At the beginning of September 2012, the Democratic National Convention was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the USA. US President, Barrack Obama, was accepting his nomination to run for re-election. I woke up at 3am each one of the three days of the convention to witness the proceedings and I learned lessons, which I wish to share with you. Besides the politics and the art of public speaking, I learned from Obama three key lessons on marriage.
1. Show the world that you are in love with your woman
Not once, not twice but every time the US president gets the chance, he makes sure he tells his audience how deeply in love he is with his wife Michelle. Some people say it is politics, but in the case of Obama it is easy to see that his words are never empty. They are never rushed and they never lack in emotion. They are not forced or scripted. Obama is a man who is content with the choice he made.
But how many men in our country can show such adoration for their wives and mean it? Even our politicians don’t have the audacity to introduce their wives to Kenyans, let alone declare in public their love for their spouse. The best you get from these public meetings is from the MC mentioning that such and such presidential aspirant is accompanied by “mama watoto,” period!
Politics aside, acknowledging your wife is a good habit that every man should cultivate. I can only imagine how it makes Michelle feel and how it strengthens their bond. Some of my friends tell me this is not African. I disagree. I think it is human. It is not a preserve of a certain race but for the whole of humanity. So next time you are called to greet people at a family gathering make sure you introduce your wife by name, not by tittles such as “mama watoto.” Compliment her on the things she does to make your life successful and happy and also let the world know you love her. I assure you that you will earn her respect and that of the audience.
2. Let your wife shine
When Obama came into the political limelight, few people had heard about Michelle, his wife. Today, her’s is a household name not just in the US, but also all over the world. Frequent surveys done in the US show that Michelle is more popular than Obama among Americans. She beats him in popularity by more than 20 percent. And they both know it. Actually, some people have mentioned her name among possible future tickets for the presidency. Michelle gave a speech on the first day of the convention, while Obama was the last to address the delegates. Pundits said that Michelle’s speech was the better of the two. They said she appealed to the undecided voters more than the president did. And on the day the president came to give his speech, none other than Michelle welcomed him to the podium.
You see, brother, I love a woman who can stand up for her man and their children, as well as uphold their shared values and vision, whether the man is dead or alive. In our country, it appears ‘un-African’ to let the left hand know what the right is doing. Men invest in shares and stocks; buy land and other material things without ever mentioning a word to their wives. No wonder our courts are filled with family disputes. It also appears ‘un-African’ for a woman to be heard in public and so her voice is stifled even though her point is what you may need to move to the next level. It appears some men are afraid that people will conclude their wives are smarter than them or that people will think an outspoken woman must be the one who wears the ‘pants’ in the house. But judging by how the Obamas are doing it, I think one of the keys to a happy marriage is to help your wife shine and to push her towards self-actualisation. Let her represent you in some of your businesses or political meetings. You have seen how Michelle goes to campaign in one state and Obama in another. They are in sync and this can only mean victory. I am working on this one!
3. Mind your social CV
The first two points I have raised would be impossible if President Obama was a social disgrace. He would find it hard to tell the world how he loves his wife and how she makes him feel if he was the town ‘he-goat’. Obama has one wife, Michelle. No one has ever questioned that and he does not live with the fear that one day a woman might show up at a campaign rally and claim she is wife number two or one, or a mistress. It would be the surprise of the century if a lad came from nowhere claiming a share of his father’s wealth from Michelle. Obama has shown the world his two daughters whom he adores.
In this country, men have naturalised mpango wa kando. A wife is never sure whether she is number one or four, or the only one. You have seen a man no less than President Kibaki calling a press conference to insist that he has only one dear wife and four children? How many men would have such courage? My brother, don’t give people the chance to doubt you. Move around with your wife, attend church together, go for coffee together, introduce her to family, friends, goat eating buddies and if you are a politician introduce her to your supporters and make her shine during campaigns. What does it pay for a man to live with so many secrets, which nevertheless show up at his funeral or when he decides to tie the knot with one of the many women in his life?
Obama is not the perfect man. Michelle has been quoted in the media before saying how their marriage was tested in the early days to the point of contemplating divorce. But I think the two have worked hard to overcome any challenges and cement their relationship and the future can only get better. The ball is in our court, we Kenyan men, to ensure that our marriages, no matter our station in life, are happy ones. And I think the above lessons will be key to going forward.