The marriage between John and Serah was stormy from the start. The two of them seemed never able to see eye to eye about anything. John was an accountant with a micro-finance while Serah operated her own business.
I looked at these two and asked myself so many questions about why they just could not get along. Was it that Serah’s level of education was rather low for John? John had a Masters degree in finance while Serah had only had a short stint in a college where she learned basic computer skills. She had no further professional training.
Was the difference in their levels of education the problem? The two of them lived as if two superpowers lived under their roof and were ready to explode into the third world war.
Serah and John met at church where they were both active in youth activities. John was a youth leader. They looked like an ideal match when they got engaged. Everything was going well for them. John had a stable job and Serah’s business was stable and growing consistently. They were both serious about their faith and were respected members of their church. So, what exactly went wrong?
John was the 3rd born in a family of 5, the eldest of two sons. He grew up in a rural area. His father died when he was in lower primary school, before he was 10 years of age. His mother never remarried. She toiled and laboured to bring up the 5 children on her own. She had not gone to school beyond primary level so she relied mainly on manual jobs to earn income. She washed people’s clothes, worked in people’s farms, sold fruits, vegetable, charcoal and much more, to provide for her family. She was the very image of a hard working woman.
There were nights John’s mother went to bed on an empty stomach so that her children could eat. She put on a brave face but the truth was never lost to John. His mother’s struggles inspired him and made him determined to change his family’s fortunes. His family was not that religious. They went to church sometimes, but not regularly.
John learned more about God while he was in high school. He turned to God and surrendered his life to Him. He became a committed member of the Christian Union in his school. He was very hard working and focused on his studies and the financial struggles only motivated him to work harder. He often did manual jobs during school holidays to supplement the money his mother earned.
By the time he completed the secondary education, he was one of the top performers in his school. He got a scholarship to study in a top private university. He got a job soon after graduation. He wrote to every organization he could think of to sponsor his Masters degree and he eventually got sponsorship. His career was headed in the right direction.
Serah was the first born to a family of 7, 3 girls and 4 boys. She was born to a family that was well off and living in the upmarket parts of Nairobi. Her father operated several businesses while her mother was a teacher in the city. She attended some of the top schools in Kenya and her performance was above average.
Her father’s businesses hit some rough patches and were headed downwards by the time she was completing high school. She did not get good enough grades to make it to the university and since the family was struggling to take her siblings through school, she had to make a living for herself without much in terms of higher education.
Serah had always loved matters to do with hairdressing and had always done the hair for family and friends whenever such a chance presented itself. She started by getting short term engagements at hair salons in the neighborhood, where she plaited clients’hair. As she continued working in hair salons, she learned more skills such as weaving and braiding and much more. By the time she was getting married, she operated her own business that incorporated a hair salon and a barber shop. Her business was going well and growing.
John and Serah dated for slightly over one year. Their courtship was largely superficial. They would spend their time together in church activities, visiting church members, an occasional coffee date and very rarely, a visit to a family member from either side. The negotiation process leading to the wedding was brief and took a couple of months. They held their wedding at their regular church and since they were both well respected members, the church fraternity was very supportive of their wedding.
They were very happy on their honeymoon and the first couple of years of marriage. Conflicts set in almost immediately Serah got pregnant with their first baby. It seemed like all their conflicts were about finances. Serah would bring issues that needed to be addressed and John would give no input to the discussion. Later, she would discover that he had made a decision without as much as involving her, such as committing large amounts of money to projects for his mother and siblings.
The couple was living from crisis to crisis. There would be no preparation, no planning, no budgeting. Serah brought up the issue of shopping for the baby until she gave up and decided to do it herself, with her own resources. Again, she raised the issue of planning for maternity expenses but she got no input from John. He would contribute nothing to the discussion.
Serah would get even more frustrated when he would buy things they did not need at the time while there were more pressing needs that he was not doing anything about. She was feeling like she was headed for a depression so she decided to confide in their best couple that she was not happy in the marriage.
Seeking Counsel For Marital Problems
The best couple advised her about how lasting homes are built. They explained to her that God Himself made the husband the head of the home and that she as the wife is his helper, not his equal. They advised her how a wise wife builds her home, by being obedient and respecting her husband.
They read to her scriptures as she sat there and listened, almost in tears. They then held hands in a circle (the 3 of them) and prayed for Serah and her marriage. As she left for her house that afternoon, she felt that they had neither understood her nor addressed the real issues that took her to them.
Having a baby in the family complicated their lives even further. Expenses increased but they still could not plan and budget together. She would raise issues that needed addressing, find that he was not open to discussions and end up doing them herself. They gradually drifted apart. Before long, they were living like two strangers under the same roof.
John paid the rent and utility bills. But there was no discussion about any kind of planning for the family. She asked him if they could seek help from church leaders and he said that they did not need help as long as she humbled herself and conducted herself like a godly wife ought to. She asked him how failure to plan and budget for a family was about her character and he just walked out and went to his desk and started working.
As time went by, Serah was living like a single mother who was housed by John. The only communication between them was superficial; whether food was ready, if his shoes were clean, and other such statements. Both of them were clearly unhappy.
Marriage On The Rocks
One day as they sat at the dining table silently after super, Serah told John that she wanted separation. John stared at her without saying a word. She repeated what she had said, slowly this time. John asked her whether her faith in God was still important.
“Then why do you want to deliberately go against God’s teachings?” He proceeded to explain to her what the Bible teaches about marriage and the unique roles of a husband and wife.
“Why do you think I left my parents’ home? Because I did not have a roof over my head? Because power and electricity bills were not paid? Is that enough to make anyone get married?” Her tone of voice was high and she was close to tears.
That night she spent the night on the sofa and cried herself to sleep. She woke up with a throbbing headache and she decided there and then that she was not going to remain in a marriage that was just a sham. She could take care of one child. Their daughter was going to be two years in a couple of months.
From that day she focused on growing her business now that she knew that she was going to be a single mother. She stepped up her marketing efforts as well as follow up of her existing clients. She worked long hours and rarely had time for the family. She believed that the sacrifice was worth it, because she and her daughter needed security. John always seemed preoccupied, hardly said much apart from the bare minimum. They both acted normal during church activities.
Serah visited her sister who worked in the city and lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment. She requested her if they could share the apartment as she planned the way forward for her and her little one. Her sister was shocked that Serah wanted to leave her marriage, but told her that she would always be there for her as long as it was possible to do so. Serah’s sister accommodated her and the baby.
Within weeks of her leaving the matrimonial home, John called her and said that the pastor wanted to meet with the two of them. She agreed to a meeting. The two of them visited the pastor’s home on a Saturday afternoon.
The pastor said how much he was pained to learn that Serah had left her matrimonial home. He took them through what seemed like a short sermon about marriage. He outlined the roles of a man and woman in marriage. He asked Serah if there was violence or infidelity and she said that there wasn’t. He asked her why she walked out of her matrimonial home without any good reason and she tried to explain.
She got emotional when it became clear that no one understood her point of view. She ended up crying and all she had to say was lost. The pastor’s wife consoled her and when she calmed down, the pastor proceeded to speak, explaining that marriage has its own challenges and is never easy for anyone.
Emotional Wounds That Are Left To Fester Come Back to Bite
Serah left the pastor’s home very sad and feeling like she had not been helped at all. The issues in their marriage had not been addressed at all. She, however, went back to her matrimonial home and life continued. Nothing changed. Things got worse as time went by and the family’s needs grew. Life happened to them since there was no planning, no budgeting. They were more like housemates than marriage partners. The marriage was not a happy one.
It was while Serah was expecting their second born that she developed health complications. Her blood pressure went out of control. The family was facing financial difficulties at the time and she had been overworking in order to bring in more money. She needed to rest and to also have close monitoring by a doctor. She was on complete bed rest for a week but when she went to her business after that, so many things were not going right.
She and her husband had never been able to plan and budget for the family and they lived from one financial crisis to another. There was also no teamwork so he could not look after her business for her so that she could rest. The family needed the business to stay afloat. She went back to managing the business. She developed complications while she was 32 weeks pregnant and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors were able to save the baby but lost the mother. Serah was no more. Another young mother had gone to be with her maker.
Submission In Marriage
I hear so much about how marriage is in black and white; wives obey your husbands and submit to them and husbands love your wives. For me, I say that there is no black and white when it comes to marriage. Human beings are not static like a rock or a wall. They are dynamic.
The human race is constantly changing. Let us look at the marriage institution for example and how it has evolved over the years. How was marriage in traditional African society? A marriage was the business of the entire extended family and not just the two people getting married.
Families prepared their children to become well-adjusted members of society from a young age. Older members of the families (parents, uncles, aunties, grandparents, etc.) trained and mentored the children for their respective adult roles and responsibilities. Children also had role models to emulate. And if the marriage encountered problems, the elders (wazee) sat down and listened to the complaints and corrected the wrongs.
Christianity then came and largely did away with the traditional systems. The Christian system is totally different from the cultural system, with church leaders and elders being charged with the responsibility of nurturing the young ones to become well-adjusted adults. The church system also provides role models to be emulated. If a marriage hits rough times, the church system resolves the issues and provides guidance.
There are many who are hanging in between somewhere; they neither adhere strictly to cultural systems nor to Christian systems. Others have one leg in the cultural system and the other in the Christian system.
There are many who actually have no guidance from anywhere but do whatever they please, and are not answerable to anyone. This is where the biggest problem lies. We only need to look at the problems that are posted on online forums and those that are discussed on FM radio stations to realize that there is a big gap in systems that prepare people for marriage, provide role mentors and resolve conflicts. Today’s society is one that seems to have no order at all, no clear point of reference.
So when anyone quotes and says that wives should obey their husbands in all things, which system are they operating from? Are they adhering to that system fully; being prepared for their rightful roles and responsibilities, having role models to emulate, having systems that resolve conflicts and correct the wrongdoers, etc.?
Is that system taking care of their own and ensuring that things are going on as they should, having systems of correction when things go wrong? To operate within a system means adhering to the rules and regulations of that system all the way. Is that what is happening today? Which system are families built on today?
What shapes the personality of an individual?
According to neurologist Paul Roe personality is an individual’s predisposition to think certain patterns of thought, and therefore engage in certain patterns of behaviour. Human personality is complex. It encompasses an individual’s thought processes, mental characteristics, emotions, value systems, dreams and aspirations and much more.
Personality varies from one individual to another. Personality is a sum total of nature (genetics) + nurture (life’s experiences). What we are as individuals is mainly a combination of our genetics combined with our upbringing.
Many times I look at situations in marriages that are being addressed by advising wives to obey and submit and it makes me really sad. Obey and submit to the personality of someone else (the sum total of the genetic make-up he inherited from his parents combined with the upbringing experiences he went through)?
What if that family has certain genetic weaknesses as happens in families that have problems with temper, substance abuse, violent tendencies, promiscuity and much more? What about if the upbringing environment of that person harmed him as happens to people who are adult children of alcoholics, of violent parents, of dictatorial and controlling parents?
What if the person was harmed by such experiences as childhood sexual abuse and other forms of child abuse? What if one was damaged by certain circumstances that happened while he was still in the womb, such as the expectant mother having suffered violent or traumatic events, having consumed certain prescription drugs that are known to harm the development of a fetus and are not permitted to be consumed by an expectant mothers, or other harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes or illicit drugs?
Are critical factors put into consideration before the blanket advice of submit and obey is thrown around? Is assessment ever done to rule out any issues that need intervention or is it assumed that every human being is 100% ok? How many people out there need help yet there are people whose lives are being ruined by being advised to submit and obey?
How much damage is done especially to children who are brought up in such homes leading to a generational cycle of problems? Are people who are consulted for advice about marriage always competent to tell whether the person asking to be obeyed and submitted to is leading the right way?
Where do we draw the line between what is to be obeyed and what isn’t, or no matter what a husband says should be obeyed without questioning, even if he demands that a crime be committed or that punishment that damages a child for life be meted out? Isn’t it time to rethink some of these things?
This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter, Life Coach, Freelancer, Mentor and Blogger
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