In December 2019, about 1,108 people had been to court to file petitions with the hope of dissolving their marriages.
What you need to know:
Dos and Don’ts of getting into marriage as advised by Prof Bigambo.
Ask questions before getting into a relationship
Have achievable expectations
Ensure your relationship is founded on values
Leadership in a relationship should be embraced
Expose yourself to different sides of life
Have an open mind
Do not get married because someone else in marriage
Worrying cracks are creeping into the hitherto strong belief in marriage.
Arguably, priorities have morphed. Culture is fading. Intolerance is on a new high.
Mentorship from parents or guardians is on its deathbed. The fast paced world is moving and the trends on marriage are on course, albeit, with nothing good to bring to the table.
So bad is the situation that the idea of the proverbial wedding bells in this age is only pleasing to the ear but the happily ever after promised on the D-day is still a fool’s paradise. The surge in the divorce rates is alarming. And so is the disinterest in getting into marriage.
In December 2019, about 1,108 people had been to court to file petitions with the hope of dissolving their marriages. The number had risen by 99 compared to 2017. In 2020 before court sessions went virtual due to Covid-19 about 149 cases had been filed by February.
When you compare the trends in January alone, 54 people filed a case in 2018, and the number rose to 72 in 2019 and last year in January 95 people sought divorce in court.
But, what is going on?
Patricia* who just turned 27 says she is yet to bow to the pressure of getting married. It is the least of her concerns. “Marriage is not on my wish list until I am 28,” she says.
That means she has this year alone to reconsider her stand. At the time of the interview, a promising suitor was still elusive.
In a girls only WhatsApp group she is part of, she posts her worry about the lack of a suitor sparking a debate on marriage. “I think I have a problem. I always attract married men. I cannot remember the last time I met a single man,” reads Patricia’s post on the group.
Only three of the ladies out of the 22 members in that group are married. The rest are still “sampling” the market.
Her friends’ responses to that post start trickling in.
“You ooze the vibe married men like, find out which one,” the first person responds.
“I think you need some form of soul searching. Personal journey things…” she adds.
Others laugh. Another tells her that they are in the same boat. She, too, will be turning 27 this year.
Patricia started dating when she was 18. Her first boyfriend was between the age of below 23. She cannot quite remember exactly how old. She still believes that her first love was the best relationship she ever had. Since then, she has been in six unrewarding relationships.
“I have not had a serious proposal to be someone’s wife yet,” she says. “On the contrary, most of the time the guys would expect commitment and fidelity.”
That is not to say that her rubric square in relationships has never had all the colours match. No. She once had a promising relationship which was unfortunately killed by distance.
One of her six other relationships ended because she believes it should not have existed in the first place. She had been intimate with a married man. “I have been hit on by almost 10 married men in my adult life. I did not know that they were married until later,” she tells HealthyNation.
“For some I found out by checking their social media, while for others, I received messages from their wives,” she adds.
Some married men she has come across were blunt with her and told her they only were interested in a sexual relationship. No strings attached.
“Most married men rarely talk about their wives and sometimes they only do when you find out about them,” she says.
Most of the men she has encountered had been married for less than three years. She has since noticed the consistency of words spoken by the married men when she tries to ask why they cheat.
“It was always almost the same excuse; that their sex life has changed to lazy and boring or their wives interest in sex reduced after child birth,” she narrates.
Patricia says she will consider getting married someday. She is, however, put off by the marriage scene of today. “It is filled with silent people suffering in violent marriages,” she says.
Kevin* who graduated last year from a university in Eldoret says relationships have robbed him of his peace of mind. He first fell in love six years ago as a freshman.
“The lady had a crush on me and I fell in love,” he says. In as much as he felt like the approach was not the traditional way of doing things, he went with the tide anyway.
That relationship did not last. He quickly jumped into another one and his heart crushed when he realised that the girl she was eyeing was intimate with his close friend. He was a male version of a ‘side dish’.
When he found out what was going on, his then girlfriend opted to stick by the other guy. He gave up the fight and was not ready to be a Romeo for someone else’s Juliet. “I lost a friendship and a relationship at the same time,” says Kevin.
“This heartbreak left me thinking that girls are after money and not a future. They are not ready to date men without money. They need men who are already at grace,” he laments.
Technology is now playing a part in the revolution of the dating scene. A simple – swipe right – on Tinder could get one a life partner.
The hassle of talking stages that the older generation sweat to yield a possible marriage is being replaced. Some cases of online dating have been fruitful but others ended in what netizens call “premium tears”.
For instance, Facebook users in Kenya in 2019 were shocked when they learnt of an assertion that a man was running a pseudo account with a female name. The account churned out witty articles daily and any man would have wished to have a ‘woman’ like that as the mother of his children.
The same social media outlet called out the owner of the account when users learnt of the shadowy narrative. It was alleged that she had extorted money from a man who had fallen in love with ‘her’ online. The account was deactivated after the incident and to date, the users’ identity has never been revealed.
A research conducted by Prof Lawrence Ikamari in 2005 on the effects of education on the timing of marriage in Kenya sought to establish when the cracks started emerging.
“By exposing girls to non- traditional roles and providing them with the means to establish viable alternatives to early marriage, education expands the women’s life opportunities and choices,” says the study.
It adds: “It may relate to the development of value orientation and aspirations that give priority or preference to personal fulfilment and career development over traditional roles or early marriage and childbearing.”
Another Facebook trend early this year dubbed the #Metoo series sort of lived up to this assertion. Smart and successful women poured their heart out on how they had been swindled by men they had hoped to be in a serious relationship with.
This only happens when the traditions shift and women are economically empowered. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the shift is irreversible.
“Educated women no longer see marriage and childbearing as viable avenues to social status and economic independence,” says the study.
The 2005 study also found out the difference in marriage age for educated and non-educated women. At the age 18, 71 per cent of women with no education were already married compared to only 27 per cent among those with at least secondary education.
A total of 84 per cent of those aged 20 and uneducated had their first marriage compared to 53 per cent among those with at least a secondary education.
Prof Okumu Bigambo, a Communication and Psychology expert who teaches at Moi University, says changing times influence change in the behaviour. As a family man who has been married for close to 40 years, he says he does not wish to waste any chance and strives to pass down knowledge on marriage to his children in an open way.
“We notice that globally people seem to compete more for business than the human aspect of life. This means that they are not valuing marriage,” says Prof Bigambo.
He says traditionally most families had a way of preparing their children for marriage. That, today, is the least of priorities for parents. The gaps in the family therefore become so glaring to the point of affecting the children.
“A parent is very busy looking for money and they at times they do not have a very good relationship with each other. They have lost the magic,” he says.
“Children end up learning behaviour from social media which is awash with issues of broken families and broken relationships,” he adds.
He explains that in the past young people getting into marriage would be proud of the community they were in. Today the community they are proud to be part of is social media.
“The social media community is regrettably vague and fake with massive influence,” Prof Bigambo says.
Before two people get into a relationship, Prof Bigambo advises that they should probe each with questions like: what is the purpose of the relationship and how far do they intend to go with the relationship.
“The biggest problem is that relationships are not founded on values. And when the times change, they change individuals’ perspectives,” he says.
Economic empowerment is also an important factor when getting into marriage. “Without a good economic base, you may not manage the demands of one another,” he says.
“Our life on this earth is goal based, and unless you approach any undertaking with a goal in mind, then your relationship will be abstract and in darkness,” he adds.
Faith Odhiambo, a counselling psychologist at the All Saints Cathedral, says marriage is work and needs commitment. “People want to be like celebrities on social media not knowing what they have done to get there,” she says.
“When they get into relationships with the social media aspect in mind, it will have flaws because their priorities are not right,” she adds.
Nelson Aseri, a psychologist who deals with couples intending to get married, says undealt with childhood traumas could contribute to intolerance in relationships and the fear of getting into one.
“If someone grew up seeing their parents being abusive and they do not deal with that before getting into marriage, they are likely to be affected by it,” he says.
Learning the culture of your partner’s side is equally important. It will save you from getting shocked about how people operate. “Young people should learn that it takes two people for marriage to be successful and the responsibility should be shared equally,” he concludes. – nation.co.ke