Is marriage still worth it?

Wedding ring

Marriage is a voluntary union of two, with the intention of companionship based on mutual love and respect

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I was drawn to a verse in the Bible recently while attending a divorce care workshop. Ecclesiastes 7:8: states “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”

This verse came to mind when a woman next to me in the workshop commented, “Ending that nonsense of a marriage has been the easier part…”

She gave a mysterious smile when I asked her what she meant, knowing full well that divorce is messy and emotionally draining.

“Fighting for that marriage was hard work, the hardest thing I have had to do in my life,” she shared.

From her confessions, she had turned a blind eye, like a good Christian wife, to the abusive and adulterous behaviour of her equally religious husband.

“I hit the gym to lose the pounds after baby number four, I learned the art of cooking, I took loans for him... I did everything by the book, but that…” she lashed out at her ex-husband.

“The end has been easier. Once I realised I was done trying, I simply packed and left to go find healing and find me, afresh,” she poured out.

By the time an African woman throws in the towel on her marriage, let me tell you, Maina, she is done. She has lived a martyrdom life. She has ‘died’ and ‘resurrected’, fasted, prayed and changed churches in vain.

She had engaged in the deep midnight hour and 3am prayers in vain.

In Song of Lawino the author Okot p'Bitek, asks, “African Woman, what are you not? Sweeper, Cooker, Ayah, Washer, Builder, Cart, Lorry, Donkey…” the African wife is both strong and submissive.

One statement that kept coming up at the workshop was, “I was a loving, supportive, faithful companion for all seasons. I did everything plus more!”

Submissive wife

Today, as I watch the mockery made of marriage and especially of wives, dubbed as goat (greatest of all times), I wonder, are we setting up our daughters for martyrdom in the name of marriage?

Have we forgotten that a marriage is a voluntary union of two, with the intention of companionship based on mutual love and respect? While most people consider their first year of marriage a honeymoon phase, I found it difficult to adjust to the expectations of a good wife. Like the Biblical verse, the beginning of it, and the sticking through it was the hardest.

“Where is my vest?” was a constant question every morning as we both dressed for work.

 I would be flustered getting it, to which he would prefer the black over the white one. While they were washed and ironed by the house assistant, I arranged them myself in my closet.

“Where are my socks?” Would soon follow. By the third week, when these questions were shot my way, I retorted, “Where are my bras?” This was the first of major fights that year, with mean words, tears, and a feeling of hopelessness.

One of my girlfriends came to my aid when I called her in tears.

 “Separate your closets. Get a specific drawer for each of those items.”

Other unmet expectations would soon follow, and in that first year, before I could throw in the towel, I focused on learning everything that would make me a good wife. You can bend over backward, and play by every rule in the book, only to discover that there are no rules or blueprint. You two are the lawmakers and executioners of the blueprint of your relationship. If you are not focused on your self-awareness and the intention to be the most awesome human that you can be for your spouse, the locusts and the foxes will attack. Your marriage will die.

The person to blame will be a third party. While you swore allegiance to one partner, there is always someone on the sideline looking from the balcony, envying what seems to be your green lawn.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of this column. Is marriage still worth it? I would love to hear from you.