The Star (Nairobi)

29 December 2012

Kenya: Why Men Say 'I Do'

Kenyan women have been the brunt of many jokes when it comes to the pursuit of husbands. The women from Nyeri beat their husbands, coastal women submit and spoil their men, Luo women demand to be spoiled, Kamba women are great in bed, city girls are promiscuous and money hungry.

The stereotypical boxes are many and we are all desperate, at least that's what the urban myth will tell you.

So what do our men want? I sat down with three married men and they shared what made them say 'I do'.

This conversation is never ending because the answer changes with each generation. So what makes men decide to get married?

Why do they pick a certain woman over another? What is the modern Nairobi man looking for so that he can ask that heavy duty question, say those life-tying vows and get married?

I sat down [sequentially not simultaneously] with three men who have said their 'I Dos' in the last three years, and asked them these questions.

They were chosen for their differences in age, and their level of candor. They asked that I keep their identities anonymous so even if you think you recognize someone you know, trust me all identifying details have been altered.

Jacob is a successful guy in corporate Kenya who married an older woman at the age of 30. They have a boy and a girl. Kanja is 33 years old, his wife is 29 and they co-own their business.

They are expecting their first child. Samuel is in construction, 43 and is married to a 41-year-old lawyer. They have two boys. He says his wife has been his best friend for years.

Valentine: So how did you meet your wives? And what stood out about them?

Jacob: We met at one of these corporate cocktail things and we were standing around the same barrel. She had really nice shoes on and one of those tights skirts. She made me laugh. We got comfortable with each other really quickly.

Kanja: She was doing her internship at this company where I was working. She was really nice and easy going. The women in my family can be quite demanding so I liked that about her.

Samuel: I feel like I have always known Susan, I don't remember the moment we met but we've been friends for years.

She really is my best friend and we have a lot of fun together. Something about her reminds me of my mother. She works hard and she goes for what she wants.

Valentine: Was there a moment when you knew that this is the woman that you are going to spend your life with? Or did that happen with time?

Jacob: I was not looking for a relationship, in fact I thought I was too young to marry but within a few months of dating, I had told all my clandes that I had met someone special. I was not in love yet but we were having so much fun I knew I didn't want it to stop.

Kanja: It was not one moment, rather I was thinking about her all the time, we'd go for lunch and then in the evening by the time we got home I had new stuff to tell her.

Then I stopped working at that company and I didn't have a car for a while so I wasn't seeing her as much. Her friends started telling her that I was wasting her time because I was working and she was still in school. So she called to dump me and that really made me focus. I hate talking on the phone but I really made phone calls.

Samuel: We were friends for years and we never really dated formerly. We would have a fling for about two months then that would end and we would date other people.

Things changed when she started hanging out with a really tall and very handsome guy. I was so jealous. I have an issue with my height so it really bothered me and she refused to answer my questions about him.

I realize now that she knew exactly what she was doing. She didn't tell me that they were just friends and that the guy is actually gay until our first born was about six months old and this guy was coming to visit. Can you imagine?

Valentine: Did you ignore any of your so called 'deal breakers', those things that you say you will not deal with like previous marriages, kids etc?

Jacob: Well, she is nine years older than me, though maybe I am an old soul. My father was concerned about that especially when it comes to having kids but that has been sorted out now.

Kanja: My mother had a little bit of an issue because my wife is from a different tribe but that does not bother me.

Samuel: No, no deal breakers. I think I had all the deal breakers because nothing about me looked serious. I had to grow up.

I was quite the malaya (promiscous) but I went to this seminar that really made me look at all aspects of my life and I realised I wanted it to start and I already knew my partner.

Valentine: State the one thing that made you propose

Jacob: We get along. We spend hours together and I find her very interesting.

Kanja: I really really like my wife. I love her but I also really enjoy spending time with her. I come from a family of really critical women and she is not interested in that. I feel accepted by her. We are a team.

Samuel: There is a vision of me that she has and I want to live up to that. She is my best cheerleader.

Valentine: How do you stay faithful?

Jacob: I avoid my exes. It sounds like a joke, but seriously, that's what it takes.

Kanja: I have never been promiscuous. I hear from women that I am handsome, but bed hopping was never my thing.

Samuel: I tell my wife everything. Even the uncomfortable stuff like my being attracted to a woman and occasionally I ask for her help.

I ask her to deal with certain tenants or property buyers. We also have a great sex life... fantasies, games, sexy emails in the middle of the work day. And I don't get drunk without her.

Very few relationships look how we expect them to look. Little in the media talks about difficulties during dating and the especially rancorous first five years of a marriage when you are adjusting to how the other person does things, how they feel about touchy subjects like money, how his/her libido ebbs and flows, children, drooping breasts, expanding hips, in-laws, levels of ambition etc.

These are the obvious issues that your marriage counselor will bring up, then there are other seemingly innocuous annoyances that some experts believe are potentially more ruinous than the biggies - clothes on the floor, toothpaste tube pressed in the middle, eating in bed, a man who sleeps so deeply he pushes you off the bed in the middle of the night... not exactly grounds for divorce but if you do not find a way to forgive these little things, they soon become the only thing you can think of and a few years into your marriage you may be ready to call it quits.

Ladies, it is great to know what makes men walk down the aisle and to assume that we were born ready for the responsibilities of marriage but perhaps the bigger question is: what marriage do you want and do you have the skills to create it?

Perhaps you noticed that the above conversation does not involve sex. That is because the guys gave me 'must have's' for a satisfying and fulfilling sex life.

1. Work out

2. Help your wife out

3. Get good at foreplay

4. Buy gifts, however small

5. Open your heart and talk

6. Take the kids to grandmas

7. Commit to sex at least once a week.

8. You don't have to be able to afford dates must you must carve out time for her, family time is not couple time

9. Play... this does not have to involve nudity but learning something together really works

10. Have fun, it's just sex and we'll be having it for years to come

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