"It is better to live on a corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife” - Proverbs 25:24.
There I go again, quoting the Bible. I read on the internet recently about a man in an East African country who has allegedly left his wife of many years to go and live with his young lover.
This story is as old as humanity; men have left their wives, taken on younger ones and thrown away their family lives for reasons that many cannot see.
They will move heaven and earth, sacrifice wealth and status, live in a hovel with a companion who – in social standing, learning, polish and bling – is their former wife’s inferior.
Why do they do it and why do they do it in their midlife?
First, a personal statement to clear up things and reduce the risk of being misunderstood. This is a risky topic as I might come off as a misogynist and chauvinist.
I am not blaming or accusing women of driving their husbands out of their beds; both sexes are in this together.
Secondly, I am uniquely qualified to comment about this matter, but I am not writing from personal experience.
I am middle-aged, the steam of the midlife crisis has cleared from my brain and I am peacefully married. I just want to help those who are lost.
Masculinity is not always toxic. There is nothing wrong with being a man or being manly. Masculinity is a force for stability, security, discipline and growth in the community.
My theory is that, when men are robbed of their manliness – be it in prison, by apartheid or other racist contexts – as has happened in Black America, the community breaks down. Children are not brought up well, values are trashed ... everything goes haywire.
I will stand in the gap – there we go again – for the men of my generation; for good, stable healthy unions for the sake of the future of our society.
I will not condemn a man who runs away from an unhappy home where he feels unappreciated, disrespected and his contribution and his sacrifice on behalf of his family despised.
It is better to run away than commit suicide or kill those around you.
The ideal situation, of course, is that men take care of themselves.
Members of a family have an obligation to be thoughtful, kind, generous, put the needs of others before their own and civilised, not spoilt, entitled, blinded by money and a primitive desire to dominate, which often becomes manifest when a man loses his job and his wife becomes the boss.
Let us always remember that poverty, struggle, want and hardship are easy to govern; success isn’t. The worst in people shines through in times of plenty.
The crisis of masculinity in contemporary African society starts early in life with identity confusion and culminates in depression, anger and emotional dislocation among adult men.
Young gentlemen are not quite sure whether they are men or girls – or if they are men, what makes them men.
Masculinity is learnt behaviour and you can’t learn it from your mum or your uncle who lives in Mararal.
Healthy development and socialisation should take place in a proper healthy context and not be dependent on the feelings of an individual who wants to boast about “bringing up my children without a wife/husband”.
WHY THINGS GO WRONG
It is more important that children are brought up properly; it’s more important than who ‘owns’ them.
I think things really go wrong in midlife, when men grasp at tendrils of youth drifting away.
A man questions whether he has used his life well and if he wouldn’t have been better off doing something else.
To navigate this stage safely, I think it helps if a man has proof of his success all about him: a good job, a loving wife and good children.
The emancipation and empowerment of women denies fragile egos the docile, subservient and dependent spouse that would otherwise have nourished them.
Success, if not properly managed, breeds loneliness. With age, even energetic men calm down.
A former party animal slows down and, for the first time in his working life, he takes some measure of control over his time.
So he can be free on an afternoon, or have the freedom to work from home. But he goes home to an empty house: the children are grown or at school, the wife is away at work, chama or doing what she has always done when he is away at work.
Sometimes, because of domestic strife, home is not a refuge, a warm, happy inviting place where the ageing warrior can gather his strength.
Life at work is a war zone, home becomes another front: arctic, unfriendly, uncompassionate, the dominion of an uninviting, inconsiderate spouse.
So, every day, a man faithfully drives into his compound that, in actual fact, he left many years ago; his soul either dead or lost and wandering in a modest apartment in Lang’ata, where he finds some measure of (false) refuge and comfort.
Husbands, treasure a loving and supportive wife. Wives, nurture that man, your children need him not just for money.
And for the men of my generation, if things are really bad, get support, get help, don’t wait until you break and hurt yourself or your family. If you can’t take it, just go to Lang’ata, man. We understand.