When a woman falls in love, she believes it will last forever.
Very many women stay with spouses after the love is gone, purely for the children. But it is important to figure out whether this is a healthy situation for the child.
It’s been nine years since Cynthia Gichinga went separate ways with the father of her son.
“My man was in love with me and I knew we were to settle in marriage,” says Cynthia. “We had no serious argument, until I pushed him to apply for a job that took him back to his home county, Narok. I believed in him so there was no need of holding him in Nairobi, and my salary could not support us both.”
During their four years of dating, Cynthia remembers him telling her his culture required him to marry a woman from his tribe.
“In May 2008, he travelled from Narok where he now worked as an accountant and came to my house in Nairobi for a month,” she continues.
“I remember his brother one day calling and asking him why he left without informing his mum.”
Cynthia says she realised he did not want to talk but later learnt that her mother-in-law was pushing him to marry a Maasai girl.
NEEDED A CHILD
He told her they needed to get a child since he now had a stable job. “But the mistake I made was that I never once visited his mother, maybe I would have learnt one thing or two,” muses Cynthia.
“He took care of me when I was pregnant until I gave birth and settled the hospital bills. That, however, was the beginning of my nightmares. He never came to see me in hospital as he sent money via ‘Mpesa’. He also never came to see me after giving birth, claiming he was not supposed to see me until ‘I was clean’.”
When their baby was about three months old, her partner came home one night with an empty bag to pick all his clothes.
Were there any red flags, and did she start preparing herself for singlehood, one wonders. “I guess I was in denial. I did not even consider singlehood as I never saw myself there. I would call and most times, my calls went unanswered. On a Saturday, August 1 in 2009 – a day I will never forget – he told me not to nag him as he had moved on. In fact he told me he has already forgotten my face. He even said he wasn’t sure my son was his.
“I sought help from the Children’s Department and he was compelled to send money every month. After he married the other woman in a church wedding, he wanted to be there for his son but I was not comfortable with the arrangement. The pain was unbearable. Where was he when I would call people begging from Kenyatta Hospital asking for help when my son was sick?” poses Cynthia.
She chose to release him and relieve him of child support. “Recently, though my son has expressed the desire to meet him and it’s affected his grades.
I don't know how to deal with it but I know I have to face it. I will reach out but I don't know how his reaction will be having pushed him away. Recently, we sat and enjoyed lunch together and sometime back he even proposed we open a company together. It gave me confidence that I was not at fault and I was able to forgive myself totally,” she says.
Most times, leaving will require you to put in place some anti-trauma measures to deal with the magnitude of the decision. Agnettah Achieng, who became a mother while still in campus, made sure her mental health was taken care of.
She had been with her partner for three years, during which he had lost his job and spent most of the time at home. Agnettah was enrolled in a sponsorship programme and all her financial needs were catered for. “As I entering my last semester, he started being aggressive and hot-tempered,” she reveals.
Agnettah enquired from her partner’s friend what was going on, who revealed that her man suspected she was cheating on him as she never asked for any financial assistance.
“I had already mentioned to him that the organisation that was paying for my studies was providing everything for me including an end month appreciation as I was working part-time for them. I had to go and request for a bank statement and show him the cash flow. He appeared to have cooled down only to ambush me one chilly morning as I was going to do my final exams.
“He beat me up and cut my hand with a knife as our little girl, who was then two and a half watched crying and screaming. I was fortunate to have a health insurance card which took care of my bills and medication for almost eight months. I had not prepared myself for this but I knew there was no turning back. I later learned he had impregnated another lady and wanted me out of the way.
“I went through counselling sessions and got back to my normal routine; finished campus, graduated and got a job. God has been faithful and I’m in a happy place.”
When Lorraine* broke up with her boyfriend of almost two years, she was a third year campus student and says she did not see the need for counseling despite being left pregnant. Instead, she relied on a support system. “I didn't prepare myself at all for this eventuality. I didn't know how to. All that was running through my mind was the betrayal that this guy who was supposed to be my rock during my pregnancy was putting me through. I was very hurt, I almost succumbed to depression,” confesses Lorraine.
“I felt abandoned, especially considering I had just told him I was expecting our baby. I was lucky I got a lot of support from my roommate and my friends. I had not told my mum that I was pregnant at this point so she didn't know what I was going through,” she says. Today they are at a point where both parents are working on co-parenting their daughter after seven years of not being in touch.
A COUNSELLOR'S TAKE
Dr. Margaret Kagwe, a counseling psychologist and senior consultant at Esteem Counselling Services, shares on what to do before calling it quits.
Establish the real reason
The best preparation is to ensure that the reasons for parting are genuine and not selfish because guilt and regret can take away your happiness after the break-up.
Consider the welfare of individuals involved
If there are children involved, prepare them for the break up and let them begin mourning and asking questions as the process goes on. Remember, they are likely to be deeply affected and disoriented.
You should seek mediation or arbitration regarding things like child custody and matrimonial property before going to court. This helps reduce aggravation and emotional turmoil that may never heal. The court should be the last option.
Consider temporary separation
I would also suggest temporary separation so that you experience the absence of your spouse and what it makes you feel. No human being is perfect and you may find other people you meet worse that the first one. For your own good, do you feel better without him or her?
Cut the drama
Do your best to leave without drama or trying to taint their name. Making them appear bad does not make you a good person. Let the world judge by what they see or what they will see in future. The affair was your private journey as a couple and you should try to keep it that way especially, for the sake of the children who are innocent.
A LAWYER’S TAKE
Ronnie Akedi, an advocate of the High Court and a partner at Akedi and Olalo Advocates, shares on what to think about when considering separating from a spouse or a partner.
Have you made all efforts to salvage the relationship/ marriage? Have you considered counselling, mediation or intervention from a neutral friend or getting support from the extended family?
What kind of union are you in?
Is it a marriage conducted by the church or a civil marriage conducted at the Registrar of Marriages? We also have presumption of marriage based on cohabitation. Some may want a separation but a divorce immediately. In this case one can opt to file a Judicial Separation Cause. Or one might want to consider a separation agreement drafted with the assistance of an advocate.
Do you have children?
The best mode of handling their interests is in the form of a Parental Responsibility Agreement which details the rights and responsibilities of each parent. In case of conflict, the appropriate forum to address the children’s best interests is in the Children’s Court.
Do you have matrimonial property?
You will need the assistance of an advocate to determine what consists matrimonial property, and how it ought to be shared. Again parties might not see eye to eye on this issue, especially where finances are concerned. A mediator or advocates is most certainly necessary.
Any obligations binding the parties together?
Lastly when considering separation/divorce one would want to consider what commitments or liabilities remain from each party and assess how you wish to handle them. This can be achieved by way of agreement or by way court proceedings.
The obligations are, for example, if one party is a guarantor to the other’s loans; if they have a joint debt with a financial institution, if the parties are joint tenants. There needs to be a clear guideline on how obligations that bind the parties together are addressed.