FOLAKE, a flight attendant with an intercontinental airline, met Tunde on board a flight to Germany. Folake noticed that, while she went about her duties busily, Tunde kept looking at her. She smiled politely and served him as she did all the other passengers in the first-class cabin. When she went to pick up his tray, he grabbed her hand and called her by her name.

She was shocked, not realising that her nametag was pinned to her breast pocket in plain sight. He asked, ‘Are you a Christian?’ She was taken aback by this question, because in all her years of flying, no one had ever asked her this.

This question, Folake later told me, was what had first caught her interest. She told him that she was, and asked him the same question.

He affirmed this and said he was a leader in his church. Folake and Tunde kept in touch after this flight. Folake lived in Lagos and Tunde in the USA.

They communicated by phone and e-mail every day. Their friendship began to grow.

Individually and together on the phone they prayed to God to help and lead them.

One day, Tunde called Folake and proposed to her. She accepted, sincerely believing that it was the will of God.

Wanting to be doubly sure, Folake decided to talk to a pastor about the marriage proposal. After praying, the pastor confirmed that it was the will of God.

This gave her courage, so she went ahead with plans to marry Tunde.

Their marriage, celebrated with great pomp and pageantry, soon met with many challenges.

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One of these was securing a visa for Folake to enter the USA. She was unable to get a visa immediately and the immigration laws barred her from entering the USA until her application had been approved.

This put a lot of strain on the marriage. Some months into the marriage, Tunde, unable to cope with the separation, started having affairs. This broke Folake’s heart, but she nonetheless forgave him.

She assured him that he could be stronger and more in control of himself, even though she was not with him. She dedicated him and her marriage to God by praying and fasting.

She believed in God and in what her husband could be, what God could make of him. But it was a tough battle.

During one of his visits from the US to spend some weeks with her in Nigeria, he complained about everything she did. He called her names and was very abusive.

He shouted and humiliated her in public, especially in the presence of his family. He took everyone’s word over hers and this really hurt her.

What shocked her most, however, was that he started attacking her faith in God the very thing at the root of the initial attraction. One day, he asked her for a divorce.

Folake was heartbroken. She talked to him, wanting to know about and understand his struggle. She felt that if she knew these things, she might be able to save her marriage.

However, this did not work at all. He told her that he did not want to spend the rest of his life with her and that he no longer loved her the way she loved him. He told her that he could no longer cope with the stress of marriage.

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He wanted to be alone and, with that, he sent her divorce papers. For about a year, Folake refused to give Tunde a divorce, believing that God would change his heart and make her marriage work.

She prayed and fasted and sowed seeds, but the situation didn’t improve and her husband was becoming more abusive by the day. In the end Tunde stopped calling and never wrote again.

Folake told her pastors, her parents and her in-laws of the problems in her marriage, but no one could help. Finally, she decided to give him what he wanted – a divorce.

The lessons to be learnt;

Folake took stock of all that had happened to her and she concluded that she had made two grave mistakes;

She had not allowed enough time during their courtship to know her husband; she had attached too much value to his claim of being born-again.

In marriage, it is not what you claim to be, but who you are. The Bible says: “By their fruits you will know them.”

Marriage is about finding someone who is able to commit, and commit all the way, Folake realised.

A long-distance relationship requires more attention than when your intended lives in the same place as you do. It is not enough to communicate through mails and telephone calls; you need to spend at least a year in the same environment, where you can study your partner-to-be.

I remember a case where a lady in Nigeria had a relationship with a man who was based in Germany. She believed all the lies the man told her until her pastor insisted on knowing what church he attended in Germany.

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The investigation carried out by the pastor revealed that the man was married and had children in Germany.

-Excerpt from HOW TO CHOOSE A LIFE PARTNER-165 QUESTIONS TO ASK by Pastor Bimbo Odukoya