Pastor Waweru Njenga, 34, and his wife Evie Waweru, 36, have been married for ten years. Pastors on staff at Mavuno church in Nairobi, the couple share the experience of their joyful marriage with FAITH MURIGU.
Although two years younger than his wife, Pastor Waweru (popularly known as Wa), quickly points out that age factor doesn’t determine the quality of a marriage. He adds that all a couple needs is a predetermined desire to work through their issues. “It rarely occurs to me that my wife is older than me, and also from a different tribe,” he says.
Waweru cautions that when a woman is courting a younger man, she should be ready to deal with the possible pressures from people questioning the age factor. He also reckons that if a woman is sure of what she wants, then people’s opinions should not sway her.
Waweru grew up with an absentee father but when his time to marry drew near, he talked to his father who offered free advice. He told him that the ideal age for a man to get married was 30 years and a woman 28. His father’s argument was that at that age, both parties are mature for marriage. Also, it was good that he marries from his tribe to continue the family name and reduce their differences. On the contrary, Waweru got married at 24 to a 26-year old Luo woman. So displeased was his family that they refused any involvement in dowry negotiations and the wedding.
Waweru was born in Lamu and his parents separated when he was one year old. His mother, a second wife to his father, walked out of the marriage when it seemed the marriage wouldn’t work. She took her five children with her, bringing up the family of two boys and three girls singlehandedly.
Waweru: I was a bright student in school and wanted to be a doctor but I did not attain the cut off points required. At 14, while in form one at Kambaa High School in Machakos County, I became a born-again believer and my life changed. I started work immediately after school, and it seemed the plans I had for my own life took a different and dramatic turn when my mother passed on in October 1998, precipitating some very dark moments in my life and family then.
At the time, I was a leader at a city church leading in the small group’s ministry. I sensed God’s call to the ministry during this time as my passion to reach out to people grew. Our church had a big citywide outreach and a lot of people came in. My language skills and training became critical as we helped translate and write teaching materials for new church plants. I joined the church staff as we started planting churches within the city.
Evie: I grew up in the city in a family that loved to party. When I became a born- again-believer, I prayed that God would give me a born-again husband at the right time. It was the norm in our family to go abroad for further studies after high school. Being no exception, my parents found a university for me in the US. I was not enthusiastic about it and I resorted to prayer seeking God’s guidance. I knew that if I went to the US, I would get back to my old lifestyle and ultimately loose out on my new life of salvation. Eventually, I ended up not going.
Love is born…
Waweru: Towards the end of 2001, I was busy working for God in our church office. Evie often came to the office as she served with the kid’s ministry team. She loved God and often looked out for other areas to help serve in. I loved her passion and joyful spirit. We sat and had lunch on a Missions sports day at church and started talking. From that encounter we had many more dates and a strong friendship began to form.
Evie: It was while serving in church that I met Waweru. I was attracted to him and I really prayed in my heart that he would one day be my boyfriend. Our values and visions were similar in a lot of ways. I had grown up in a family where my mother walked out on my father when we were young. My father later remarried a very wonderful woman who brought us up.
As we built on our friendship, Waweru and I spent hours talking and getting to know each other. He told me about the nature of God’s call on him to the ministry. He asked me, ‘If I had to go to Somalia to plant a church, would you be willing to come with me?’ I said yes because I meant it from my heart. Apparently, this was what he needed to hear to know for sure I was the one.
Waweru: I liked Evie’s openness. When I was sure she was the one, she took me to her family who were very welcoming. However, when I introduced her to my family, there was a lot of resistance because she was from a different tribe. I had to stand firm and defend my love. My family refused involvement in our wedding because they did not agree with my choice of spouse.
Evie: Due to our diverse upbringing and backgrounds, we disagreed a lot in our early days of marriage. After a one-week honeymoon, which was very exciting, I had to make adjustments to fit in the pastor’s wife role. I had to learn how to be a wife, a pastor, and start a new home all at the same time.
Waweru: My wife conceived in 2006 after several years of trying for a baby. We have never really been anxious about having children. I believe loving one another and choosing to enjoy the marriage relationship without making a fuss about having children, whether they are boys or girls or none at all sets up the platform for children to find a healthy home when they come.
We pastored the church we planted for eight years. It was very fulfilling for us but we also sensed that it was time for a new and different season. In due time, we turned over the church and moved out. In our search for a church to fellowship in, we settled in Mavuno church. While still praying about our next ministry involvement, the senior pastor approached us about joining the team there after hearing our story. We did and are currently on the church planting team.
Waweru: Marriage fights are normal between two people and they are actually beneficial at times. I respect the fact that Evie and I are different and our approach to some things in life is different. This gives our marriage, a wider perspective. In marriage, if you keep all your anger or resentment inside, things get worse. The key is to bring up issues and resolve them as quickly as possible so they don’t have time to fester. Storing anger keeps you irritated at things that normally wouldn’t bother you because stored resentment breeds intolerance.
Evie: We have learnt to differentiate between useless and useful battles. We do not make issues out of things that do not really matter in the long run. There will be plenty of things that do matter, so you need to learn early which things matter enough to go to battle over. Otherwise, you will end up fighting all the time and the marriage will be in trouble before it ever gets a fair chance.
Waweru: Most couples fight about money, sex, and communication. The key is learning to apologize when wrong, and growing together. I believe the simple words I’m sorry do make a world of difference in a relationship.
Walking in understanding…
Waweru: I try to understand my wife and be compassionate. We all have feelings, likes and dislikes that are unique to us and that define who we are. I’m careful about criticising Evie on things I know she is sensitive about. Marriage is good, and it works. However, a spouse must be ready to do the dirty work of laying a strong foundation. I grew up in a broken home with no role models until later on in life and so I purpose to be a good husband and father. My marriage approach is intentional towards making Evie and I win from the times we differ on issues.
Evie: Partners in marriage should learn their temperaments, as this will help explain their differences. I am generally introverted and very orderly; on the other hand, my husband is extroverted and tends to be random, which can cause conflict. When we understood our temperaments, we started coaching each other from each other’s perspective, which is very helpful.
Waweru: We try to do things together because it provides us quality time with each other. We take long walks or drives just to reconnect. We also celebrate our special moments: a birthday, an anniversary, a promotion, or even a pregnancy. This is creating memories about the good places you are at in life. We waited four years after marriage for a child and so when Evie conceived, we had a celebration. Again, after our daughter Alexa was born in 2006, we have waited until now for the second baby. We are going to celebrate these milestones in an exciting way.
Evie: There is no perfect marriage but we are striving to make ours beautiful. It is a lifelong journey, which is worth the effort. Nobody should expect perfection in their partner because no one is perfect. Be your partner’s best friend and listen to them when they have a problem or need to talk. Make sure you always let them know you love them for who they are.
On faithfulness and trust…
Waweru: If you find yourself getting attracted to someone else while you are married, it’s important to stop and investigate the feelings behind that attraction. Could it be that you are discontented with your spouse? Are you taking each other for granted? I personally believe that spouses cheat because they make choices that lead there. It is not by accident.
To avoid falling into infidelity, appreciate your spouse in private and in public, show her affection and also let her know her place in your life. Deliberately work to eliminate things that compete for your wife’s attention by remaining intimate with her. The truth is, men are more vulnerable to infidelity than women. As men, we are most vulnerable when we are angry, tired or sad. I am careful during those moments to be with Evie and my family.
Evie: We are accountable to each other. We also have people over us, and others who look up to us that we are accountable to. We don’t wear masks and pretend but rather approach issues in our marriage with one resolve. This relationship has to work.
Waweru: Anyone who says their spouse is the most perfect person on earth is a liar. There will always be better, smarter and more talented people than you and vice versa. That’s life. I notice beautiful women but the difference is that I am not committed to them. My commitment is with Evie. When I think about the people who look up to me – my wife and daughter, church family, God, and others – the stakes are too high. I cannot afford to compromise.
If you are ever tempted to cheat, stop and ask yourself if that other person is really worth what you are putting on the line. Respect and value your spouse enough to be faithful and loyal. When you took those marriage vows, you made a promise to always be faithful to each other. Temptation to be unfaithful comes with marriage, but you must resolve upfront to be faithful.
On matters of sex…
Waweru: Put each other’s feelings first when it comes to sex. Some people may have a lower sex drive than their partners, yet that doesn’t mean they don’t love you if they don’t want sex as often as you do. If your sex drives are not at par, talk to each other about it, and really listen. Maybe there is a lot of stress at work, or there is too much to do to allow the mood for sex. Do not make assumptions about attractiveness, or lack of love, without talking.
Evie: I have a mentor who keeps telling me that if your spouse wants sex as a tranquiliser, the best thing is to give it to him. Sex should not be used to manipulate your spouse as this can be likened to practising witchcraft. Couples should be willing to work out their sex life and also openly discuss it. Men should also handle their wives with understanding just as the bible says.I love my husband. He is an amazing man and a doting father to our six-year-old daughter, Alexa Maya.
Waweru: Couples need to coach each other on what feels good during sex so that they can enjoy it. I believe that sex is not just a mechanical physical act, but rather a very emotional and physical journey to oneness. A secret to a great sex life is praying together. It brings great intimacy between you as you create the time to be together.