Despite all efforts to put together a happy solid family, Stephen Mwangi’s marriage recently ended after 20 years and with it almost everything that he had worked hard to put together. His daughters, now educated and with good jobs, took away their mother and other siblings to live in Nairobi. He has been abandoned at his sunset years after fully exhausting himself for the sake of his family. In spite of everything, he is still hoping for divine intervention to restore his marriage and family. He narrated his painful experience to MWAURA MUIGANA.
“I recall years back when my dad was admitted in a hospital in Nairobi for a long time. The nature of his sickness necessitated my mother to relocate from Murang’a to Nairobi to conveniently attend to him on a daily basis. My younger siblings were left on their own at our Murang’a home. Being the firstborn son of the family, I constantly left Nairobi where I worked, to check on them. This task was getting harder by the day because of my work commitments. I was in my late 20’s and still single. It occurred to me that if I got married, my wife could take care of my siblings at home while I concentrated on my job that was very demanding.
I approached my girlfriend with a marriage proposal but she wasn’t willing to commit as yet. Getting a wife was an urgent matter then and I decided to spread my wings further. That’s when I spotted a girl in the neighbourhood. She was a single mother recently widowed after her husband was killed in Nairobi. She seemed to have had problems with her in-laws and went back to live with her parents, a stone’s throw away from our home in Murang’a. I thanked my stars when she instantly jumped to my proposal. Basically strangers to each other, we moved in together with minimal courtship. My father passed away and since there was no need for her to stay at our rural home we settled in Nairobi to begin our blissful marriage. Almost immediately, we got our first baby together as she already had a two-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
It didn’t matter that there was no courting, as they say love conquers it all and that is how I felt. There were a few hints, though, that I should have picked about her that I ignored at my peril. Whenever she visited me in Nairobi before we finally moved in together, she would pick my house keys from me at my place of work. I would give her money for her lunch and our evening meal. Contrary to my expectations of going home in the evening to find a clean neat house, a delicious meal and a happy wife-to-be waiting for me, I would find her in bed, lights off and the money I had given her intact on the coffee table.
The other hint I ignored was her quick temper. She was easily agitated and always preferred to be left alone. The worst thing I had to endure with was her inability to let go of her late husband’s memories and their short-lived marriage. As much as I wanted to know about her previous marriage and her late husband, or even to see his photograph, my wife declined to provide either. Nor did she agree to change her national identity card to reflect her new status as my wife. I had to contend with her official identification as the man’s wife and our first daughter’s birth certificate bearing his name for many years.
The only thing she ever told me is that he was very wealthy. I was to learn later that she still lived in the shadow of her late husband and the euphoria of a wealthy marriage life. Every night she had nightmares that left her screaming at the top of her voice, but would refuse to discuss the problem when I interrupted to cool her down. I suspected she was depressed after the death of her husband and was still going through the trauma of losing a loved one. I felt trapped as she was already expecting our baby at the time. At one time I jokingly told her that we could separate and agree to bring up the baby together even if we lived separately. She threatened to commit suicide if I dared to do so.
We finally got married customarily in June 1991hoping that time would help my wife come to terms with reality and fully accept me, not as a replacement for her late husband but as a different man in different circumstances. He was wealthy but I wasn’t and this probably was a major disparity as far as she was concerned.
I purposed to do what it would take to make her a happy woman as that would make me happy as well. My salary then was around Ksh15,000 per month and therefore, I had to do proper planning to maintain my new family within my resources. For starters, a few months after the birth of our daughter, we resolved that my wife and children live in our rural home while I moved to a cheap room in a not-so-pleasant neighbourhood to make some savings and put up a permanent house at my rural home for my family. Looking back, I regret asking my wife to live in our rural.
Giving my all…
I went out of my way and through sacrifice and devotion to my family, did all I could with my meager salary to make them comfortable. With time I managed to put up a beautiful permanent home for my family, complete with electricity and tap water. Furthermore, I dug a borehole with intentions to buy a water pump and do irrigation farming. It became obvious that my wife was not interested in farming or taking care of the dairy cattle I had bought.
Initially, it didn’t matter since she was now taking care of our growing family. I also strived to provide the best education to our four children according to my ability, putting them in private schools and later boarding schools. All this I did hoping to gain respect, appreciation and love from my wife. I was fully convinced that my wife knew that I held nothing back when it came to the welfare of my family.
What surprised me most was that all these efforts and sacrifice for my family went unappreciated. Most of the time she was in low spirits and often incommunicado. If, for instance, I raised a concern about the way she was taking care of the children, she would become very furious and we ended up in a bitter argument. Our children were quick to pick out the bad blood between us. A minor misunderstanding brought her down in tears and she would stop talking to me for as long as one month. Our children were very traumatized, as a result.
Living in the past…
Sadly, I realised many years later that apparently the gap left in my wife’s heart by the death of her first husband was too wide for me to fill. I wasn’t financially capable of providing the kind of lifestyle she used to enjoy. I tried as much as I could to open up about our financial status and my expenses but she told our children that I wasn’t living up to my responsibilities. Even when our two daughters were in expensive boarding schools that I strained to pay for, she didn’t appreciate my efforts. One time our first daughter insulted me in the presence of my younger children, on claims of not providing for the family. Whenever I went home for annual leave, my wifewould be ‘sick’ until I went back to work.
Headed for the rocks…
The anticlimax of our marriage hit in 2004. The company I worked for changed hands. I was given my terminal benefits, which I used to clear outstanding balances of our children’s school fees. Luckily the new owners took me up but on a lower salary hence I started going through financial difficulties.
Our first daughter completed forth form in the same year and disappeared from home. I was disheartened because she was a bright girl who needed to advance her education. I tried to look for her only to learn much later that she had moved in with a policeman at a nearby police station. Her mother was aware of the ‘marriage’ and she undermined my efforts to bring the girl back home.
The man had what I didn’t have, extra money all the time and provided a lot of my wife’s needs. She couldn’t afford to lose the cash cow. I was fighting a losing battle and at one time my wife told me that girls was not my biological child and I could make decisions about her life.
Our daughter’s lover was now part of the family and a good provider, and was even involved in all family matters. Due to the nature of my work and scarce resources I was unavailable most of the time, and this made him very close to my wife. With time I became a problem and my input in the family appeared invisible.
Many times my wife would switch off her phone or refuse to take my calls, while our daughter started sending me very offensive text messages. My wife would often provoke an exchange with me immediately I got home from Nairobi and then desert the matrimonial bed to spend the night in the children’s bedroom or on the sofa set.
Our daughter was used as a proxy to make decisions on important family matters except paying school fees, which I did. In 2006 my wife wrote me a text message saying that she was tired of the marriage and declined to discuss the matter further when I faced her.
Worried that my marriage was about to hit the rocks, I called for intervention from our respective relatives, village elders, and my wife’s pastor with no positive results.
When our second born daughter completed her fourth form examination, I enrolled her in a computer college before the exam results were out. After completing the course, she got a job with a relative’s company and settled in Nairobi. No one ever told me about it.
By December 2009 our communication with my wife was minimal. She kept trying to provoke me and trigger a fight with me. Once she told my mother that she and our children were not part of our family. The writing was on the wall.
The runaway wife…
On the evening of April 24, 2010, I went home only to find she hadn’t spent the night there. When she came back the following day I waited until our children went to bed at night so that we could talk in privacy. An argument ensued and she walked out on me and has never come back.
My efforts for reconciliation through the village elders, her pastor and the local chief bore no fruits when my wife refused the proposition to have a meeting. Almost two years now she has been living with our second born daughter who is working for a relative in Nairobi. Our two younger children who are in boarding schools join them during school holidays. I continued paying school fees for the children but to completely separate me from them, my wife made them believe I had abandoned them and denied me the opportunity to continue paying fees.
The truth is that I have always been out trying to make ends meet and whatever I got I always invested in their welfare. I have been completely cut off from my children who I have worked for tirelessly for the past nineteen years. I feel deserted that at my sunset years, having worked for 27 years to take care of my family, I have been left lonely and confused. I still pray that my wife and family will come back to me someday.
My self-esteem has been eroded and my relationships at work and home, and my status in society has also been affected. I don’t claim innocence in everything that happened, I made mistakes but my wife made it worse by not giving dialogue and possible reconciliation a chance.
I regret having not killed the monster when it was small but at least I have seen my first and second daughters through education to become what they are today. As for being deserted and abandoned at my age, I’m weighing my options but still hoping for divine intervention to fix my marriage.”