The Star (Nairobi)

1 December 2012

Kenya: What Your Mother Did Not Tell You About Marriage

There used to be a time in the African setting, just after negotiations of dowry, where a mother would tell her daughter to have a seat because they needed to 'talk'.

And as they watched the firewood burn the mother would begin, "Now that you are going to be someone's wife..." Today, the picture has changed.

The lady gets engaged, has a planner to organize her wedding and only speaks to her mother to ensure no uncle from the village embarrasses her.

The chain of wisdom has been broken and perhaps that's the reason behind the increasing divorce rates. Marriages would last 37 years as they used to instead of 37 hours as it is today, if mothers could just tell their daughters these simple things:

You will fight:

There will be times, correction, many times that you will not agree and instead of acting like reasonable adults, you shall instead wage a battle of wits (read as shouting at each other).

Thereafter, you shall retreat to your different corners whereby you will not feel the need to speak to him and he will not see the point of coming home early.

But at one point, you will have to realise that you will never agree on everything and as such both of you will have to compromise. More importantly, you will come to learn that fighting does not mean you no longer love each other. It just means you are two normal human beings who are not an exception to the rule: people disagree.

Handsome prince no more:

It goes without saying that looks fade (even plastic surgery has a limit). Marriage based solely on physical appearance without a character foundation never lasts.

That dashingly handsome man with jet-black hair, six pack abs and arms that would make Dwayne Johnson jealous will one day become a grey haired man with a receding hairline, a one pack (commonly known as 'kitambi') and flabby muscles.

If you don't believe me look at Arnold Schwarzenegger now. Am I saying that you sit back and watch as your husband becomes a shadow of his former self? No! Get him a gym membership or go jogging together.

All I am saying is that don't expect him to look the same way he did when you got married after 20 years of marriage, not even a gym membership will bring that back.

Family will always be an issue:

Meet Belinda who just celebrated her twenty second anniversary, "During the first years of our marriage, my husband's brother came to stay with us as he was searching for a job.

When he finally got one, he continued staying with us and not once did he make any contribution within the house. If that was not enough his other sibling decided to join him and not only did I have to take care of our children, I had to clean up after his siblings.

They weren't too pleased when I finally put my foot down and had them move out. They claim I was hostile towards them and that I alienated my husband from his family.

They did not even show up to our anniversary dinner. But I have learnt to ignore them because I am not married to his family." This is an art you shall have to master. No matter how many times your mother-in-law insults your cooking, you must learn to breathe and smile.

Equality...ha!

Women today are taught from an early age that they ought to be aggressive and to forget the words timid and meek. Mothers are keen to raise strong, independent ladies.

But that does not mean that you must always get your way. It does not matter whether you are a CEO or a judge, it would not hurt if once in a while you put on an apron and prepared his favourite meal.

You will have to make your husband feel like he is still the head of the family despite the fact that you earn triple what he earns. Margaret Thatcher upon being asked on how she maintained her marriage, she replied that once she gets home she leaves the prime minister title at the door and becomes a wife.

You will not always be honey:

Those endearing names he used to call you will be forgotten. He will no longer shower you with compliments or gifts. "My husband would refer to me as Mama Dan and we no longer celebrated our anniversaries.

He would find out it was Valentines by reading the paper or watching the news," Mumo a 38 year old accountant laments, "Then I decided to take matters into my own hands and insisted we have date nights. Now he actually notices when I enter the room and calls me during the day to check on me."

He will lie:

The biggest lie of all time is probably the promise to never lie. We might not intend to but we all lie. Men remain to be the champions. There are times when they think it's for your own protection.

He might lie to avoid hurting your feelings or in fear of your reaction to the truth. Unfortunately, a man's reasoning is completely different from a woman's.

What a man will view as protection, a woman might view as betrayal. In the end, it is up to you to decide whether the lie or transgression will define your marriage or its end.

Sex...it's been a while:

There will be dry spells. There will be days you will be too tired or just not in the mood. Yes you, the same woman who was spontaneous, passionate and could not seem to keep her hands off her drop dead gorgeous husband.

The important point is that you must not let this be a trend. Once, twice, thrice or in intervals is okay. But if you withhold sex for six months (for some it can be just a month) from your husband, be sure that he shall look for another lake to fish in. Sex is that important to men.

You will think you made a mistake:

"There were times that we would go days without speaking to each other, it's like we were strangers. In such times, I would question our commitment and then one day I would come home to a bouquet of flowers with a note written 'I am sorry' and just like that I would remember why I chose him," Mary Ogolla explains. She has been married for the past 40 years and the smile on her face whenever she mentions her husband's name is enough to show that she is still in love with him.

Temptations:

This does not only apply to men, women too can be tempted. There will always be a richer or funnier or smarter or better looking guy than your husband.

You will have to decide whether you are satisfied with the one you chose. The trick is that you can never find a perfect guy such characters only exist in fairy tales, you have to find the guy who is right for you and accept him with his flaws.

It might not work out. Sad but true, some marriage will end in divorce. Not because the couple did not love each other or one of them had an affair, it just did not work out. People do change and at times that change might be too great to accommodate. In such instances, instead of 'hanging in there' and staying in a miserable marriage, you should take a bow and be grateful for the good times you had. It does not make you weak or a coward, you are just honest enough to admit that it will not work out and refuse to waste time.

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