My dear Njeri,

RE: SIX RULES OF LOVE

I have chosen to go the old way and write a letter to you, the way my mother used to write to me when I was in boarding school. From your abode in New York City you may not be staying current with things that worry your mother back home. I know you are now an adult and there is little I can teach you if I didn’t do it when you were younger, but mothers never leave their daughters’ lives. I have put myself in the shoes of mothers of three girls, all as beautiful as you and almost your age, who have gotten into trouble in the last two months. I weep with them because those girls could have been anyone’s daughter.

Let me tell you a little about these girls: One is Sharon Otieno, a university student who dated a married governor and this relationship ended tragically when she was brutally murdered over a month ago together with her unborn baby. As I write this, the governor, together with others, has been charged with her murder. The other is businesswoman Monica Kimani who was found gruesomely murdered in her apartment in Nairobi. To add to the mystery of Monica’s death is another woman, a celebrated TV journalist, Jacque Maribe, who, together with her fiancé, have been charged with Monica’s murder.

These deaths and others that may have gone unreported make me want to have a conversation with you on that four-letter word – LOVE. This supposedly basic and straightforward emotion is one that is capable of bringing us happiness and pain. In the name of love, Sharon died; in the name of love, Jacque is facing a murder charge.

My dear daughter, allow me to remind you of six simple rules of falling in love that we may have talked about in passing before, rules that you may need to arm yourself with in this day when love has become almost a matter of life and death for you young people.

Rule 1: Certain people are off limits

Would you have an affair with a married man? Or someone of a questionable character? Where do you draw the line? If you are a person of integrity you will know certain people are off limits – those whose background you are not sure of, those whose sources of income you cannot account for, those who want to feed off you, those who are married, and those who want to use their money to lure you for sex. Even if you have genuinely fallen head over heels in love with them and they make you happy, just get over it and break away. If you fall in love with someone but deep down you know you feel some guilt and have to make excuses to justify why you are with them, this person should be off limits.

Rule 2: You can’t change people

So you have met this guy who seems great but he has some irritating habits and you think you can change that. The fact is you don’t have the power to change anyone. People can modify their behaviour but cannot change their personality. If you meet someone who appears perfect apart from being an alcoholic, or physically abusive, or serially unfaithful, just know you won’t change them. They might keep the behaviour in check for the first few months or years, but sooner or later, they will go back to their old habits. Be kind to yourself and leave now.

Rule 3: Relationships aren’t about sex

Great sex is a wonderful thing. But if the relationship is built on sex alone, you will be in trouble after the initial excitement wears off. This rule is important to remember when you are looking for love, as the danger is many people mistake lust for love. Married men are especially good at hoodwinking young girls. You think that because sex is great it covers for all other faults. Great sex will not cover his wayward behaviour, particularly when he is cheating on his wife.

Rule 4: Know someone well before you commit

Most people present themselves in the best light in a new relationship. Let this not blind you. Remember it takes time to get to know someone well and for them to feel sufficiently confident in you to drop the guard. So don’t rush anything. Waiting 12 months or even more to decide if he is really the right person to be with is worth it. What’s a year compared to getting involved with the wrong person who could cost you your life or a life in jail?

Rule 5: If you can’t trust them, leave

Trust is an absolute essential between partners. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about being faithful, sticking to promises, keeping spending within what you can afford or telling the truth. If you can’t trust your partner you will never be happy. If you suspect he has a dark side because he is so secretive, get out while you can. You may have become involved with a carjacker, a murderer or one involved in other criminal activities.

Rule 6: Only have a lover who makes your life better, not worse

The great thing about being an adult is that you can make choices. You don’t have to stay in a relationship unless you want to. So if you enter into a relationship and find out that it is not making your life better or happier, run the check on him and if he doesn’t meet what you are looking for, just get out. Think about it this way – you have worked so hard, built your career, name and integrity and you meet this man who wants to live off your sweat and also use your good name and reputation to get by – you will come to regret it, sooner or later.