Why many marriages today are heading south

Thursday, November 16th, 2023 09:54 | By
Marriage ring. PHOTO/Pexels
Marriage ring. PHOTO/Pexels

While presiding over the mass wedding of 32 police couples at the Embakasi Police Training college last week, Second Lady Dorcas Rigathi stated that, “The family institution is having many challenges today, but I urge you never to give up, never lose hope. Marriage works and I am a witness. I have been there for close to 36 years now.”

By any stretch of the imagination, I am not qualified to be a marriage counsellor. Not that I cannot become one though! There are factors that any discerning person should be able to pick out in the battlefield that has become modern marriages. But you have to be married to understand the shenanigans currently going on in this age-old institution.

Marriage has never been a bed of roses though. Accounts in ancient books recount cases of marital conflict, even among the high and mighty. Cases of violence, infidelity and deception among couples are as old as time. I guess it all started with Adam and Eve.

While the foregoing incidents were largely uncommon in times gone by, they are now almost the norm. Marriages have become an arena of shouting matches. Many couples can hardly have a decent conversation before going ballistic, oftentimes embarrassing themselves to all and sundry.

Weirdly, many couples are in competition for supremacy with one another, leading to endless conflict on who has power in the marriage. We have adopted the Western model of marriage with its romanticism and non-accountability.

It is nonsensical to say you are in a marriage, and at the same time claim “independence” from the inevitable cultural shackles that make marriages resilient. There is a reason why the Swahili called marriage “pingu za maisha” – lifelong handcuffs. You cannot have your cake and eat it.

I also have news for spouses who use sex as a weapon in marriage. While one does not become a sex slave by virtue of a lifetime commitment in a relationship, there is an unspoken rule that the so called dry spell is an antithesis of marriage.

At the pain of being branded a misogynist by feminists, sex ranks high up in the hierarchy of a man’s needs. You can blame it on testosterone, the primary male hormone.

I am not implying that men are dogs or cockerels that cannot control their libido. Indeed, men are ready to forfeit pleasures of the flesh for a long period for valid reasons like illness, or when the spouse is away from home for either studies or work.

But habitually sleeping on the same bed with a spouse wearing a trench coat, balaclava mask and knee high socks to punish him is daring him to do his worst; which he will do! A sexless marriage is actually an abusive one.

In Africa and hitherto conservative societies, I blame social media for the breakdown of this time tested institution. People have adopted the depravity and deception that pervades these ubiquitous digital channel of communication and actually flaunted it as a reflection of real life. But there is no room for fakery in marriage.

Yes, marriage is really hard work. You must be ready to bend over backwards if you desire to bring up your offspring in a sane environment. At opportune moments, you must release some strongholds to manage inevitable transitions, lest you derail the destiny of those that must leave.

The day marriage will be totally destroyed is the day society will cease to exist as we know it. There is no replacement for the traditional family unit.

However, in cases where a marriage is irretrievably on the rocks, the two parties should be allowed to let go, but with strict guidelines on sharing of parental responsibilities. Staying in a toxic marriage is the same as living in a mental asylum.

— The writer is a PhD candidate in International Relations

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