With reports of infidelity and divorce on the rise, it is easy to assume that love is no longer a thriving business.
However according to a 2016 study carried out by McGill University, 25 per cent of marriages in sub-Saharan Africa end in divorce and only 15 per cent split up in Kenya. While a great number of couples stay together for factors other than love (convenience, economics, abuse and/or uncertainty of being single), there are many couples that have sustained their positive emotions for each other.
This week we speak to four such couples to find out if the sparks flew the very first time they met, or whether love is more sustainable when it burns slowly.
Prof. Catherine Wanjiru Gachutha married to Gilbert Gathutha for 26 years.
“I met my husband Gilbert in 1987 while visiting tmy brother’s family at Waithaka, Nairobi. I had just completed my Form Six and was about to go to college while he was working at the NIC Bank in Nairobi.
"Sparks did not fly the first time we met. It was not love at first sight. I had recently lost another relationship and did not want to get into a rebound relationship. I wanted to have my time to think through what I wanted from a relationship and heal completely.
"But as time progressed, I realised that he was actually the one for me. He was very clear about what he wanted; a wife to marry. He was not pushing to have his needs met but to have our future needs met. I viewed him as considerate, unassuming, kind and a good friend to have. We became very good friends, sharing our struggles, achievements and dreams without inhibitions.
"Once I was ready, we dated for two years and in 1990, I agreed to his proposal. By that time, I felt that I was ready to settle down with him.
“We started off with traditional rites of marriage in 1991 and got married in a church wedding on December 7, 1991, at Thare ACK Church in Thika. On November 18, 2017, we celebrated our silver jubilee and renewed our marriage vows at Kirigiti PCEA Church in Kiambu.
"We have now been married for 26 years, during which we have been blessed with two children, a 22-year-old young man and a 23-year-old young lady. Looking back, our marriage has worked because we realised from the start that marriage is work, and we need to constantly exert ourselves to make sure it works.
“I have chosen to honour my spouse so that he feels privileged as a spouse. I do that through consulting, knowing my place and his place, accommodating his family as my own and taking special care of my mother-in-law because I know that he values her immensely.
I have also taken classes to understand myself, spousal dyad, and family as a way of adding value to all these aspects. I have also learned the importance of investing goodwill in my marriage.
“Over the years, I have realised that the key to a happy and lasting marriage is having a shared meaning and purpose. Define the kind of marriage you want to have and enter into it knowing that it is an investment that repays handsome dividends over time.”
Joy Kanjiru married to Paul Mathenge for onemonth
“We first met at work in 2011. At the time, my husband, Paul, had just joined the fintech company I was working for. Between 2013 and 2014, we worked as colleagues, even though we were in different departments. I worked in the contact centre department as a customer service representative while he worked in the IT department as a systems administrator. On one working occasion, Paul responded to an email that I had written. This seemed contradictory.
“Coincidentally, Paul passed by my desk moments after sending his response. I remember that I laughingly rebuked him for his response. He tells me that he noticed my beautiful laugh and decided that he would pursue me with the intention of dating and starting a romantic relationship with me.
"Nonetheless, we worked for three years before we started dating. In fact, despite Paul getting smitten with my laughter, our love took time to grow. We wanted to be sure of what we felt for each other and what we wanted from each other.
“By the time we started dating, we were both sure that marriage was our target. From the start, the one thing that stood out for me was that Paul was a God-fearing man. But what attracted me to him was that he was always real and true, gentle and kind. These are ideals that he has maintained up until now. Over and above, he was a constant friend.
“We dated for four years. In our third year of dating, Paul proposed. I vividly remember that after saying yes to his proposal, Paul made it known to me that we would get married within one year. We started off our wedding preparations and visited our parents for their blessings. This also allowed us to hold our traditional wedding ceremony that was crowned with a church wedding in December 2018 at Elishama Green Gardens in Karen, Nairobi.
“It is now one month since we started living together as husband and wife. We have a long way to go in the marriage journey, but we believe that with love, understanding and trust, our marriage will stand the test of time. We have determined to make God the centre of our home, make each other best friends, and stay authentic with each other.”
Mary Awuor Agollah married to Dennis Oduor Obonyo for eight years
“I met my husband Denis in February 2005. At the time, we were both in secondary school at St. Paul’s High School in Siaya County. He was in Form Four while I was in Form Three. Our love started off as friendship, even though we had been attracted to each from the word go.
"In any case, not too many people would have believed that such a young friendship could stand the test of time, especially after leaving high school. But we defied the hands of time and continued to be good friends even after Denis sat for his KCSE exams. We would visit each other over the holidays and go to church together.
“In 2006, I sat for my KCSE exams. After completing high school, I decided to give Dennis a chance. Over time, I had observed that he was honest and trustable. Unlike many of his peers, he was not just being driven by hormones. He was genuinely interested in me and my success. We dated for four years and in May 2010, Dennis went down on one knee and proposed. I could not say no. On December 18, we got married at a colourful wedding at the International Christian Fellowship Church in Buru Buru, Nairobi. In 2012, we were blessed with our first born child called Fadhili.
“We have now been married for eight years. Over this period, I have learned that the key to having a happy and long-lasting marriage is marrying your best friend and staying friends through thick and thin. Friendship will always outlast feelings, and will be the guard that shields you when your feelings fluctuate. It is also friendship that will water your love. Be honest, respect each other and your individualities, accept one another and above all, fear God. Dennis has shown me that he married a helper and not a maid. He stands in whenever I am worn out or sick, and that makes him stand out for him. He is my best friend.”
Rosemary Situma married to Jonathan Situma for nine years
“It is now nine years since I met my husband Jonathan. I met him in Bungoma North in November 2010 where I was working as a nurse at the Dreamland Medical Care Centre. He had visited the area as a pastor with a local church. Together with his friends, they visited the clinic and heard that one of the nurses was away on leave.
“One of my colleagues asked if they could visit me at my house, and they agreed. There was something that moved my heart when I met Jonathan. Even though I had liked him from the start, our love did not happen in a day. It took time to grow. The more I talked with him and got to know him, the more my fondness for him grew. I got this overwhelming sense of peace and joy within me that really made me know that he was my soul mate. I remember that I was particularly pleased that he was a pastor and a devoted Christian. He was honest to me. His approach to me was good. He was somebody with character.
“We were also at a mature point in our lives and were wise enough to know what we wanted and how to separate good from bad. As a result, we did not date for long. Three months after we started dating, Jonathan proposed. My heart and mind knew he was the one, and I said yes.
“On July 16, 2011, I walked down the aisle with Jonathan at a place called Mabanga in Bungoma. Over the past eight years, there are three things that have kept us together; being honest with each other, having patience with one another, and being transparent with each other in all aspects of our day to day lives. Above all, God has really been the pillar of our marriage and family. What I have learned is that if you put God first in your marriage, and practice the three attributes of honesty, patience, and transparency, there is no hurdle that you won’t be able to overcome in your marriage.”