Gerald Wambugu Mwangi, 34, and Hannah Wambui, 31, have been married for 13 years. Despite marrying very young, this pleasant, humble and easygoing couple has learnt to work through challenges to keep their marriage alive and well. They shared with FAITH MURIGU the journey they have walked and give tips that make marriage fulfilling.
Love at first sight…
Gerald Wambugu Mwangi was 21 when he saw a young beautiful girl and fell in love with her. She was only 19. She did not reject his friendship when he approached her. And thus began the love affair of Gerald and Hannah.
Hannah: I was born in July 1981 at Pumwani Hospital and grew up in Nairobi together with my five siblings. My father worked at the Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) and we lived in the company’s staff quarters in Ruaraka for some time.
I went to Thika Road Primary School. Despite being a brilliant student, I could not afford to enrol in high school owing to my family’s limited finances. Instead, I enrolled in a dressmaking course in Kariobangi. I also did various casual jobs for my sustenance. When my father resigned from KBL, we relocated to Santon Estate on the Kasarani-Mwiki road – a place where I was to meet my soul mate.
Gerald: I grew up in Othaya in Nyeri County. My parents were loving and protective of my three siblings and I. I did not pursue further studies after standard eight but instead joined my father who was a mechanic in Nairobi. He trained me in his line of work and soon enough I was making my own money. I lived with him in Maringo Estate but opted to live on my own in 1998 at Santon Estate. This was where I met Hannah. Ours was love at first sight and right from the beginning we longed to spend time together on every available opportunity.
I took her to my rural home in December 1999 and introduced her to my family as my wife. I was young and ignorant, but terribly in love, so I overlooked customs relating to marriage. My uncle advised me on what I needed to do, but encouraged me to get married and settle down, even though I was very young.
We started living together in February 2000 even though I hadn’t paid dowry. I was happy that her parents didn’t have an issue with our decision to live together and went ahead to bless our union. I only had a bed in my small house but we were too much in love to care for anything else.
Hannah: Since I didn’t have a job, I settled into the role of housewife, relying fully on my husband’s support, a situation that continued until November 2011. We had our first child, Brian Mwangi, in September 2000. Life was not easy as my husband earned a meagre income, but we learnt to live within our means. Soon after our son was born, my husband relocated to Nakuru to try his hand in business and my son and I moved to his rural home in Othaya.
It was not easy adapting to rural life especially when my husband was not with me, but I did my best to fit in. I learnt to work in the farm and pick coffee. Life got a bit easier when my husband joined me after his business venture in Nakuru failed. It was while living in our rural home and feeling a need for God’s strength and grace that I re-dedicated my life to Him.
Gerald: After living with my family in Othaya for two years, I re-joined my father in Nairobi and continued working as a mechanic. I saved some money and moved my family from Nyeri to Ruiru where we live to date. We had a new addition in the family by this time, a three-month-old baby girl, Agnes Wanjiku.
Hannah: We started our life from scratch in Ruiru but were happy to be together. However, there was a problem – I was saved and my husband was not. My husband didn’t know Christ at the time and he had this big ego of wanting to be leader in everything and expecting me to submit at all times, even when he didn’t reciprocate. I let him be and focused more in matters of faith. It was not easy living with a spouse who didn’t know God and of course this created marital disharmony.
Gerald: I led my life without acknowledging God. If it were not for my wife’s perseverance, prayer and love, I would have lost my marriage. She kept encouraging me to get saved but I remained a defiant troubled man. I knew I was missing something in my life but was too proud to accept it was Jesus. I deliberated on my life and family foundation and realised I was not living right. After much prodding from my wife and self soul-searching I was convicted to surrender my life to God in August 2011. I have since known great joy and peace.
Growing in faith…
Gerald: Despite becoming saved, I still carried some of my baggage. For example, I attended a different church from my wife as I felt it would be stooping too low to join her. But after humbling myself, I saw the need to join her church where she was fully established so we could worship together as a family. I can say without a doubt that following Jesus was the best decision I ever made. Not only do I feel at peace with myself, but have seen a rejuvenation of our marriage.
Hannah: Blessings don’t come singly because not only did my husband accept Jesus, but I also got a secretarial job with Wonder Touch Ministries International in Ruiru in November 2011. The extra income I get has tremendously improved our living standards. I thank God for his blessings on my family and marriage.
Dealing with conflict…
Hannah: We have gone through many challenges in our marriage. In the early years, I did not know how to handle conflict and resorted to sharing my problems with friends who were equally young. Their advice only made a bad situation worse and this made my husband and I drift apart. We disagreed on many issues, most of them minor, and it appeared my eyes never dried because crying was the order of the day. When I look back today, I realise how ignorant and little prepared for marriage we both were.
Gerald: Every marriage has its share of challenges. We have both come a long way. I have personally gained wisdom and skills that help me handle misunderstandings, which are inevitable, in a better way. Knowing God has helped me a lot, as I look up to Him for guidance. I try to avoid mistakes I made when I was younger. We are both now mature and we try to handle issues amicably, always asking God for guidance.
Hannah: I remember times when I would shut my husband out of my life when he wronged me. I would refuse to talk to him for days on end and this only made matters worse. I have learnt the best way of resolving misunderstandings is communicating effectively in an open and loving way and using God’s word as a trusted guide. We try as much as possible to resolve our issues. I also seek counsel from our pastor’s wife, who is my mentor. She is real and uncompromising.
Gerald: I recall times I would call my mother when I had disagreements with Hannah. My mother is a woman of wisdom and she loves me greatly and has the best interest of our marriage and our lives, and I knew without a doubt she was the best person to talk to. She always guided me appropriately, imparting wisdom in me, which is key to the success of any relationship.
Steps to a happy marriage…
Gerald and Hannah give various tips that lead to a happy marriage and which they try hard to practice.
Hannah: When a couple communicates, many issues are resolved and this brings in more fulfilment and joy into the marriage. My husband and I communicate daily and we have learnt not to leave anything untracked. We have discovered the mystery of who we are through communication. We talk long into the night and this brings us even closer. We also connect through prayer and in acts of service to God. God has opened great doors for us and he has been our guide.
Hannah: The bible teaches us that for one to be forgiven, he has to forgive others. This is a crucial requirement in marriage because conflicts are inevitable. Rather than ignoring the situation or giving each other the silent treatment, talk about the issue as soon as you are able to. Sometimes it takes a while to cool down and it is therefore crucial to gain perspective and think clearly. We have learnt to resolve our issues amicably for the health of our marriage. As a rule of thumb, we never go to sleep when one of us is upset or troubled. We try and resolve all the issues. Also, we have learnt to leave past grievances in the past; it does no good to bring past issues into the present.
3. Laugh together
Hannah: Humour and laughter keep our marriage fresh. Laughing together has the ability to form two people into soul mates. It is a healthy way of doing things. Life is full of pain and suffering and having a good laugh can be therapeutic. Laughter, and the resulting friendship are comforting, enjoyable and deeply satisfying. It brings connection to each other, and a way of laughing about difficult issues of life. If laughter is not part of your marriage, it may be an indication that you lack intimacy and trust in one another.
Gerald: Praying together has also been a source of strength and encouragement for us. When you pray together you will find anger of the day disappears and you sleep peacefully. I lead my family in prayers in the morning while my wife prays in the evenings before bed. Our children pray for the meals. We find prayer enhances family unity and cohesion.
5. Develop intimacy
Hannah: Sex should never be used as a weapon in marriage, even when things are not working well. I have never thought of withholding my body from my husband because that will cause more trouble for the marriage. He may opt to seek comfort and sex elsewhere. We have the purity of our marriage since none of us has ever been involved with another person. We have no one to compare our sex life with and this is our greatest security in our marriage.
Gerald: My wife has never denied me sex, even when she is not happy with me. She is a great blessing to me. She has been steadfast in her love and has never answered me back. I consider this to be great wisdom.
6. Work at your marriage
Gerald: Our marriage is for keeps and divorce is not an option. We have to work hard to ensure our marriage remains beautiful. We have learnt to value and respect each other and lift each other in our speech. We also treat each other with tenderness. I give my wife her space by allowing her to serve in church to the best of her ability. There was a time in our marriage when I felt more devoted to our children than to my wife, but I have learnt to give my wife all that I have. She is patient, genuinely loving and kind hearted and I truly cherish her.
Hannah: We have given our lives to each other and are always seeking creative ways to keep our union happy and fulfilling. I admire my husband for the way he has worked hard to ensure his family never lacks. He has been open to me with his finances and we plan everything together. I opened my first bank account after I started working and there are no money secrets between us.
7. Create time for each other
Hannah: We try to spend as much time together doing things we both enjoy and supporting each other. We serve together in church. We pray together, console and comfort each other when need arises. We try to handle things that come our way together. A healthy relationship consists of two people who have an independent sense of self worth.
8. Be grateful
Hannah: Saying thank you is a magical word. Learning to appreciate the little things in life makes our world beautiful. Expressing gratitude increases positive feelings in your relationship.
9. Be compassionate
Gerald: It is important to be kind and compassionate to your spouse through listening to her attentively. By listening, you understand each other and are open to each other. As a husband, show your concern by doing little things that your spouse will appreciate. Go beyond the call of duty and help your spouse in areas she may not expect you to. And above everything else, love your spouse as you love yourself. God intended marriage to bring joy and happiness to a couple, not pain and rejection.
Published in December 2012