Eric Ngare Karoki and Christine Ngare, both in their late thirties, recently won recognition in a unique contest dubbed ‘The Grand Wedding,’ which seeks to pick Kenya’s most outstanding couple through a competitive nomination process. The two lovebirds share the secret behind their blissful 10-year-old marriage with FAITH MATHENGE-MURIGU.

On September 1, 2012, the second event of the Grand Wedding celebrations was held at Natare gardens in Karen, Nairobi. It was the culmination of a process driven through the company’s website www.grandwedding.co.ke, in search of Kenya’s most admired couple who are then rewarded with a Grand Wedding anniversary celebration. The annual event, which is designed to bring back meaning to the institution of marriage, comprises of 50 nominated couples and other invited guests. This years’ successful event, whose theme was conserving marriages and families, was organised by Martin Muli of Paradise Bubbles – an events organising company.

Eric Ngare Karoki and his lovely wife Christine savoured the glory of being nominated the couple of the year. They least expected it considering the cutthroat competition process, and the fact that they have been married for only 10 years. However, the couple is happy to have won and are grateful to all those who voted for them.

Boy meets girl…

Eric was born in Nyeri, 37 years ago. At the age of one, his parents relocated to Nairobi where he grew up. Christine, on the other hand, was born and bred in Nairobi’s Eastlands area as a first child. Both Eric and Christine are trained accountants. Christine works at the Kenya broadcasting Corporation (KBC) as an IT specialist while Eric runs a transport business.

Eric graduated from college in 1996 and a year later secured a job with KBC in the licensing section of the finance department. Coincidentally, Christine also got employed in the same organisation soon after college. She reported a few days before Eric and also worked in the finance department but in a different section. And that’s where the couple met.

Eric: When I joined KBC, I couldn’t help noticing Christine. Her beauty was outstanding. We were both new employees and also the youngest in the company at the time. Naturally, we struck a friendship. The more interacted with her, the more I was attracted to her. She was irresistible. Her captivating smile and very warm heart, always made me feel weak all over. I wanted her for myself but it was not easy as there were better, richer and more educated men within the organisation and out there. I had to play my cards very well. 

Christine: After I joined KBC, Eric approached me for friendship, which I accepted.As days went by, I discovered that Eric was genuine, very hard working, intelligent, humble and had a sense of humour. I enjoyed his company. I accepted to be his girlfriend in 1999 and a serious relationship began.

Shared values…

Christine: Eric loved me genuinely. We had many things in common and this drew us even closer. We lived on the same route and always waited for each other after work to travel together. Our love grew by leaps and bounds and soon we were inseparable.

 Eric: As a first born in a family of five I learnt to take on responsibilities from a young age. My parents instilled great discipline in me, as they wanted me to set a good example to my siblings. I grew up in a humble background where good morals were the norm rather than an exception.  My prayer was that I would get a responsible, mature lady for a wife.  The more I interacted with Christine, the more I discovered that we shared the same goals and dreams. She was responsible and in charge of her life; qualities I truly admired. My friends discouraged me against dating Christine because we were age mates, concerned that she would not respect me.

Christine: Eric was transferred to Nyeri in 2000, a time when we were in deep courtship.  It was a trying moment but we purposed to make the best out of it. He would travel to Nairobi every weekend to see me. By and large, our relationship got sweeter. We spent the little time we had wisely, discussing our future. Our parents knew about our relationship as they had seen our love blossom. They were excited when we informed them that our wedding would be on December 14, 2002.

 Eric: I was devoted to Christine and always travelled to see her every weekend. I would travel from Nyeri on Friday evening and be back on Monday morning.

Marriage to an unsaved…

Eric: Although I was not a born-again Christian, my mother instilled the fear of God in me, the power of prayer and reading the bible. I knew I had a gem in Christine who was a committed Christian.

 Christine: I prayed earnestly for a man who feared God and I found one in Eric. However, matters of faith almost destroyed an otherwise great relationship. Being a born-again believer, everyone expected that I would get a man who was also born-again. It was hard to explain that I was in love with Eric. I still pray for Eric’s salvation up to this day.  However, he never misses church and he has been very supportive in my Christian walk.

 Pre-marital counselling

Eric: Our love flowered and we felt ready to settle in marriage. We went through pre-marital classes at St. John’s Anglican Church, Pumwani. The pastor was very open with us and gave us practical tips to apply in our marriage. We still apply the lessons learnt. Pre-marital counselling is key as it helps prepare one for marriage emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.

 Christine: The counselling was an eye opener. I learnt very helpful lessons. We had a glamorous wedding on December 14, 2002, which culminated in a two-month honeymoon. This was the greatest time of our lives as we got to savour the beauty of marriage. Unfortunately, my husband had to go back to work in Nyeri afterwards. It was hard living without him most of the time, since we were expecting our first child.

 Eric: We developed a strong bond during our honeymoon, which has lasted to this day and has been the cornerstone of our marriage. I continued with the weekly ritual of visiting my wife every weekend. In 2003,we had double blessings – our son Ryan Ngare was born in March and I also got a transfer back to Nairobi a few months later.

Love despite rough times…

Christine: We were excited to be re-united as a family and be able to bring up our son together. However, our joy was short-lived because when I was expecting our second child in 2006, my husband lost his job following a retrenchment programme at KBC. It was a tough period for our family.

 Eric: I felt as if the world was crashing on me when I received my retrenchment letter. I had a wife and two boys to take care of. All my efforts in businesses failed. The burden of taking care of my family rested on my wife’s shoulders, a role she took up gracefully. She would take loans from her workplace to support me in business although severally her efforts were watered down when the businesses didn’t do well.

During this phase, I looked after the children. I also looked for a short-term contracts and whatever I earned, I would give to my wife. After prayer and soul searching, and in consultation with my wife, I ventured into a transport business in 2008. After the teething problems, the business picked up and we are no longer in lack as a family. I honour my wife for respecting me and submitting to me even when she was the breadwinner. I love her for her kindness.  During that period, she protected me such that nobody knew of our challenges except our close family members and friends.

Christine: In our time of trouble, we put our trust in God. My husband was very loving despite all the tribulations he encountered and he was present all through. I gave him the mandate of planning my salary. This ensured that his ego was not wounded, as he still felt empowered as the family provider.

On family…

Eric: Our families are supportive of our marriage; they are our role models. They love and respect us.

Christine: Marriage is between us and not among us; therefore our discussions are always about us. This makes it easy to resolve our conflicts, which are inevitable in marriage. We have set boundaries in our marriage and our families respect that. 

Eric: We got our first child a few months after our wedding. Being a first time mother, Christine’s attention drifted to the baby and I really felt left out. I felt as if we were falling out in love. However, with slight adjustments and also reading a lot on parenting, we were able to get a healthy balance. I became more involved with the baby and this eased up the tension. We also deliberately created time for intimacy.

Christine: I think new mothers get drawn to their newborn babies naturally, and one can easily neglect their spouse unconsciously. When my husband expressed his concerns, I adjusted and we struck a healthy balance.

Sexual intimacy and fidelity…

Christine: I strive for ways of fulfilling my husband sexually because I believe that this solidifies our marriage. I equip myself every now and then by attending seminars, for example, the Jubilee Christian Church mentorship programme and the daughters of Zion meetings every month where we are taught how to spice up marriage and enjoy great sex. I put into practice the teachings and this makes our marriage a happy one. The end result is so good that my husband always reminds me when the meetings are due.

Eric: To enjoy great sex, we try to resolve all pending issues. Unresolved issues affect sexual intimacy. We are genuine with each other and we discuss sex matters candidly. The bible is our greatest resource on marriage issues. From it we draw lifetime lessons on what is expected of each one of us in marriage.

Christine: You have to purpose to be faithful to your spouse and shower him with love openly. My husband is my best friend. I appreciate and praise him before people and this earns him respect. We seize every available opportunity to be together which helps us discuss our issues agreeably. We attend functions together and enjoy our family day on Sunday. Ten years on, we still enjoy our coffee dates. When you love your husband unconditionally, you have no room to think of other men.

Eric: I appreciate beauty and I offer compliments appropriately. My wife fulfils me. She is beautiful inwardly and outwardly.  I have never thought of pursuing other women because I am contented in her love.  Friendship has played a key role in our marriage. We have an enviable union with my wife but it did not come easy, we cultivated it and continue to do so.

Keeping the fire alive…

Eric: Our marriage is not perfect. We have issues but we try to resolve them as quickly as possible so that they don’t fester. In many incidences, I call my wife over for a cup of coffee where we discuss issues without fear of judgement. We do not solve issues in front of our children; rather we go to a private place.

Christine: We forgive each other genuinely after solving our issues. Harbouring bitterness, pain and hurts could cost a marriage its joy. Marriage is hard work but the fruits are sweet. You must respect, honour, forgive and trust each other. 

Eric: Our home is a haven of peace, a place where I always look forward to returning to. I cherish family time. Christine and I believe that our marriage has to work and I am looking forward to our 70th wedding anniversary. We have no secrets between us.

Christine: Eric remembers all our birthdays and anniversaries; he throws a surprise every time. I like the fact that he is unpredictable which makes me fall deeply in love with him over and over again.  He is romantic in his own way. He does little things for me that leave me breathless. He has his own unique way of showering me with love. I celebrate my husband for being a great father to our children, a selfless leader and a loving husband. He is totally committed to our marriage and I thank him for it.

Eric: We take care of the little details of our lives because that is where joy emanates from. We are both dedicated to our marriage vows. Indeed, we can confidently say ours is a marriage made in heaven!

Published in October 2012