Couple: Secrets to the success of our 57-year-old marriage

Monday February 15 2016

Francis Njuguna, 85, and his wife Nelly Wanjiku Njuguna, 79, celebrate Valentine's Day at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi on February 14, 2016. They are always teasing each other. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Francis Njuguna, 85, and his wife, Nellie Wanjiku Njuguna, 79, celebrate Valentine's Day at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi on February 14, 2016. They are always teasing each other. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PAULINE KAIRU
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As Kenyans marked Valentine’s Day on Sunday, a couple that is celebrating 57 years in marriage had much to share with young people hoping to venture into marriage.

Francis Njuguna, 83, and Nellie Wanjiku, 78, tied the knot way back on July 12, 1958.

Njuguna was 27 when he met his wife-to-be at a missionary school in Kabete, where he was training to be a teacher.

She was there for her teaching practice. He says it must have been 1951.

“She saw a handsome young man,” says Njuguna jestingly, as his wife turns to him and quips: “Did you see a young beautiful girl or did I see you?” sending everybody into laughter.

This is the most striking thing you note about the two. They are always teasing each other.

Their children agree on their good-natured humour. Peculiarly, they habitually refer to each other as "mummy" and "daddy".

Njuguna, from Wangige, and Wanjiku, from Kanyariri, both villages in Kabete, Kiambu, say they dated secretly because relationships between young unmarried men and women were frowned upon.

According to Wanjiku, had her parents got wind of it, she would have been in trouble.

“Unless you were married to their daughter, you weren’t just simply welcome to their home,” adds Njuguna.

Even after a four-year separation, during which Njuguna was arrested and detained during a Mau Mau swoop, the pair picked up from where they had stopped and continued with their relationship, which culminated in their tying the knot.

MARITAL ADVICE
When asked to explain their marital success, they cite tolerance, talking and listening to one another.

But Wanjiku emphasises involving God in all that appertains to marriage.

“Everybody has got their own expectation of marriage. But my parents had counselled me. And there is something I carried that got me going. When you get stuck, look to the Lord,” she says.

She blames the failure of many marriages today on what she described as an "I don’t care attitude" and preference for come-we-stay arrangements.

Njuguna backs his wife on this.

“When we were getting married, there were no trial marriages. You went in because you were certain that is what you wanted.

“But today a boy meets a pretty girl and the girl looks at whether the boy has money and they move in together even without knowing each other properly or each other’s homes of origin.”

He says that before one got married those many years back, one had to learn about the other person, the family and clan.