By Maria Immaculate Owechi
They walk in, a fetching picture of a perfect marriage. When they sit, she taps a space near her, signaling him to sit closer. He obliges. She is the cheeky one of the two and draws him in right there with her. Momentarily, they look into each other’s eyes and laugh as they talk. They seem like a couple that got their happily ever after with each other.
When Dr Jeff Mukasa Sebuyira, a capacity building expert and his wife Dr Lydia Mpanga Sebuyira, however, start to share about their marriage, their story tells more than meets the eye.
The couple was hosted at Watoto church’s Power Sex and Money event on February 21st. The topic of discussion for the night was if the notion happily ever after exists after marriage. The Sebuyiras’ for many years have been marriage counselors at the church which is probably why many flocked the venue to pick a few a tips on how to sustain their marriages.
So does happily ever after exist?
Dr Lydia says that any relationship, even non-marital ones, has seasons where there is happiness and challenges.
She said, “To be honest it is doing life together so whether you are a in a family or friendship there will be moments where you are not happy but there will always be amazing moments which excite you.”
Her husband added that happily ever after sounds like a fairy tale story but to achieve it there is a lot of work that goes in.
“From the outside it looks nice but marriage is work. You have to be intentional to make it work,” he explained. “When challenges came into our marriage we purposed that by God’s grace we are going to make it work, break point or no break point.”
The couple shared a number of things that they have done to be where they are.
Dating in the marriage
Once people are married, their efforts are usually focused on raising children and a family, which is important. However they should be careful to forget that the two of them and their relationship is just as important and should be maintained.
The Sebuyiras revealed that they always go out once a week for date nights to keep their marriage fresh.
This, they say, has been the secret to their rejuvenating 21 years in marriage (it will be 22 years in August). The revelation of their date nights left the audience in amazement because many couples in their age bracket may have lost interest in such. But, as the Sebuyiras testify, it is important.
Dr Lydia said, “I remember from the time where we used to live in Mengo, we would always go and have our dinner at Namirembe Guesthouse where we would sit watching the city while eating our chips and looking in each other’s eyes.” The couple have kept the practice.
Knowing what excites your partner
Knowing what excites your partner is one thing; practicing it however is another. The latter is what will bring results.
Jeff revealed that on special days like birthdays or Valentine’s Day, he always surprises his wife with a bouquet of flowers.
“Just like any other lady my wife likes to show off, so I always ensure I publicly present her with her favourite flowers so that she can show off to her friends,” he said.
Lydia also revealed that when she turned 50 years old, her husband took her on a boat cruise. Her husband adds that he knew what excites his wife right from their dating days which has prompted him to continue making big gestures to her.
Standing in the gap for your partner
Some times in a marriage, one partner may face a problem. The couple says how the other person responds is key.
“I have had mental health challenges, there was a time where I wasn’t sure I wanted to be alive anymore,” Dr Lydia said amidst tears, “But that was not because of our marriage but something that was going on with me but I am glad he stood by me.”
Dr Jeff also revealed that one of their children is sickly which has been difficult but standing together has kept them strong.
“In our culture there is a tendency to put the blame on the wife especially if the child’s sickness is genetic,” he said, which of course just adds one challenge onto another.
Even then, Jeff said, a couple has to make a joint decision to be intentional in making their marriage work in spite of the challenges they faced.
Support and compromise
The Sebuyira’s have spent a significant half of their life working in different countries and they admitted that it was tough. Lydia revealed that as a newly married woman, having a husband that travelled a lot was not exactly what she had bargained for but she was still supportive. After a couple of stints working out of town and in other countries, Jeff eventually came back and settled home.
However, a few months later, Jeff received a promotion at work to become part of the group management at Coca-Cola headquarters in South Africa. At this point, Lydia was more solemn than excited as she had hoped he would settle home so they could build their life together. After discussing the issues, the couple agreed that Jeff would turn down the job. They also sat down to discuss the dilemma with friends, something Lydia stressed during the talk.
“It is important to have accountability partners who are also married and who you can be real with,” she said. In this case, their friends advised them to check and see if Jeff’s employees could help get Lydia some job interviews in some hospitals in South Africa. It turns out it was a possibility. The couple moved and worked there for a year and a half before returning home.
She concludes that being understanding and making compromises whenever one had to travel is the trick that enabled them to maintain their bond.
How they met
Dr Lydia revealed that they first met in primary three while pupils of Nakasero primary school, Kampala but she quite doesn’t remember him well except for their mutual friends.
Her significant half rather says he just has a vivid memory of a little girl in his class with two puffs on her head.
The two were later to meet again as students pursuing a medical course at a university in the United Kingdom.
“It happened to be my third year when I met again this young lady who was the MC at our medical dinner,” Dr Jeff said. “At that time, I was 23 when I decided to ask her to be my girlfriend which she turned down.
It was after 10 years when the couple met again and the capacity builder received a positive response.
Dr Lydia explained that she eventually accepted because in between those years she dated other men but they didn’t quite understand her background.
“By that time I had lived 19 years of my life in the UK and I also come from a family that is deeply embedded in the Buganda culture,” she revealed. “So I needed somebody who understood both sides of me and its only Jeff because we were doing the same thing.”
Dr Jeff added that meeting after 10 years was the right time because he had become mature and secure in himself.
“I had gotten to a place where I wanted to be honest, faithful and keep myself until I met the right person,” he added. “I had develop academically, financially and socially enough to be an equal partner with Lydia.”
His wife agreed saying she also accepted his proposal because he had become a progressive man.
The physician further encouraged the single ladies in the audience to aim for a man who has a plan for his life, is on a journey of self-improvement and also going where God wants him to go.
The two later got married and have been blessed with three children with the eldest son Tendo Sebuyira at 20 years , the second son David Sebuyira at 18 years and a last born daughter, Ssubi Sebuyira at 15 years. They also have an adopted son called Douglas Sebuyira who is 18 years old.
Dr Jeff Sebuyira is holds a doctorate Business Leadership from the University of South Africa and is a capacity building expert with a strong business leadership and financial background. He has worked for multinational organisations in various parts of the world.
He specialises in facilitating the development of Strategic Plans, business coaching, financial training, team building, and leadership essentials.
Dr. Lydia Mpanga is the director of Capacity Building at Imprint (U) Ltd, a clinical assistant professor in the department of Global Health, University of Washington, and an internationally certified executive coach.
Her executive coaching is for leaders and managers in the private and health, NGO sectors, especially in the context of culture or career change, leadership development and maximising individual potential.