What divorce taught me about a good marriage

Friday August 21 2015

With the benefit of hindsight, six divorcees

With the benefit of hindsight, six divorcees share what they now know about what constitutes a good marriage. PHOTO| FILE 

By SIMON MBURU
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When newlyweds walk down the aisle, hand-in-hand for the first time as man and wife, they dream of wedded bliss; a lifetime of excitement punctuated by more ups than downs and the will to fight for their marriage for as long as they both shall live.

However, as they soon realise, bringing two people together in matrimony, comes with its own challenges, and sometimes, those challenges lead to irreconcilable differences. If there is no fighting chance, the bubbly couple of the past opts to separate. But while divorce does come with negative emotions, if the former partners step back to reflect, they will see a silver lining in their separation – some lessons about marriage that can help them have a better relationship if they give marriage another shot in future.

This is the focus of this piece – the Saturday Magazine sought to know from divorcees what their experience taught them about what makes a good marriage. Here is what they said:

MARRY YOUR FRIEND

This is the biggest lesson Robert Burale, an image consultant, learnt from his past marriage. “My marriage broke down after exactly one year and two days,” he says. “I felt like a failure, a worthless man. Looking back today, there are things I could have done better.”

Robert shares that he should have communicated with his spouse better and spent more quality time with her. And in retrospect, Robert notes that all that would be possible for someone who marries his friend. “It is very important that you marry your friend.

“In the days after a wedding, a newly-wed couple will enjoy the highs of fresh romance. But life soon turns into a boring routine. It is only then that your decision to marry your friend will come in handy!” he says.

Robert, who previously struggled with a strip-club addiction, advises that while you must be open to each other about your past struggles, you should never talk ill about your husband or reveal his dark side to all and sundry.

“Don’t talk ill of or demean your husband in public. You should cover him instead. If you don’t, he is bound to feel belittled, sometimes beyond repair and may very well walk out.”

IT'S NOT YOUR DUTY TO MAKE YOUR SPOUSE HAPPY

Rita Mueni wishes she knew this when she got married. “Back then, I thought it was my duty to make my husband happy for the rest of his life. I didn’t realise that no one else was responsible for his happiness but himself,” says Ms Mueni, a 36-year-old businesswoman who was married for three years.

She observes that instead of feeling obligated to make your partner happy and provide him or her with happiness, you should create an environment that nurtures your happiness and that of your husband or wife.

“Don’t try to make him happy. Instead, create a space within which he can be genuinely happy. This means you need to avoid unnecessary irritants and conflicts in your relationship.”

THERE'S MORE TO A GOOD MARRIAGE THAN REGULAR SEX

When she got married two-and-a half years ago, Esther Muragu was determined to keep her man from cheating. Her affair-proof weapon? Regular sex! But while she and her husband engaged in physical intimacy numerous times a week, her marital health became more deficient as months passed by.

“No matter how much sex I offered him, it didn’t keep him from cheating,” she says. “I wondered what I was doing wrong. After all, I was convinced that if I gave him enough sex, he wouldn’t need to look for it out there.”

Finally, on February 15 this year, Esther walked out of her marriage. “I was using his phone when I saw obscene photos in his WhatsApp messages. They were from another woman we’d had an argument over before.

We had another heated argument during which he angrily admitted to having an affair with her. I couldn’t take it. I called a cab and just left.”

Looking back, Esther says that the regular sex masked the fact that she and her husband did not enjoy a deep relationship. “I focused more on the sexual aspect of marriage at the expense of nurturing other areas that contribute to a wholesome union. If I were to do it over again, I would emphasise on a healthy and intimate mutual relationship.

I would date my partner more, court him and go out with him more. Sex would be the result of that relationship.”

STAY FAITHFUL

After you have been married for a while, the illusion and excitement that erupted from your dating days will wither and you will realise that there are more beautiful women and more handsome men that your partner.

Rosemary Adhiambo, who lost her marriage due to cheating in 2013, knows this too well. “I cheated on my husband with one of our family friends. He was married too. I thought he was more fun to be around with.

He would seem to appreciate and understand me more than my ex-husband did,” she says. “What I didn’t realise then is that once you marry someone, you will always come across someone who appears much better than your spouse.

In fact, the people who will hit on you will tend to be much better than your partner: more handsome, more successful and more promising. The grass will always appear greener on the other side.” Ms Adhiambo says that you must refuse to be swayed by what looks better.

“Bear in mind that your spouse also meets interesting folks just like the ones you interact with. Compliment him and work towards making him feel wanted and valuable to you and your marriage.”

LOVE AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

According to Joyce Gachui who got separated from her husband three months ago, you should never marry someone who forces you to change or abandon your dreams. “If a partner is not willing to accept you and your aspirations, then he shouldn’t be with you in the first place,” she says.

“Love yourself first and do not neglect your dreams and goals in life simply because you’ve married someone.” David Olwenjo adds that you should not neglect your appearance after taking your vows.

“Once you get married, you may think that you don’t have to put in any effort about how you look because you are now off the shelf. This is the mistake my ex-wife and I made,” says David who is currently separated from his wife of four years.

“The first thing that attracts you to your partner is how she looks. You may think it is superficial, but becoming too comfortable and not doing anything to maintain our attractiveness to each other, led to the decline of our intimate life and the desire to spend time with each other. Now we are paying the price.”