I was brought up in a polygamous family. My dad was also brought up in a polygamous family. This was about thirty years ago. My grand father married almost 30plus wives. My grand mother being the first wife and my father being the first son to my grand father. May their souls rest in eternal peace. Well, I am not here to start a debate on monogamy vs polygamy. The greatest question bugging my mind is how these two gentlemen managed all these women. How do you manage to coordinate thirty plus women in a homestead? How did my late father manage to support three women at the same time? How did he finance them? I completely understand that thirty years ago the economy was friendly compared to 2018’s economy where the current market bulrun is a hard but to crack.
But how did this gentle man manage to understand three grown women brought up from three different back grounds and still managed to meet their needs? Sounds like a puzzle is it? Sometimes I get to ask my elder siblings and even my three mothers or rather my father’s wives how my dad was. But here’s the point, I have dated and broken up and dated again and broken up again, and life has since then moved on and what’s still cracking me up is, “Dating relationships aren’t easy, neither is marriage.”
How do you stay in love forever without getting tired? I haven’t said that when you get tired you go look out for another partner! Hell no! But what I am trying to understand is, how do you just do this? Like, just understanding someone you were not brought up with and getting to conform to their believes even when you feel that whatever they say is not what you believe in without feeling manipulated.
Trust me by now I respect these two old men. And yes I respect King Solomon too. That man the largest population of women to his entity, all for himself. How did he even understand them? His communication skills must have been on another level. But again what I’d say is that he had options. Yes! You heard me right, OPTIONS. Take an example, not a very serious example though; If he feels overwhelmed with Achieng’, he would go to Njeri’s house. If he feels Njeri is too much he would go to Njoki’s house to Atieno’s, to Amondi, to Nancy, to Wafula until the day Achieng’s turn would reach again in that series and sequence…or whatever that is. Can you imagine? Or do I just sound too crazy for life? Maybe, I dont know.
But this still doesn’t make relationships or marriages any easier. I went on google the other day and typed, “what makes marriages hard” you will guess, what list of answers I found. Before I tell you what I found, I drew a conclusion that the challenges aren’t simply personal or psychological: They are rather structural.
Why is marriage or rather relationships so difficult to sustain?
From my research, the answer could lie in specific sources of tension that are intrinsic parts of contemporary society.
First, there is a tension between marriage’s emphasis on commitment and modern society’s stress on personal self-fulfillment. In the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth, women were expected to sacrifice their individuality for the sake of the marriage. Even today, there remains the expectation that women have a responsibility to make marriage work – whether through counseling or self-sacrifice.
Nevertheless, in many cases, the tension becomes too much to bear and individuals ultimately decide to pursue their own happiness and fulfillment, rather than subordinating their wishes and well-being to another person.
Second is the tension between modern marriage’s emphasis on intimacy – physical, sexual, and emotional – and its social and economic functions: To consolidate income, provide emotional sustenance, and offer a secure setting in which children can grow.
There is a tendency to speak of marriage as essentially an emotional bond, but even today, as in the past, marriage creates an economic union, one that is essential, for most adults, to achieving a prosperous middle class lifestyle. Not surprisingly, when the costs of living with another person outweigh the contribution that they make, the marriage falters. Trust me my last relationship that lasted almost three years, that’s the longest I have had so far, broke down because 1. I was broke, 2. Poor communication,(I realised this just the other day) 3. Assumptions of me cheating(due to my past mistakes).
Third is an existential reality: that marriage, the most psychologically intense relationship that most adults will ever experience, is inevitably an arena for conflicts over power and authority. Conflicts are inherent in a relationship where decisions about finances, sex, childrearing, and many other issues must repeatedly be made. Highly romanticized notions of togetherness, bonding, and soul mates joined togetherness fade in the everyday conflicts that pervade married life.
The fourth source of tension lies in the ever escalating expectations attached to marriage and the erosion of the supports that helped sustain marriages in the past: including extended kinship relations and friendships rooted in geographical proximity. Over time, marriages have grown more emotionally bounded and inward turning. Marriage has become a lonely life raft in a storm-tossed sea.
By the time I’m done writing this article, I would have pushed away all my fears, all the thoughts bugging my mind. My little mind that is busy seeking answers, answers to rhetorical questions. Questions that only nature and time will provide answers to. But still I stick to my original notion that dating relationships aren’t easy, and neither is marriage.
The tensions besetting today’s marriages are intense. Career demands and a child-centered focus mean that many couples, like ships passing in the night, spend surprisingly little time together. Expectations of equality in roles and responsibilities are seldom realized, especially after the birth of a child, when many couples gravitate toward a traditional division of labor. Money can buy domestic help for the more affluent, but even this help comes with its own burdens, as the wife typically must oversee hiring and management.
A growing number of adults consider marriage is an outmoded institution, or, at best, a necessary evil. But most Kenyan adults disagree, considering marriage the culture’s most profound symbol of commitment and a liberation from loneliness. At its best, marriage means that a person does not undertake life’s journey alone, but has the opportunity to share its joys, sorrows, and memories with someone else. Above all, a successful marriage impels individuals to grow along multiple dimensions.
Samuel Johnson called second marriages the triumph of hope over experience. Today, his phrase might apply to first marriages, too. Marriage, more than ever before, has become a risky endeavor, more fraught and fragile than ever.