By Joan Salmon
“Marriage requires work and expecting the unexpected. Don’t let other people design a marriage you can’t live with. Keep other people out of your business. Every marriage is different.” TD Jakes
When Geraldine and her husband, Mark got married eight years ago, they had an instant family. “We all had families from our past relationships,” Geraldine narrates, “so we were certain that we would have a few issues here and there adjusting to one another.” However, none had expected that Geraldine’s best friend would become a thorn in their side. She kept spreading nasty tales about Geraldine to Mark’s ex-wife and they always bounced back to Mark. “For a long while, I wondered why a dear friend had turned into a monster,” Geraldine confesses, “It was not until I remembered a conversation that I shared with her about some struggles I was having with Mark’s ex that it started to come back to me.” In the beginning of their relationship, Mark’s ex had been such a hard person to deal with and had kept telling her children all the bad she could conjure up about Geraldine. It was these words coupled with some lies that Geraldine’s friend was now circulating.
Marriage is an exclusive club of two leaving out all other parties. This is why wedding vows often include the phrase, “forsaking all others.” Beatrice Langariti, a psychological counsellor, says people need to understand that. “Making it clear that the marriage is about just the two of you is important because we sometimes assume that people know it which is not true. “It is little wonder that some, despite one being married fail to acknowledge that transition as they still see them as their sister or brother and life must go on. ”While this is true and one does not stop being a sibling, daughter or son, people need to understand that once married, one has got a new role which comes with responsibilities and boundaries.”
When Moses married his high school sweetheart, his mother felt that his was wife incapable of taking care of him right. “To that effect, she said that she was coming to train my wife on how to cook meals from my tribe,” Moses laments, “Though I thought that this was for a week only, mother stayed on for a month.” Rather than enjoy their first few months in marriage, Moses and his wife seemed to be intruders in their own house as his mother made most of the rules in the home. “She detested my short dresses, my makeup, and the trips I made to the salon saying that women that were wife material didn’t do that but house chores to please their husband,” Mary, Moses’ wife narrates. With her around for their first year, Mary almost let go because life was so miserable and the marriage was devoid of fun as Moses seemed to side with his mother even when Mary needed his backing.
When boundaries in marriage are created, they help to provide a safe place for the couple. It is they that guard a couple from people with the notion that a home can never be successful without the interference of another individual.
On the other hand, Langariti points out the need for the couple to be educated because the problem starts with them not knowing their role, how far they should go, and where they ought to draw the boundaries.
“This is a new relation,” Langariti reminds us, “the other gives up the family, not in the sense that they stop talking to them but they come away to start their own family.”
Langariti brings in the example of a newly formed business. “Just like there are rules to guide this business to ensure it grows, so is it with a marriage. The couple ought to understand their role, and who are involved. They need to agree on how to work out in their marriage. For example, one of the things that usually cause us to run back to our families are conflicts. So in that case, you must come up with a way to deal with them.”
Mercy Khakasa has been married for barely two months but she feels like throwing in the towel. Despite being married, she feels like a house help to her husband’s family that comes and goes as they please. Though she has tried to discuss the matter with Daniel, her husband, all pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears. Besides doing all the chores in the home, Khakasa is nagged and irritated that she barely has any privacy in her home or with her husband.
When dealing with family, Langariti urges couples to understand the families they are coming from because they are different. “Some are the meshed kind; so closely knit and barely keep a secret from each other,” she says, “Sad to say, when one gets married, such families believe that the kind of relationship enjoyed before the marriage will continue. They don’t understand that the fact that one is married, it affects the dynamics.”
Langariti says couples should be taught how to draw boundaries during premarital counselling, just like they are prepared for sex, and how to deal with finances. This can be done by pastors, professional counsellors as well as families; those that appreciate boundaries.”
Besides premarital counselling, she advises couples to read about boundaries so as to set the rules on how to run the marriage and how to deal with the extended family and friends from an informed point of view.
“Couples need to appreciate that marriage does not make third parties disappear into thin air, if anything, with marriage they tend to get more involved with your life than ever before. However, that also depends on what stage in life the couple is; the younger the couple, the more involved they tend to be. Besides that, the closer in terms of proximity, the more involved they get,” Langariti clarifies.
“In my case, we were abroad when we got married, thus we didn’t have to deal with any of those pressures as we chose when to visit them and not the other way around,” Langariti narrates.
“There is also need to draw boundaries regarding what you discuss with your friends. There is no reason as to why you have to share your sex life with them; troubles and good alike,” Langariti concludes.
Amends with Mark seemed so hard for Geraldine in the beginning, but she had to do it for herself and the family. It has been a journey of mending fences and nurturing what had almost died because of some loose talk.
Thankfully, Moses got the courage to send his mother back to the village before matters went out of hand. He did not have to deal with the talk that would have arisen had Mary left.
Asked on how they would react to a third party involved in their marriage issues;
Susan Ngozi says, “It depends on who the third party is; if it’s a relative/friend or someone close to my spouse and I, I will deal with them with civility to preserve the relationship. But I think it is important that the couple talks about such issues before tying the knot.”
Maurice Kikimeko says, “I would speak about it with my spouse, get to know the reasons why it happened in the first place then look for ways to politely tell the third party that their opinions have been listened to. I will sort it out with my spouse and agree not to bring outsiders into what should be our private issues.”
Rose Nannozi, a mother and businesswoman, says, “I don’t welcome third party interference in my marriage except when the situation is out of hand. And that can only be our priest; any other person is not welcome.”
Cindy Lunkuse, a lawyer, says, “It depends. Sometimes, you can’t help but involve a third party depending on the issue at hand.”