In the 10 years Boniface and Lucie Kamiti (Mrs Africa International) have been married, one thing has been apparent – constantly working on themselves has made their marriage flourish. The beauty queen and her economist husband, both 41 years old, give ESTHER AKELLO a sneak peek into their decade-long marital journey.
Was it love at first sight?
Kamiti: No. It took a bit of time for our love to mature. We met in 1997 when we were both interning at the UN Kenya offices. We then went our separate ways after internship. We bumped onto each other in 2003 and this time kept in touch.
Lucie: We were seeing other people when we met the second time around. Incidentally, none of the relationships worked and we were both single a year later. Our friendship grew from there and we are still good friends!
Sounds like an easy friendship.
Lucie: We dated for a few years and it was during this period that we got to know each other deeply and that helped us jell in marriage. Our friendship had really grown with time.
Kamiti: With regard to staying in sync, we have come to understand that it is a gradual process. Up until now we are still learning, understanding and accommodating each other’s personalities.
Didn’t you get to really know each other whilst dating?
Lucie: I think becoming parents has really peeled back some layers we probably did not even know we had.
Balancing the dynamics and challenges of parenting has stretched us, challenging what we thought we knew about each other or ourselves. We recently took a personality test to assess ourselves.
Kamiti: Well, it confirmed what we always knew. Lucie is fiery and aggressive. Whatever she wants, she goes for it. Case in point: competing in the Mrs Africa Beauty Pageant that celebrates married women. I, on the other hand, am more structured. I like to internalise, analyse and contemplate over matters. Often times you wouldn’t even know I have taken note of something until the point where I’m ready to implement it.
Lucie: My spontaneous nature means I can deviate from the plan very easily if circumstances are no longer conducive! Kamiti definitely keeps us grounded because he remains steadfast, a typical ‘eye on the goal’ type of guy! The difference in our personalities has definitely worked for our good. We would probably be disastrous if we were the same.
Do you intentionally plan around reviewing your relationship?
Lucie: No, it comes naturally. Over time, if you are keen, you become aware of your partner’s preferences and subtle nuances and you make an effort to take those preferences into consideration.
Kamiti: We realised the need to compromise when it came to making decisions. That was a few years into the marriage. We also agreed that we would never go to bed while holding a grudge and the need for full disclosure on all issues affecting us, no matter how ugly.
Did you have trouble defining each other’s roles and expectations in your relationship?
Kamiti: Finding a balance at the beginning was hard. When you get married you just don’t embrace your partner. You also embrace their immediate and extended family as well. It means having to adopt and learn your new family and how to relate with them.
Care to dish on what entailed for you?
Lucie: There was a ‘weight issue’. I’m petite, always have been. With marriage and pregnancy, there was an expectation that I would finally gain some weight. When I didn’t, it seemed the next logical question for people to ask albeit jokingly was whether my husband was feeding me well. I’m sure the intent was not malicious but I’d be lying if I said it did not sting even if just a bit.
Kamiti: My observation is, the bulk of expectations from relatives and society at large is placed more on women as opposed to men. Women are expected to adjust their lives accordingly while if a man does not, it is seen to be normal and he even gets a free pass on misdeeds.
How did you finally deal with the negative intrusion?
Lucie: It was not easy but we decided to focus on us and simply not allow negative energy into our marriage. People will always talk anyway.
Kamiti: We resolved not to conform to pressure. My parents taught me to take responsibility for my actions from an early age. Staying focussed and concern for other people has also informed the choices I make. I also observe other couples and pick things from them that I think can also work for my family.
What was the inspiration behind joining the pageant Lucie, and has it been a plus for your marriage?
Lucie: Of course! The first requirement is to be married so I’m thankful to Kamiti for helping to make our marriage work. I joined the pageant for a couple of reasons. First, to challenge myself beyond my comfort zone; second was for my girls: eight-year-old Ruby and six-year-old Lisa.
I wanted to show them that their potential is limitless and that they can achieve their dreams at any age, they just need to go for it! I was pleasantly surprised when I won the Kenyan title. The icing on the cake was winning the African title – Mrs Africa International. My family has been very supportive.
Kamiti: When Lucie told me she wanted to compete for Mrs Africa Kenya, I took it positively. As the family leader, I felt the need to give her the necessary support to pursue any opportunity that she wants, provided it is not detrimental to our family unit.
Self-improvement must be a big deal in the Kamiti household.
Lucie: It is. We both read a lot especially self-help books. We even swap books when we think the other could benefit from the content and we are also trying to instill the same culture in our girls. Cultivating the different areas of our lives has made our chemistry stronger.
Kamiti: I once attended a self-development programme that made me realise I had put all my emphasis on making money when wealth really involves different aspects including health, career and family. When these areas flourish, finances also sort themselves. I therefore started slotting time for work, fun and family in a bid to lead a more balanced life. I learnt to speak out. Opening up to Lucie and discussing solutions or alternatives to our problems especially the financial ones eased the burden.
You waited two years after getting married before having children. Was it intentional?
Lucie: Yes. It felt like marriage and having children immediately would be too overwhelming. Being a last-born and a huge age gap between my siblings and I, I did not get to observe first-hand what nurturing entailed. Even with my friends’ children, often times, I would be a bystander and not the up close, fully involved and nurturing type. I needed time to internalise that motherhood was going to be a part of my life.
Kamiti: She is a great mother! Adjusting into parenthood for men by the way is also not as easy.
Kamiti: Men don’t talk about their inner issues, so it’s not like I could ask a friend how to adjust to this parenting thing. So I researched and observed other couples with their children. It also dawned on me that Lucie was also adjusting and needed all the help she could get. So I got on board.
Lucie: I think pregnancy is hard if a man is not involved in the journey. When I was delivering Ruby, Kamiti was with me in the delivery room. When Ruby needed to feed or a diaper change, Kamiti was there – ready and willing.
How are you preparing your girls for the outside world?
Lucie: I teach my girls that they have great potential and gender has got nothing to do with going for opportunities. I intentionally create time for them; for instance, the car ride to school in the morning is our special time. There is a fear of the unknown where girls are concerned. They grow up so fast and are exposed to so many situations where someone can take advantage of them. I try to listen to the verbal and non-verbal cues to know what is going on with them and hopefully give them the right direction.
Kamiti: I teach my daughters that they are equal yet individuals. They need to set their own path as well as defend and protect each other. I try not to limit their experiences.
Lucie: We are also very involved in their lives. For example, we agreed never to miss any of our children’s school activities. We also have date nights with the family and Sunday is always family day.
You obviously sound like you are enjoying your marriage. Are there times when the fires dip?
Kamiti: Well, truth is, you cannot force intimacy and there are times you are just not in the mood to have sex. It happens. But we have found our way around it. For instance, if I am not in the mood and Lucie is all fired up, she would request me to massage her feet. The chemistry builds on from there.
Lucie: (Laughing) And he doesn’t have a chance to say no.
How do you keep your intimacy alive?
Lucie: We talk about the intimate aspects of our relationship. We are always learning how to handle both the internal and external issues that affect our intimacy. If you ignore them, then it is really easy to get stuck in a rut. Additionally, over time, intimacy has become more a matter of quality than quantity and the frequency changes. We also celebrate our milestones. We recently celebrated our tenth-year marriage anniversary.
Kamiti: We also take some time out to enjoy each other. Lucie likes to travel so we go on vacations, which really help to keep things on top.
Published January 2017