What you need to know:
- The author warns that the sacred institution should not be turned into a sport where each spouse keeps a scorecard.
- The author further explains about situations where in-laws affect a marriage both positively and negatively.
In his latest book, The Unending Surprises in Marriage, Prof Jacob T. Kaimenyi makes a critical examination of the institution that is facing many challenges arising from modernity. People tie the knot for different reasons, making the institution complex; and not all reasons are so obvious at first glance.
Some people get married so they can get citizenship, especially in the Western countries, to fit in and please age mates, parents and friends or simply to gain economic benefits by viewing marriage as a ticket to financial independence.
These are among many issues that the author expounds on. Despite examining the many facets and foundations of marriage, the author remains unequivocal in his argument; for him, the bottom line is that love should be the cause and reason for marriage.
“For marriage to last, you must make many sacrifices,” he writes in his fifth book, which he jointly launched with Move On at a ceremony presided over by Chief Justice Martha Koome.
He warns that the sacred institution should not be turned into a sport where each spouse keeps a scorecard.
Sharing wisdom gained from his own experiences and those of people in his circles, he postulates that as soon as the wedding is over, the newlyweds realise that marriage requires one to familiarise themselves with their spouse, learn to appreciate this new phase of life and adjust their behaviour and attitude accordingly.
Such drastic changes may cause conflict at different times because all individuals are unique and no couples are alike in all ways. This may also be brought about when one sees marriage as the end goal of having a fulfilling relationship. Spouses, he says, should be ready to openly discuss and listen to each other and talk about issues affecting them in an amicable manner.
He also cautions that individuals change due to circumstances and environment. As such, understanding that the goal of marriage is not to win a competition and take positions, but to unify the differences involved for a fulfilling and long-term relationship is important.
At first what meets the eye is what attracts one to the beholder, which is fair enough at the beginning of the relationship. Soon after, however, one encounters surprises from their spouse that they did not anticipate.
Citing examples, the author pin points the characteristics that greatly impact marriage both from a wife’s point of view and a husband’s as well. Just to mention a few, relating to others especially family and friends in a home and poor hygiene standard are not aspects of a wife a husband would note during courting. This characteristic can raise a lot of concern and conflict in marriage.
Similarly, society has normalised men being the sole providers in a family. While this brings in income and resources for the family, it might affect the union adversely. It may lead to an unsupportive parenting partner, an abusive and controlling husband, one that believes that only his choices and preferences are right and only cares about his image in public. This is one of the issues that springs surprises in marriages if not well addressed.
Sooner or later, the symbol of love and a blessing to the union is born. Having a child, the author says, may come with a number of surprises as well: From the wife not being able to balance the wifely and motherly duties to the husband being physically and emotionally unavailable for the children.
However, having a life partner can bring forth positive surprises. And although challenges are bound to come by in life, having a committed partner who is reliable, acts as an assistant to your ventures and a prayer partner, makes a husband feel loved, cared for and even gets the strength to dream big and go for it.
The sense of security a husband brings to his wife and home, having a parenting partner, creating wealth for future generations and being the bread winner of the family in most cases, are some of the positive attributes of a husband that the author significantly writes on.
One would think that surprises in marriage are only between the wife and husband. Extensively, children, grandchildren, parents and in-laws, relatives and friends may bring up surprises that can significantly affect a marriage. Children and grandchildren may make parents question their marital choices.
Having different choices is normal but it may affect the marriage if the decision of either spouse leads to dire consequences. Children could also toss the advice of their parents and turn out hostile, ungrateful or engage with bad company.
Nonetheless, children bring a lot of joy, to their parents and grandparents. For instance, by supporting them during their old age, they solve problems based on current and modern solutions and most of all following in their parents’ footsteps, hence making them proud.
The author further explains about situations where in-laws affect a marriage both positively and negatively.
“Concerning in-laws, take advice from both sides, analyse it critically, and curate it to fit your cause,” the author says.
Over ages there has been a common norm that in-laws are evil and wish nothing but the best for their child and not the spouse or anything associated with them. However, in-laws, especially the parents, can have a positive impact on a marriage. They are role models to a happy marriage, take care and instil discipline in their grandchildren, offer support during hard times and solve conflicts besides advising on various issues that a couple may face in marriage.
Marriage will bring forth a number of predicaments and the author argues that one should involve their spouse, resolve the issues at hand early enough and implement different strategies to resolve different matters. Where necessary, they can include helpful and understanding friends, religious leaders, legal experts and parents. Understanding and intentionally loving and supporting your partner is a key aspect in making sure the bond doesn’t break, the book says.
It is not possible to exhaust the gems of advice dispensed in the book, which explains various aspects of surprises in marriage at length. That is why readers should get themselves a copy because each facet will speak differently to every reader depending on their marriage and life circumstances.
What is important to mention is that this is an important book for married couples and those planning to get married. It is also written in the characteristic humorous and easy to grasp style that sets the envoy’s books apart.
Prof Kaimenyi, a dentist by profession, is Kenya’s ambassador to the EU and a former Cabinet Secretary for Lands and Education. He has also served as Vice Chancellor at the University of Nairobi among other roles in his colorful career.
His book is available in various bookstores and retails at Sh1,500 a copy.
The reviewer is a student at KCA University.