Mercy John, a 33-year-old mother of two describes herself as a married single mother. Her husband of seven years is married only on paper. He is hardly ever home, forcing her to singlehandedly raise the kids, show up solo for their school events, make hospital visits alone and sometimes even plan and celebrate birthdays without him. When he is home he is inattentive and deems it too much work to play or talk with the children.
“I have no choice but to do everything by myself,” she says.
Her man works hard in real estate and rakes in a tidy sum but other than their house rent, he keeps his paycheck to himself. Julian is forced to pay all the other bills from her much smaller salary sometimes reaching out to her father for help. She has tried to make him contribute financially, emotionally and physically many times first by asking, then nagging and then giving ultimatums but she has only succeeded in making him angry and subsequently having him stay out more.
“I might as well be a single mother,” she says. “The hardest part of it is raising my children to honour a man they barely see.”
The 33-year-old is just one of many Kenyan women living this double life; acting happily married to friends and family but being the only adult in charge of the home front. She now feels resentful towards her husband for refusing to contribute and reckons that she would be lonelier if she were single.
“He is an only boy in his family. He has four sisters who did most things for him growing up. I think this is why he behaves like this,” she says.
Her friends think her husband behaves the way he does because she is a pushover and is not hard enough on him. Experts, however, blame it on low maturity levels. Author Tiana Walker in her book Married But Single argues that an uninvolved husband may have negative connotations of what being married means. He may think of marriage as restricting and subconsciously opt out of actively participating in it.
The other type of bachelor
There is another type of bachelor husband— the one who fulfills his role as provider but refuses to bear the burden of marriage and fatherhood. Rachel G’s husband of six years is one such man. Despite being a father and a husband, he still wants to go out to bars with the boys and stay out late several nights a week. Also, he tends to do things, make life changing decisions and investments decisions by himself without consulting his wife. While she admits enjoying the fact that she sometimes gets to lead a somewhat independent life, it’s frustrating not being able to count on him.
“He has refused to grow up,” Rachel, 28, says.
They were both 22 when they got married and in retrospect, she thinks this maybe the cause of his behaviour.
“I don’t think he wanted to get married. I got pregnant and he succumbed to social pressures. Had I known he would retaliate by refusing to give up his freedom, I would have suggested we try co-parenting without getting married. It’s very lonely,” she says.
Can he be reformed?
It is clear that nagging or hounding your man is unlikely to get him more involved or to make him give up the single mindset for a more mature family mindset. How then can a woman turn her man from a bachelor to a husband?
Since incessant reminders and nagging don’t work, you can try the opposite—Articulate your expectations without seeming like you are constantly lecturing.
Talking may however not work with the man with the low maturity levels who never made the transition from bachelorhood to husband. For this one, a couple might need professional counseling to help him realise that he is now a man with a family to look after. Beyond this, all a woman can do is wait, watch and hope that the will grow up.
Is yours a bachelor husband?
Answer the following questions giving a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. Think of the answer that best describes your man and how he reacts to situations.
1. He comes and goes as he pleases without feeling the need to inform you of his whereabouts.
2. You have no idea how much he earns or how he spends his money.
3. You only know about major purchases after they have been made.
4. He neglects to inform you of a death or illness from his side of the family.
5. He can’t handle stress. When under pressure, he turns to addictions like alcohol.
6. Your man puts his career and his friends before your family.
7. He deems child care as a woman’s job.
8. You have a child or children together yet he has limited parenting skills.
9. He expects you to mother him and accept him unconditionally.
10. He is generous in public, may spend money on other people but refuses to spend money on you or your children.
11. He seems to live in a virtual world of fantasies. He will often talk about striking riches but has no solid plans on how to get there.
If your answer to most of these questions is a ‘Yes’ yours is probably a bachelor husband. The good news is that with some work, there is hope of him transitioning into a proper husband.