Falling in love is a journey that many embark upon with ease and excitement. Yet, the true test of love isn’t just in its beginning but in its enduring grace through the trials of time. Navigating this journey with remarkable poise and commitment, Betty and Soni Irabor stand as a testament to the power of lasting love, celebrating an awe-inspiring 40 years of marriage. Their story is not just about staying in love but thriving together in their personal lives and illustrious careers.
Betty Irabor, a name synonymous with inspiration, is not just an acclaimed Nigerian author and mental health advocate but also a pioneering entrepreneur. As the founder of Genevieve Magazine, launched in 2003, she broke new ground in the Nigerian publishing landscape. At the age of 45, she identified and filled a significant gap, guiding Genevieve to become a beacon of lifestyle and inspiration for women everywhere.
Parallel to Betty’s trailblazing path is the illustrious career of her husband, Soni Irabor. His name echoes through the halls of Nigerian media as an award-winning icon with over four decades of experience in radio, TV broadcast, and film. Soni is not just a broadcaster and communications consultant but also a revered speech trainer. His portfolio extends to handling numerous PR and media relations assignments, showcasing his versatility and depth in the media industry.
Together, Soni and Betty Irabor have not only grown as individuals in the media space but have also cultivated a relationship that many admire. Their marriage is a celebration of love, partnership, and mutual growth, proving that achieving great heights in one’s career is possible while maintaining a harmonious and loving home.
In this interview with Funke Babs Kufeji, they share with us the secret to a successful forty years together: love, life, family, and their reality show “The Irabors Forever After”.
Congratulations on your renewal of vows and celebrating your 40th marriage anniversary. Tell us, what is the secret to your lasting relationship?
Friendship is the only secret I know that is the secret to our 40 years of marriage. We were friends long before we became a couple, and that friendship is a constant reminder of why we decided to get married. As friends, we laugh together and share precious moments together. We genuinely like each other. Then, we managed to resolve our conflicts amicably without dragging ourselves like tiger generators (lol) outside of our four walls. We are also good at communicating with each other. Soni and I talk a lot. Talking is great for healthy relationships.
Tell us how you met your husband and what qualities endeared you to him then and to date.
Soni and I met at a corporate event hosted by a company where I was a rookie public relations officer in 1983. I was out of my depth hosting the event, and Soni came as the knight in shining armour and swept me off my feet. It was a pure fairy tale of boy meets girl, and one year later, we were married. Soni is very caring, selfless, and kind, and for me, those were the boxes I needed ticked. Forty years later, he is still all of those. I love the idea of growing old with him because I know that I can count on him until death do us part.
What has been the most challenging time, and how did these experiences strengthen your relationship?
The most challenging time? Wow! We have had quite a bit, from standing together strong during the years of my battle with depression and suicide ideations to 2020, when Soni suffered a stroke! We have faced bad times, but the good thing is that we face these challenges as a team, not as individuals because we are always stronger together. We have literally walked through the valley of the shadows of death, but we are still here. We vowed to do for better or worse in sickness and health; these vows are often tried and tested by crazy circumstances. Anyone who tells you they haven’t been tried and tested in their marriage must be a kind of angel. The beautiful thing is that we are still here, living our forever dream.
Going by societal values, do you think what it means to be a good wife or husband has changed over the time you’ve been together?
You’re either inherently a good person, or you’re not a good person. It has nothing to do with being married. Marriage only amplifies one’s true character. You can’t fake good character, especially in a marriage. In marriage, you just continue to strive to be good to each other.
How have you kept the romance and fun in your marriage?
Keeping the romance and fun going is what Soni and I do best. We love each other’s company genuinely and entertain each other by partying together, watching movies, listening to and dancing to soul music, hanging out with friends, and hosting our own small parties. We just indulge in stuff that makes us happy. When you’ve been married for 40 years and life has thrown you curves, you often don’t want to socialise, but we are social by nature, so we just get up and have fun.
In marriages, most times, issues come up when third parties get involved, which is common in our country because they say you marry a family, not a man or woman. Based on your experience, what role should friends, extended family, and community have in your marriage?
Shut out third parties when it comes to your privacy, but don’t forget that your in-laws are members of your family, too; you can’t shut them out. If you want a happy and healthy marriage, don’t allow meddlers in. It’s not everyone who wishes you well. If and when you need help in your marriage, see a professional counsellor or that “one person” that both of you are comfortable speaking to.
Let’s talk about your reality show “The Irabors Forever After” on Africa Magic on DSTV. Tell us what viewers should look forward to and why the show is a must-watch.
The Docu-Series “The Irabors Forever After” on Africa Magic captures precious moments and significant milestones in our marriage. It is unscripted and unfiltered in its authenticity. It is Soni and I opening our world to viewers without attempting to change any narrative on marriage. The series is captivating because we are very open about our most vulnerable moments.
Every marriage has its highs, it’s in between, and its lows and ours is no exception. Viewers who have experienced these types of challenges or any other can relate. It’s a celebration of friendship, love, family, and marriage. The high point of the series is the 40th anniversary/renewal of vows ceremony, where family and friends turned up to honour one of theirs. Its relatability and originality are the strongest points of “The Irabors forever after.”
Lastly, with the high rate of intolerance between couples and divorces, we know there is no hard and fast rule to this thing called marriage, but, in your opinion, what is your number one piece of advice for a successful marriage?
Marriage is work! If you’re not ready to be married, then stay happily single. Don’t come into a marriage with unreasonable and unrealistic expectations of each other. Good marriages are the result of two people who are committed and dedicated to the same cause. Good marriages don’t just happen by accident; they happen with deliberate intentions by the couple. Whatever you sow in a marriage is what you will reap. Remember not to be so fixated on your partner’s flaws that you forget your own flaws.
Congratulations on your 40th marriage anniversary! Do you still remember how you knew that Betty was the woman you wanted to spend the rest of your life with?
It was at a get-together Betty organised for her company, VOO. They were launching a musical album by Jonel Cross. Betty got up to speak to the gathering, which comprised mainly broadcast and print journalists. She had this bright smile with sparkling white teeth. I just told my colleagues and friends, Manny Onumonu and Okpo Emetu, “I’m going to marry this girl! See as she fine!”
Betty and you recently celebrated your 40th anniversary with a renewal of vows and a very elaborate reception. Tell us what this meant to you and how it made you feel.
It made me feel young and proud. Forty years is no joke!
Young men now associate marriage with increased responsibilities and a greater possibility of financial loss, which wasn’t so back in your time. Will you say it’s important for a man to be financially buoyant to marry a wife?
Marriage is not a business venture. It is a consolidation of friendship, love, and mutual understanding. They (the man and wife) owe each other a duty to love each other in thick and thin. I agree that it is not a bed of roses alone because the rose plant also has thorns! It is a give-and-take relationship that shows mutual respect for each other.
Do you think what it means to be a good wife or husband has changed over the time you’ve been together?
I believe I entered the relationship knowing I was doing so with my friend, lover, and partner, who generally saw things as I did. We had things in common but also respected each other’s differences. We grew wiser and more mature as we grew older.
What was your experience filming “The Irabors Forever After,” and what was the highlight for you?
Exhilarating! I got renewed hope, especially as I was slowly getting out of a protracted illness. I also felt a rejuvenation of 1983 in 2023! You may not understand it, but there was a newness of spirit for me. Thank you, Betty!
Lastly, with the high divorce rates and separation amongst couples these days, tell us, in your opinion, what is your number one piece of advice as a man for a successful marriage, and what should be a deal breaker to end a marriage?
Marry your friend and lover. Understand your friend and lover. Do not leave your friendship and love in the hands of ‘outsiders’! It doesn’t matter who or what that ‘outsider’ is to you. Do not depend on ‘Olofofos’ for information you can get directly from your wife! If you are in doubt about your spouse from the onset, then don’t embark on that journey. Either you are to blame, or she is to blame. There has to be a good level of trust and respect. The world is getting more individualised because of the distractive elements in our environment. If you cannot trust yourself, then you cannot trust your spouse! Charity must begin with you.