By Carolyne B. Atangaza
Aren’t weddings just the best? The ceremonies, the celebrations and the fact that a new life awaits truly makes weddings remarkable. It’s not just any life, it’s a beautiful home, children; hopefully a bit of both sexes and a dotting husband or wife. In this moment we are excited, after all, fairytales teach us that after the wedding we are supposed to live happily ever after. However, in reality adjusting to marriage after the wedding is not that easy. We discover shocking secrets; see the bad habits that were carefully hidden during the courtship which may leave us utterly disillusioned.
Audrey met Christopher at a company retreat. He was the highly billed speaker while she was the overworked and unappreciated personal assistant to the CEO. The resort pulsed with the excitement of his arrival; those who had seen him in action could not wait to see him again while those who had not were crazy with anticipation. He was well-groomed, well-spoken and widely travelled. He was the kind of man Audrey secretly wished for but who would never be caught dead with her. As a realist she knew deities could never lie with mortals. “After the retreat, I was tasked to take his cheque to his office. I noticed he had been paid what I earn in four months for his four hours. But the most shocking bit was he instantly remembered me. He was so kind to me; asked me for my number and just like that we started chatting. The whole experience felt like a dream. When I told my colleagues and friends they thought I was making things up and there was no way Chris was chatting with me,” Audrey relates. On Chris’ birthday, Audrey agonized over what to get a man who seemed to have everything. She cast caution to the wind and bought him an LG home theatre system. With the generous gift she expected to be invited to his home but instead Chris spent the night at her home. “That night I saw my home from his eyes and I was embarrassed. I decided to upgrade, move into a better house, buy new household furniture and change my entire wardrobe. I was rewarded by his spending more time at my home and even inviting his friends over from time to time,” she relates. One time, Audrey went to pick Chris up and asked to use his bathroom. “I was shocked at the state of his home. He shared the house with three other men who clearly did not mind how they lived. The sink was overflowing with dirty dishes; the table was filled with empty beer bottles and glasses. His bed looked like it had not been made in weeks. The only organized space was his closet where his shoes and suits were proudly displayed,” Audrey shares. Feeling the responsibility to ‘save’ him from this squalor, Audrey agreed to marry him when he asked her to. Things were exciting until the honeymoon was over and the actual marriage began. Audrey found out that Chris was an extremely messy person who drank every shilling he made. “Unlike other men, he drinks from home. Every evening he comes home with a bottle of expensive whisky which he drinks until he passes out. His weekends are a haze of hangovers and more drinking. He eats and drinks in bed and leaves the bed strewn with dirty plates cups and glasses. I have talked to him about seeking help for his drinking but he says he has no alcohol problem. Most of the time he is broke because he spends everything on his clothes, shoes and booze. I did not know what to do,” a distressed Audrey shares. She has been consulting older women who seem to have thriving marriages and she has learned that marriage is not a vacuum where nothing happens. “I have learned to manage my expectations but most importantly to stop idolising Chris and see him as a he really is; a man with weaknesses and faults. This has helped reduce the pressure I had put on our marriage and has encouraged him to talk to me when he is going through a tough time instead of drinking. I have hope that he will eventually conquer his demons and I will be by his side,” a hopeful Audrey shares. She has also started reading books about marriage such as Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendricks, PhD and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, PhD and Nan Silver which have given her invaluable insight and guidance about marriage.
Felix and Alexandra met in church and started dating. For the four years they dated, the only intimate thing they shared was a kiss on the cheek. When they finally tied the knot Felix was ready to make up for lost time but Alexandra was reluctant. “Our first night together, she told me she had a bad headache and I sympathized. The second night she drank too much wine and passed out as soon as her head hit the pillow. The third day she got her period. So the honeymoon ended without us consummating the marriage,” Felix shares. He found out his wife did not like having sex; she treated it as something that should only be done for the purpose of procreation. For years he has tried to change his wife’s view on sex in vain and is still praying for a miracle. “I am praying for God to give me the patience with my wife and I am also praying that I am able to manage my own feelings. I trust God has all the answers since He is the author of marriage. I am viewing this as another test that I must endure before getting my reward at the end of it all,” Felix says.
Sheila, who has been married for the last ten years, wonders how she managed to not walked out of her marriage that first year. “When I met Julius, he impressed me as a prayerful, hardworking and ambitious man; the kind of man I was looking for. But when we got married, I found out I was wrong. He was the kind of person who prayed on a need-to basis, he was comfortable with what he had and would therefore just not go to work for flimsy excuses such as rain or sunshine,” Sheila shares. Sheila sat her husband down and told him what she expected from him, but the talk did not change much. She made up her mind to create the kind of family she had expected him to provide. “I attend church whether he comes or not. I wake up early in the morning for devotions, sometimes he joins me sometimes he does not. It is no longer such a big deal. Five years into the marriage I convinced him to buy a plot and I started building a home where we now live even if it not yet completed,” she shares. She says she has learned to provide for herself and her children. “I have also learned that he is not moved by quarrelling and confrontations. One time he came home past midnight and when he lay next to me, he smelled very strange. My first instinct was to scream and make a scene, but a small voice told me to pray. I slipped out of bed, went to the living room and started praying. At one point, I felt light hit me and I thought God had sent me an angel, but it was sunlight; I had prayed until morning. Later in the day, he sent me a text message saying he was sorry for the pain he was causing me and he was willing to change. I have seen the changes, they come in waves and they give me hope when times are bad. He is not a bad man. He just has different priorities,” the mother of three shares.
According to Fred Mugisha, a counselling psychologist from Serenity Centre, Kampala, where two people are coexisting there is bound to be disagreements and personality clashes. “There are issues of compatibility especially when people have different personalities. So it is wishful thinking to assume you will have a marriage that is free of friction and conflict. Once you are aware of this you will not be blindsided when the conflicts do crop up,” he notes. Mugisha reveals that during courtship, couples often show off their best side to impress each other which they stop as soon as they are married. “The truth is sometimes disappointing and sometimes pleasant, whatever it is, it should not matter if the couple is committed to staying together. This commitment is the difference between the failed marriages and the successful ones,” he notes.
The counselor advises couples going through such challenges to learn how to communicate with each other and treat each other with understanding compassion. “When faced with a challenge, the couple should work together to find a solution. Remember you are on the same team; you either win or lose as a team. So instead of finding fault and accusing each other, learn how to disagree respectfully as mature adults and be pragmatic about finding solutions,” Mugisha advises.
Ruth Matoya, a family counselor recommends couples to seek counselling before entering into marriages. “Do not wait until the fire starts burning to look for help. Prepare yourself beforehand; it will give you a solid foundation and equip you with the knowledge needed during times of challenges,” she advises.
She urges couples to learn to set boundaries that will protect their marriages. “Set boundaries on what you should share about your relationship with your friends, in-laws, and family members. Newlyweds tend to think everyone wishes them well so they share their problems with whoever is willing to listen. This is wrong as you can never know people’s intentions. If you are experiencing challenges, talk to a professional or a trusted and experienced person whose advice is honest and helpful,” Matoya urges.
It is important to communicate to each other first before you bring in third parties. Let your spouse know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong; they cannot read your mind. Remember, marriage is about companionship, friendship and being each other’s support.