alexa The secret to our happy marriage - Daily Nation

The secret to our happy marriage

Tuesday October 19 2010

JOSEPH KANYI | NATION: A couple, Charles Githinji, right, and his wife Ann Nyambura read a copy of a constitution for their family. In the wake of men being beaten in Central province, Githinji, 35, a resident of Mweiga in Kieni, has resolved to write a constitution for his home.

JOSEPH KANYI | NATION: A couple, Charles Githinji, right, and his wife Ann Nyambura read a copy of a constitution for their family. In the wake of men being beaten in Central province, Githinji, 35, a resident of Mweiga in Kieni, has resolved to write a constitution for his home.  

By BONIFACE MWANGI [email protected] and MUCHIRI GITONGA [email protected]

There is nothing remarkable about the man we find busy re-painting the timber house, his navy-blue workman overalls splattered with paint. He is the kind of man who would effortlessly blend into any crowd.

To be honest, we are somewhat disappointed because we had expected to come face to face with a man whose presence was nothing short of intimidating – burly, ferocious-looking and a booming voice that would put the fear of God into just about anyone.

But no, Charles could be any other man walking down the street. He is of average height, average build and speaks and acts like most of the men you know.

However, just a few minutes into the interview, we realise just how deceiving looks can be. Beneath the nondescript image that he projects, is a firm and no-nonsense administrator who rules his home with an iron fist.

As one would expect of a man of such characteristics, his wife Ann Nyambura cuts the perfect image of the submissive wife, content to do the house work, look after their children and let her husband do the talking.

Looking at them seated side by side in their home in Mweiga, Central Kenya, one gets the impression of a couple that has already basked in the initial marital bliss, the honeymoon long gone, and is now immersed in the thick of the challenges that come with nurturing a family.


By now, you must be wondering what makes Mr Githinji and his wife special; after all, they seem to mirror many other married couples in our society. However, the fact is that they are nothing like other couples.

You see, their marriage is governed by a 10 page ‘constitution’ the 35 year old Mr Githinji crafted a few months ago.

The bound document screams, in bold letters, ‘Mundurume Ni Mugambo’ (A man’s authority is in his voice).

Going through the document, it is obvious that the laws, which are laid down in the couple’s mother tongue, unashamedly favour Mr Githinji, and expose his ill-concealed chauvinistic side.

The first chapter starts by declaring him the sole owner and head of the homestead and the one in charge of making all the decisions pertaining to the family.

It recognises his wife as the second in the command, but this privilege is immediately watered down when the second clause goes ahead to stipulate that she is expected to strictly stick to the traditional roles of women which include “preparing food, washing clothes and dishes as well as farming.

She is also expected to look after the couple’s children and ensure that the home is always spotlessly clean.

The ‘constitution’ also demands that she obey her husband without question and follow the religion of his choice.

But that is not all; a clause that is bound to have women up in arms is one where Mr Githinji forbids his wife from travelling or visiting family and friends without his consent.

“Travelling at night is out of question unless I accompany her or unless she is in the company of someone that I trust,” Githinji explains in measured tones, a serious look on his face.

If by now you think that this man is crazy, or have already dismissed him as the worst chauvinist that ever lived, you would have to understand that Mr Githinji has one failed marriage behind him.

A marriage, he says, that brought him so much misery and heartache, he decided that he would never trust a woman with his happiness or peace of mind again.

That day in 2006 when he and his first wife parted ways, he vowed that should he marry again, he alone would dictate the terms of that marriage.

“During those eight years that we lived together, I never had peace, we could never agree on anything; She would have her own plans, while I would have mine and we would end up having never-ending disagreements over this.”

One of the factors that was perhaps their greatest source of disharmony is the fact that they belonged to different denominations.

While Mr Githinji’s first wife went to church on Saturday, he would go on Sundays.

“How do you live in the same house then go to Church on different days?” he wonders.

He says that the only good thing that emanated from the marriage was the son they have together, and whose responsibility of bringing up they share.

When the marriage ended, he was plunged him into months of agony and loneliness.

It is while nursing his wounds that he begun to toy with the idea of coming up with a set of rules and regulations that would govern his next marriage – should he decide to give love a second time that is.

“I wanted to come up with something that would assure me of a firm grip on my marriage, something that would ensure that I had authority,” he explains.

His wife Nyambura seats by his side quietly, breastfeeding their two-month old baby girl.

Once in a while, she looks up at her husband, seemingly unperturbed by what he is saying.

By the time Kenyans were voting in the referendum for a new constitution, Mr Githinji was busy working on a draft of marital rules and regulations.

“I knew that this was the only way I could the stability and peace of mind my first marriage denied me,” he explains.

Before he started working on it, he deliberately provoked Nyambura so that she could go back to her parents. He wanted to get a chance to draft the rules without any interruption, he explains.

During the two months that she was away, Mr Githinji labored night and day to develop the laws, which are divided into 27 chapters.

After completing the constitution, the Mweiga electrician went to get his wife at her matrimonial home, apologised profusely, and brought her back to their home.

But when Nyambura opened the wooden-door to the home their share; the first item her eyes fell on was a blue bound document on the table.

On perusing it, she realised that it was a written set of rules to guide their marriage. Shocked to the bone, she flatly rejected it.

An 11-month stand-off ensued between Mr Githinji and his wife as she demanded that some clauses, which she felt were harsh, be amended.

Among the contentious clauses was chapter 24 of the document, which states that Mr Githinji cannot go for his wife if she decides to run away from her matrimonial home due to “petty disagreements” or to visit her parents without his approval.

If she refuses to return, the document continues, Mr Githinji can go ahead and marry another woman.

But her protests fell on deaf ears, and when it was clear that her husband would not back down, she relented and broke the deadlock by appending her signature.

When Githinji flips to the second chapter of one-man ‘constitution’ which boldly states that he is allowed to marry a second wife should Nyambura disobey him or violate the other laws in the constitution, we cannot help wondering why Nyambura, who has already appended her signature on the document, did not oppose it.

She says, “Initially, I rejected it, but after going through the laws several times, I realised that the document protects me and my children more and this is when I agreed to sign it,” says the 25-year-old.

She points out that she has witnessed many marriages go down the drain due to lack of guidelines and clear division of roles and the last thing she wants is her young marriage to fall by the wayside as well.

Another reason she accepted the ‘draconian’ document, is the fact that she loves Githinji, who she describes as a loving man who does not like to quarrel and who is a good provider.

“I don’t want my husband to suffer as he did with his first wife, I am ready to follow the laws he has laid down if this is what will assure us of happiness,” she reasons.

If you’re wondering, the constitution can only be amended after 20 years commencing on the date that Nyambura assented to it. Githinji admits that the document favours him, and has no apologies to make for it.

“Yes the constitution favours me because I am the one who has married Nyambura. She would have had her way if she is the one who took me to live in her home,” states the father of three.

Githinji explains that he is tired of quarrelling with a person that he loves and is convinced that the constitution will ensure that peace reigns in his home. So far, it is working.

Nyambura says there is no conflict of roles since each of their duties is clearly stipulated in the document. This means that disagreements are non-existent in their relationship.

Now that Nyambura has assented to the laws, the couple is planning to take the constitution to a lawyer for ratification.

While it may seem like a ridiculous idea, this couple’s marital laws underpin the desire for peace and stability within the contemporary marriage, which is facing a barrage of challenges.

The Githinjis say it is working for them, therefore it might not be such a ridiculous idea after all.