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The link between financial well-being and marital conflicts

Saturday January 26 2019

A couple fighting. Are broke men bound to leave the women who build them up? PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

A couple fighting. Are broke men bound to leave the women who build them up? PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP  

SIMON MBURU
By SIMON MBURU
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There were signs from the start that MacKenzie Tuttle was destined for great things.

It was not a wonder that she was accepted at the prestigious Ivy League- Princeton University in US — for her bachelor’s degree in English.

She studied under the world-renowned author Toni Morrison, who acknowledged her as one of the finest students she had engaged with in her career.

In 1992, Ms Tuttle graduated with the highest honours and joined the multinational investment management firm, D.E Shaw, in New York.

It was while working at this firm as a research associate that she met and fell in love with one of her colleagues known as Jeff Bezos.

The two were engaged for three months and in 1993, they decided to get married.

At the time, Bezos had worked his way up the career ladder and was now the vice-president at the firm. In 1994, Bezos told his wife that he wanted to quit and start an online business where people would sell and buy books.

“I could hear the passion and excitement as he told me about the idea. And to me, watching my beloved spouse have an adventure, what would have been better than become part of it,” Ms Bezos said in an interview with CBS in 2013.

QUIT THEIR JOBS

The couple quit their jobs and shifted to Seattle, where they established their online bookstore — Amazon.

Their venture grew beyond reaps and bounds. And 25 years later, in January 2019, Amazon was declared the most valuable publicly traded company in the US, with a market capitalisation of $790 billion.

This came months after Bezos became the richest man in the world. He now holds a net wealth of $135.6 billion.

To many people, Bezos and MacKenzie's love and marriage would be the proverbial fairy tale. But alas! On January 9 this year, Bezos announced that he was divorcing MacKenzie after 25 years of marriage.

The announcement by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world's wealthiest man, and his wife that they will divorce has captivated the imagination of the world. PHOTO| AFP

The announcement by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world's wealthiest man, and his wife that they will divorce has captivated the imagination of the world. PHOTO| AFP

“After a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce …” Bezos said on his twitter handle. As the news of the divorce continued to confound the world, it was quickly revealed that Bezos had been having an affair with his friend’s wife.

The affair with TV siren Lauren Sanchez is widely being seen as the last straw that broke the camel’s back. In quick succession, racy text messages and explicit photos that Bezos and Ms Sanchez have been exchanging have come to light.

In one of the text messages, Bezos is claimed to have told Ms Sanchez: “You make me better. You’re meant for me. I know it more clearly than I’ve ever known anything …. I love everything about you. I love that your last pic takes me completely out of my head. I am crazy about you …”

The break-up of this globally renowned couple has elicited fears among women that a man will only be good as long as he is broke or financially moderate.

Divorce papers. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Divorce papers. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Take Patricia Kajuju, a PR practitioner based in Nairobi, who has dated both a broke and a well-off man. She says most men are indeed more likely to leave a relationship or marriage once they get rich. “You will technically be supportive of a broke guy especially because women are naturally wired to nurture. But once he makes it, his ego will get so bloated that he will start to feel that he needs another woman whom he can financially control without allegiance,” she says. Having dated on both spectra, Patricia say she would rather date a man who has his act together. “I want a man who has his business or career well set before I even meet him. It will make it easier for both of us and will also determine his outlook in life and level of mental stability,” she says.

Incidentally, one of the quick dating assumptions is that broke guys are generally well mannered while rich guys will tend to be boisterous and overbearing. But this is not always the case.

“I dated a wonderful, well-mannered man from uptown. I liked him more than the broke guy I had been with. He ticked the majority of the right boxes. But since I am a woman who has my life set, I ended up dumping both for different reasons,” says Patricia.

Nonetheless, the big question is: Are broke men bound to leave the women who build them up? For a start, there are men who link up with women because of the depth of their purses rather than love or a willingness to commit to a long-term relationship.

Ken Munyua, a psychologist based in Nairobi, says if the man’s stay in the relationship was primarily motivated by money, he will definitely leave once he has his fill.

This though may not be the reason behind the break-up of Bezos and MacKenzie, he adds. For example, Mr Munyua says the racy text messages that Bezos sent Ms Sanchez cast him as an expressive man.

“The logical thing would have been to exchange this correspondence with his wife. The question then becomes whether his wife was receptive of such expressions,” he says.

This resonates with 35-year-old Sylvia Kioko's sentiments. She says the case of Bezos and Mackenzie might not have been due to his position as the wealthiest man in the globe.

“I feel that it was not about leaving after making it, but rather a love season change and what they decided to do about it,” she says. “In any case, if it was the money, then the wife stands to gain as the divorce settlement will make her the richest woman in the world while dethroning Bezos as the richest person in the world.”

Ken also says that a number of married women will make the mistake of falling into the comfort zone after a few years of being with the same man. This is a catalyst that may drive the man away. “They settle too comfortably and don’t want the thrills that birthed and nurtured their relationship anymore. If a husband tries it, he is met with the question: who taught you that?!” he says.

TO SUPPORT OR NOTTO SUPPORT

Patricia says rather than extend support to a broke man, it will be better for the woman to get her life together. “It is hard taking care of a broke man in Nairobi.

The house of cards is real and in the modern and liberated dating sphere, your man may be yours only when you’re with him, regardless of whether you’re taking care of him or not,” she says.

She cites the persistent hierarchy of the rich marrying the rich and the poor marrying the poor as a status quo that is not so far-fetched.

Incidentally, there are women who will prefer to start a life together with a broke man.

Rachel Adhiambo, 30, says despite the risk that a man might leave once he gets rich, her most ideal man remains the one she can start from the bottom with.

“I would not prefer to date a ready-made man. I would prefer the one I can start life together with. As much as he might leave, he will live to respect me,” she says.

Her views are echoed by Maryann Kurgat, a 33-year-old banker based in Nakuru, who says that men are not always destined to leave.

“There is a possibility that the man might cheat on you, but leaving the marriage or relationship will not be because of the money or assets he now has,” she says.

THE MAN’S TAKE

Strikingly, a few men who spoke with the Saturday Magazine refuted the claim that men will leave, become promiscuous or act out of order once hit their financial peak they.

“On the contrary, it is the women who leave when they get rich. I think that men respect women and the fact that they stand with us through the journey,” said Elias Wanjohi, who runs a fleet of taxis in Nairobi.

But then, some men will leave if they felt that their women mistreated and shamed them in the manner they gave them help.

“There are women who give men financial help that is highly condescending. They make their men feel lesser men, and charity cases,” says Josphat Wafula, a systems administrator at a Nairobi based IT firm.

“Sure, the man will accept the assistance since he doesn’t have much logical choice, but he will receive it with a pinch of resentment that only gets stronger and more rancid as time passes,” he says.

This kind of turnaround is not always gender specific.

Wafula says just as a mistreated man will be likely to leave once he hits the jackpot, so will a woman who has been financially suppressed by her well-off man.

“Mistreated women who eventually get money and influence are likely to act in the same way as mistreated men who get money and influence. It is not a male condition but rather a human condition,” he says.

Interestingly, natural instincts also play a role in driving men to get more women once they strike riches.

“Men are naturally wired to provide for women. But few men will date more women if they cannot satisfactorily provide for them. Getting rich instinctively gives men the power to conquer, provide and lead, just as male lions do with their prides,” says Munyua.

Wafula concurs. He says many times, a man will go for ‘slay queens’ simply because he now has the social standing to access a certain type of woman he had always wanted but felt he couldn’t get.

“Unfortunately, this will be some younger woman who will only be interested in what the man can do for her,” he says. “Add money and enhanced confidence on his recipe, and suddenly the man will be gravitating towards college students and university leavers with fake hair and derrière that he considers ‘prettier’ than the lovely wife who has given him three kids and helped him set up a thriving business.”

To avoid disappointment down the years, Constance Aketch, 34, says women should be specific on why they are offering support to men and what they expect in return.

“Get a man you love and who makes you feel special without necessarily having to bend over and offer financial support,” she says. “I will only date a man who is self-aware, keen on his hustle and treats me like a queen.”

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