David Kibera Muchiri, 43, and his wife Esther Wangare, 42, have been married for 14 years. They are parents to Joan Kibera, a class six pupil, and Jeff Kibera who is in nursery school. This couple knows only too well that when committing to marriage, having realistic guidelines is key to making the marriage last. They shared their experience of marriage with FAITH MURIGU.
Despite giving David and Esther a short notice for this interview, they gladly welcomed me to their home one Monday last month. I dined and enjoyed the evening with the couple and their children at their home in Zimmerman estate before settling down for this interview.
“Falling in love is great but staying in love is hard work. Once the honeymoon period fades off, real issues set in and when you have the first argument, you may think all is lost. However, this is never the case, it is just makes you realise that your spouse is not as perfect as you had assumed,” Kibera says as he starts off the discussion on the journey they have walked in their marriage.
Born in Nanyuki in 1970, Kibera had a normal childhood though his parents kept moving from one town to another due to work-related issues. During his primary and secondary schooling, his parents lived in Karatina town in Nyeri County before finally settling in Kieni, also in Nyeri County. On completing his secondary education at Kenyatta Mahiga High School in Nyeri, Kibera, the second born of six children, enrolled for his A-levels at Murang’a High School. Soon after he got a teaching job at Gikandu High School in Muranga. It was while teaching in this school that he gave his life to Christ.
In June 1992, Kibera left his teaching job after securing another job with the Kenya Credit Traders in Nairobi but unfortunately things did not turn out as he expected. “Although I had to start from the lowest paying position in the organisation, I took up the job since I had bills to pay. However, when the organisation introduced new rules that included working on Sundays. I quit because I felt the rule was an infringement on my faith,” he explains. Kibera enrolled at the then Kenya Polytechnic (now a university) for a course in supplies management after which he was employed by a manufacturing firm in Nairobi.
Esther, on the other hand, was born in Nakuru as the third born in a family of six children. She attended Langa Langa Primary School before proceeding to Town High School in Nakuru for her O-levels. Sadly, her father passed on soon after making any hopes of Esther joining college a far-stretched dream. She relocated to Nairobi and moved in with a cousin who offered to sponsor her to college on condition that she studied tailoring as opposed to secretarial, which was her choice.
Despite abhorring tailoring, Esther complied with her cousin’s conditions and completed the course. But when her cousin started misusing her skills by sourcing for well paying tailoring jobs for Esther to do and not paying her enough, she knew it was time to gain her independence.
“Frustrated, I requested her to allow me to move out, which she approved. I moved to Kahawa West and started a second hand clothes business and also trained in hairdressing. Through financial assistance from my sister and her husband, I started running my salon in 1997,” Esther explains.
Kibera meets Esther…
Esther and Kibera met while serving in a church youth singing group in Nairobi in 1992. “Ours wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, my first close encounter with Esther was when we were tasked with the registration of church members. Through these interactions we became friends and though I wanted a relationship with her, I was afraid of commitment,” recalls Kibera.
“As if reading my mind, Esther wondered why I was not defining our friendship and due to this uncertainty, we fell out in 1996. It was during this period that I realised other men were eyeing her,” says Kibera who decided to act promptly not to lose her.
He then purposed to pursue her unceasingly, though he was afraid of rejection, as he had since lost his job. He was doing odd jobs to make ends meet and didn’t know how Esther would take this. Sometime in 1997 Kibera told Esther of his desire to re-ignite the friendship and she asked for time to pray about it.
After a couple of months Esther accepted to renew the friendship and their courtship started. “We talked about pertinent issues of marriage – where to settle, finances, the number of children we wanted, matters of faith and so on. Discussing these issues helped strengthen our relationship and focus more on marriage,” says Esther. The couple dated for three years and deliberately choose to remain pure for each other until after marriage. They held a colourful wedding in 1999 and were blessed with their first child, Joan, in August 2001.
By the time Joan was born, Esther’s salon business was not doing well and her husband had still not found a full time job. She decided to close her business in 2002 and concentrate on raising their daughter. It was during this period that the idea of designing and sewing clothes was birthed. She felt it would give her an opportunity to be with her daughter and also make some money working from home.
Esther: Whenever my daughter and I wore clothes I had made, people asked me who was my tailor. Word went round that I was a good tailor and I began receiving orders to make clothes, mostly from my church members. My husband was still desperately looking for a job because we were experiencing financial challenges. As more orders trickled in, I rented a room close to our house where I started my dressmaking business. The business picked quickly and I moved to bigger premises to meet the now growing demand for my clothes.
I had a problematic pregnancy when expecting our son Jeff in 2006 and this affected my business because I was in and out of hospital. Fortunately, my husband secured a job in the same year as a transport manager at Cornerstone Academy in Nairobi, where he still works. He is also a student at Pan African Christian University (PACU) off Thika Highway where he is pursuing a Christian education course. This was always his dream. My husband has been very supportive of my business endeavours. From our experience, marriage works with love, wisdom and determination.
Kibera: I admire my wife’s confidence in her business ability. She is also my greatest supporter and has stood by me through thick and thin. As a couple, we grow from strength to strength and don’t need to compare ourselves with others because in life there will always be someone better than us.
Solving challenges in family life…
Kibera: Bringing up a family is a blessing that comes with its own share of challenges. Most people think we have a flawless marriage and although it is true we are happy, we still have our share of challenges. I salute my wife for putting up with my imperfections, because it takes a strong woman to live with a man like me. Right from the beginning, I chose to pursue the line of peace in my marriage and often ignore small things that could easily make me angry with my wife. Instead, I focus on the positive things she brings into our relationship.
Esther: Earlier in our marriage, we gave each other the silent treatment whenever we got angry at each other. We have since grown and are much wiser. We try as much as possible to sort out problems as they come. We don’t let the sun go down on our anger and we also don’t use the bedroom to fight. We talk out our differences and often take time to reflect on our marriage. This helps us stay connected in the marriage.
Kibera: My wife and I often take strolls in the evenings after work and we use this time to update each other on how the day was and also talk over any pending issues. We find it a blessing that we never miss something to talk about. We are happy together and appreciate the time we spend with each other. Happiness is about appreciating what you have and thanking God for it. I never forget to thank God for my wife.
Handling in laws…
The couple is familiar with wrangles with in-laws, as they have experienced it first hand.
Esther: I recall one specific incidence early on in our marriage that helped me gain wisdom on how to handle in-laws. My mother in-law had paid us a visit and after she dinner engaged my husband in a conversation that seemed to go on forever. I was at the time nursing our first child and since I was not part of the conversation I excused myself after showing her where she to sleep. I woke up in the morning to find my mother in-law in a foul mood and she even refused to have breakfast with us. She packed her things and left to stay with her daughter who lived in another part of Nairobi. I was later to learn that she claimed I had mistreated her in my house. My husband stood by me and defended me because I had done nothing wrong.
Kibera: You need to deal with issues touching on in-laws wisely, fully aware that your relatives have their place in your life but should not interfere with your marriage. The misunderstanding between my mother and my wife had been blown out of proportion and I had to deal firmly with it by making it clear that Esther was my choice of wife.
Tips on marriage…
Over the years, the couple has learnt many things that have helped their marriage thrive. The following are useful tips, which they hope other couples can use.
Always leave communication lines open.
Communicate your inner feelings.
Express yourself freely.
Be a good listener.
Fight with respect.
Face any issues that arise head-on.
Share genuine love.
Acknowledge, defend, support and embrace each other.
Aspire for the best for each other.
Be selfless and non-judgemental.
Give each other the benefit of doubt when you feel angry, hurt or disappointed.
Take time to appreciate each other.
Read the warning signs of conflict before it happens and take action.
Have sex as often as possible.
Be honest with each other if there are areas in the relationship that are not making you happy.