“I thought I was happily married, until she told me she was leaving.” To where? I asked thinking that she was going for shopping at Nakumatti, where she usually goes every Saturday afternoon. I was wrong.
This time she was going for good.
“I am tired of this marriage,” she shouted out.
“All you think about is yourself. Your two children. Your car. Your phone. And when you have time to sit with me in the sitting room, it is your Arsenal or Barcelona. I am tired of being equated to Messi in terms of agility. I also want to be made to feel like a woman.”
That was what a friend explained to me as his new year’s “gift”. His wife of eight years and two kids just woke up on the morning of Monday 2nd January 2017 and said enough is enough.
How is it possible for couples to live in the same room for eight years and fail to talk frankly about some major differences to the extent of a sudden break-up? In normal relationships, such issues should come up often, and ultimatums given for behavior change until someone feels the other person will never change and what they do is a deal breaker. In that case, separation is the answer.
Below are some tell-tale signs that something is not right in your relationship:
Too much Whatsup. Social media, especially, whatsup makes it easy for partners to share confidential person escapades among groups. You have a group of married men or married women, who were probably OGs or OBs. Some of these will project a very rosy picture of their marriage, explaining how their husbands treat them as queens, the gifts they receive etc. It is human condition to try to project to former schoolmates or workmates that you are far well off. In the process, some of the group members start to expect such ‘queen’ or ‘king’ kind of treatment from their partners.
Here is a partner (wife) that is focused on whole different priorities. But the Whatsup group for men, where the husband is a member, is full of testimonials and information how their wives treat them like celebrities (of course of a lot of lies). The man expects the same star treatment from the wife, but it is not forthcoming. In fact, the wife also expects something special from the husband.
The result is what I call ‘marriage bliss expectations gap’. Partners expect some special treatment which the other is not aware of and or they also expect it from the other. Because they don’t talk about it, other than read what is on the Whatssup groups they subscribe to, the result is accumulated anger for being less considerate and treating the partner like a man.
Solution: have a policy of no Whatsup at home. No Facebook at home. No Internet at home. Let it wait tomorrow morning. If either of the partner works late and gets home past 8pm. Let that time be family time. Talk about one another. Reminisce about the good old days. Talk about the future. And ask each other: what actions or tricks worked in the past that made them proud of having chosen each other. Give the opportunity for your partner to give you hints of what they like and hate. In any relationship, if it hurts when you do it, Stop doing it.
Money issues. They say money is the root of all evils. They are right. Money is the root cause of marriage breakages. That is why in many parts of America and Europe, marriage is now a contract with clear provisions of how one’s estate will be shared upon separation. It is now a unity of convenience. These things are now closer home.
The middle class is mostly affected. People want to be in marriage at soul level, not at pocket level. That is where the catch is. How do you separate matters of the heart from matters of the bank account? How do you go into a union of a life time but say, no “I will keep my money and you keep yours separate.” Which financial model works?
After interviewing over 30 couples who have been in marriage for 25 years and above, they say (i) being frank about money, was critical in their relationship. One old man said, “if I don’t have money, she will not expect a new dress. She already knows the little money we have and what it will be spent on.”
Of course, some men married their wives based on lies that they are rich. So they have money. They want to keep it that way, since it appears that is the ‘source of the love’. Usually love built on ‘appearance’ of wealth by any of the partners will fall once such appearances disappear. They will do everything to keep up the appearance of money. At the start of the relationship, they will work around their ways to find money (borrow or steal it) for a good life – visit high end places, drive a car on loan, stay in an expensive apartment, join rich gangs, etc. before long, they will get a new member of the family in form of their first born. The result is a strain on the cash flow. If the monthly salary has to pay a bank loan, then rent, food and some outing on weekends, buying the SMA or Cow & Gate milk won’t be easy.
The cracks will start showing. And late night coming home will start. The results are suspicions. “You have never acted like this. You always came home early when we had just met” Before you know, it is out of hand. And the marriage is falling apart.
Solution: I don’t know the kind of foundation you have established your marriage on – love and respect or appearance of money. It is better to be open about money.
If she won’t love you when she gets to know you are poor, probably she is not the one for you.
If you think that once she knows you don’t have money, she will run away, then she is not one for you.
If you think once she knows all your money, she will invite all her relatives to feast on it, then you are going into a wrong marriage.
If you give her money and she does side business, then you are finished.
It may be better for you to stay single than marry. Life is about risk taking. If you are to trust someone as a mother of your kids, you need to trust them. Some lessons from couples that have been long in marriage use are:
- Having a joint account for family business – each couple contributes say 50% of their incomes to it. They use the other 50% the way they deem fit. To spend the money from the joint family account, both must sign. This way, they are all protected. But most important, the family account help protect the children in case of a bad separation or one of the partners gets involved with another person.
- One person works, and the other stays at home to run family errands. The working partner puts money in a joint account which they both manage. Here, the family works out a family plan – what is critical – a home, a car, a small business etc. And the working couple finances them while sharing all the account details. This is the ultimate of trust. Some partners say this approach is deadly. If the beneficiary partner cheated, the other would get a heart attack. That is the marriage risk.
The above are the only two models they say.
Any other approach of managing family finances rarely works.
The long marriage couples say love, frank communication over any issue that is contentious and sex are so critical and a minimum for any long lasting and happy marriage. And that investing in your sex life as couples is great too. That is the reason couples married, right? You must love the other person genuinely such that small things that cause accumulated hunger do not steer one off the long-term commitment.
Many couples, they say, fight over small things like bad pressing of the toothpaste, where one presses in the middle badly, while the other want a clear bottom down pushing of the paste. Then who bathes first. The wife or husband. That some men consider it an insult when their partner uses the bathroom first. Pants. Should the woman wash them for the husband or vise-versa? Relatives. Should you allow in-house relatives from either side? Food. Should the maid serve the food or the wife? Experts say no married woman should allow the maid on the table to serve food. The next thing she will start asking the man whether the meal was great. It is like the proverbial Shamba boy that steps in to help carry the gas, fix the plumbing or electricity and before you know it is fixing bedroom issues. And then cleaning the master bed room. Who should do it. The maid or security guard / shamba boy. Which man will be happy finding a Shamba boy in his bedroom ‘fixing it’? Likewise, which wife will be proud of a house help that helps clean the bathtub, lay the bed and serve break-first in the bed when the wife has gone for an early jog?
These are issues that must be discussed as a couple and resolved. Remember what works for one couple, may never work for the other. Find the option that works best. Agree on it at the start of the journey and stay the course.
I wish you the very best of family life in 2017.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2017. All rights reserved.