment where it is believed that a woman must do those things for her man to prove she is wife material. I didn’t start teaching it because it was what I practised, I started teaching it because it was what I believed is true and I practice it because it is true and not to validate what I teach.
I also believe in your right to choose. Just like some people prefer female gynaecologists over male gynaecologists, It is your choice whom you want to listen to and therefore nobody is shoving his or her ideology down your throat at gunpoint. When people put up certain things, your criticism shouldn’t be based on if they had experiences but on the validity of what they had said. If you cannot discern their positions then you keep quiet and keep their points aside. Everyone is not sent to everyone, each and every one of us has certain audiences we are reaching. If you don’t like a single person teaching you or counselling you on marriage, kindly look for a married coach, it is your choice but that doesn’t make singles unqualified to take up that career. You don’t have to be a victim of rape to help people who have been raped. You don’t even have to be a victim of rape to guide them through the trauma they face.
Why am I saying this? It is because I personally feel offended when you say “singles who teach on marriage and relationships are home breakers.” Whether you are referring to certain specific singles in your mind, you are referring to me also and you are making efforts to discourage me. I am single; I am not interested in the “relationship coach” tag, at least not now! But I have a lot of things I want to share, some are about marriages, some are about relationships, some are about careers, some are about spirituality and so on! The only disqualification is when I don’t know it, when I have not discerned the truth and when I am totally ignorant. Even Jesus said to the Israelites “follow their teachings, don’t follow their actions.” This means people can definitely be learned of a subject even when they aren’t acting it.
To those who get discouraged anytime they’ve got something in them that will change lives, I have one great advice for you; don’t let anyone tell you how to tell your story! Push it out! Don’t let people kill what you’ve got! You can affect lives, don’t just try affecting everybody. Reach out to your audience and dish out those delicacies meant for them. Don’t just dish out anything though, teach what you know is true. When you are not sure or you are just assuming, make them know you are just assuming. Better still, assume to yourself and not to others.
~ George O.N