What you need to know:
- Patricia Murugami is a self-driven life coach on a mission to save marriage through her school for brides and wives
Rosalyn Muthiora takes her marriage very serisouly. Her 10-year marriage has been doing well, and the couple are already blessed with four children.
But when Mrs Muthiora heard of a course for couples looking to learn more about happy and lasting marriages, she decided to give it a try.
Ms Patricia Murugami, the vice dean executive talent development at the Strathmore Business School in Nairobi, conducts the ‘Brides for Life, Wives for Life’ course as a private venture.
“It was like another honeymoon. It made the coffee and sealed a loophole that I hadn’t noticed in my marriage,” says Mrs Muthiora of her experience. “I just had to work on myself and it’s fun. I can see and feel the benefits.”
She says that she is now very conscious of her dressing, more gentle and a far better listener.
Patricia started the programme in 2008, and it has caught on fast in an ever growing Kenyan wedding and marriage counselling industry.
“Initially I did wedding planning and would give a talk to the newly weds at the bridal party. That’s when I realised that young people had no time to fully prepare for marriage. I also noted that the bridal showers where experienced wives or trained counsellors offer advice were not enough,” says Patricia.
She saw the opportunity to come up with a structured course.
The six-month course, she says, seeks to make the learner understand marriage inside out.
“We cover key areas from understanding yourself, maintaining a tight friendship with your husband, the boundaries to keep, how to convert your house into a cheerful home and the contraceptive trap,” Patricia says. “We all dream of a happy home as we grow up. But what goes wrong when we get there?”
The ‘Brides for Life, Wives for Life’ course goes for Sh25,000. Participants meet at the Serena Hotel for the lessons and a breakfast treat on selected Saturday mornings during the six months.
Upon successful completion of the course, the would-be brides or wives are issued with certificates.
“We give certificates, but we also expect our alumni to be model wives, mothers and women of great character in their families and they should extend this to their work environment. We expect them to be cheerful and smile while at home, to be good listeners and to correct their home assistants (househelps) with dignity,” Patricia says.
Statistics show that about a third of Kenyans in marriage are unhappy in their unions. A survey commissioned by the Nation and conducted by the pollster Infotrak Harris in June last year found that only 40 per cent of Kenyan couples were happily married. The rest were found to be either unhappy or not sure how to describe their unions.
One third of married Kenyans admitted their marriages were headed for the rocks.
More than a half of the respondents reported serious conflicts in their marriages at least once a month while only four in 10 married people said they were in it for love.
Six out of every 10 married Kenyans interviewed said the only bond keeping their marriage together were the children, while 45 per cent said they were hanging on because of the money and property.
“Love comes last in marriage,” said a respondent in his 30s.
The survey results showed that money and overly nosy in-laws had overtaken infidelity as the leading cause of broken marriages. Half of all married people who took part in the survey said money was the main cause of marital conflict, followed by interference from members of the extended family at 39 per cent.
Both sides blamed each other for the sorry state of their unions.
The majority of men, who are already divorced or separated, said nagging spouses drove them out of their marriages while 76 per cent said they walked out because their wives had become argumentative and disrespectful.
A majority of their female counterparts on the other hand said they walked out of their marriages because the men did not demonstrate enough commitment to the relationship. Besides infidelity and money, the fight for equality is emerging as the “modern” cause of marriage breakdowns in Kenya, more so among women.
Half of the divorced or separated women said they opted out of their marriages because their spouses were not treating them as “equal” partners in the union.
Interestingly, more come-we-stay marriages reported their unions as happy ones compared to all the other marriage categories, with 45 per cent of respondents in this loosely knit marriage reporting more happiness compared to their church wedded colleagues (43 per cent), civil wedded couples (42 per cent) and those in customary marriages (41 per cent).
The most unhappily married couples formalised their marriages through customary arrangements.
In group discussions during the survey, even the most happily married respondents reported serious challenges in their relationships, resulting in what one respondent described as a “cold war” situation.
“I put up a cold front ... and give him short precise answers,” said one happily married female in Nairobi.
With near-zero communication, a number of married couples now describe what they have as a loveless contract, one they must endure because of the children.
“I do not have much to do when it comes to the love side of things. All I do is to provide for my family because it [his marriage] has become like a contract,” said one respondent.
And with love having gone out the window in many marriages, the marital bed has lost much of its warmth — only 14 per cent of respondents said sex was the flame that still kept their marriages intact.
According to Patricia, the main reason most marriages are breaking down is that most people are getting into marriage with no knowledge of its expectations.
“If your father has been making that special breakfast for your mother and serving her in bed every Saturday morning, it’s highly likely that you would expect the same of your new husband. What if he doesn’t measure up to your daddy?” she asks. She also attributes the many marriage break-ups to the element of surprise.
“For instance, let your partner know that you take care of your relatives before you say I do. Do not hold any information against him,” she advises.
Other counsellors have taken the fight to save marriages to the Internet. In Are you wife material?, a new e-book (available on www.areyouwifematerial.com) by Muhia Ndung’u, the author expounds on his idea of a Godly marriage.
“This is borne out of a need that I have noticed as a marriage counsellor. For the last 12 years that I have done marriage counselling, I have noticed that some particular questions kept cropping up whenever I handled a couple. I want this book to act as a guide,” says Mr Ndung’u, 31.
The book discusses finances, relatives, power and authority, responsibilities, homemaking, quality time, sex, parenting, among others. “These are heavy matters which we ought to set right before taking those vows, otherwise we will be building a billion-dollar villa on sand,” he writes.
He also counsels against divorce, arguing it is a result of selfishness. and hard-heartedness.
Mr Ndung’u is single – but he has proposed.
Mr Charles Kimathi, who facilititates a premarital counselling course of the Catholic Church called Engaged Encounter, adds managing expectations is a major challenge for young people thinking marriage.
“When they identify each other’s strengths, weaknesses and expectations, they are able to understand how to better relate to one another once married, or, in some cases, resolve not to continue with the relationship. It is a hard decision, but it’s better than divorce 10 years later,” he says.