201308-marriages-Onesmus Mutuku, 54, and Jennifer Mutuku, 51, will commemorate 35 years of marriage on August 3, 2013. They plan to hold a thanksgiving service at Gospel Family Revival Church (GFRC) in Makueni County to celebrate this milestone. Even after many years together, their union still sparkles with love and respect. They lovingly address each other without interrupting each other’s conversation, something I find admirable. This couple’s marriage is a beacon of light and a safe haven for their grown up children. Despite going through a myriad of challenges, Onesmus exudes laudable leadership qualities and his wife a submissive nature coupled with a lot of wisdom attained over time. They shared the secret to their lasting marriage with FAITH MURIGU.

 Lillian Mwikali Mutuku, one of the couple’s children, requested me to feature her parents’ marriage, which they have admired over time. And so one chilly Tuesday morning, the couple, accompanied by their daughter, Lillian, made their way to our offices for this interview. They appeared cool with an aura of simplicity around them and kept stealing glances at each other, which communicated a lot about their love.

I was pleasantly surprised at how candid the couple was as they answered my questions, recounting their marriage experience from the day they met to date. Theirs is a story of determination, respect and unconditional love.

Finding love…

Jennifer:I was born in Kisau location in Makueni County as the second born in a large family. In 1975, I sat my standard seven exams and performed averagely to secure a place at Kitondo Mixed Secondary School. I loved education and was determined to go to the highest level possible but my dream was abruptly cut short due to lack of school fees. Thus, I dropped out in form one during the third term. Disheartened, I would lock myself in the house and cry but soon realised that tears offered no solution. I had to do something worthwhile with my life or end up as a disgrace to the society.

Most of my friends were in school but there were three friends who had dropped out of school just like me. Together, we sought an opportunity at a local polytechnic and enrolled for a course in dressmaking. We passed the interview, which was a prerequisite for admission, and embarked on the course determined to emerge the best students.

I did my best but could not sit my examinations because I had not paid the ksh120 needed, so I left the polytechnic without any document to show that I was a qualified tailor. Frustrated that my father refused to pay my fees, arguing that educating girls was not a priority, I decided to get married. I was only 18 and had been friends with Onesmus for a period of time.

Onesmus: I was born in a polygamous family and my mother was the second wife. My father passed on when I was still young and hopes of continuing with my education were shattered. I studied up to standard seven and decided to search for a job in Nairobi. My stepbrothers, who had gone through school and were working in Nairobi, helped me secure a casual job, which I did during the day and attended evening classes. This opened an avenue for me to study up to form two. In 1975, my then employer, East African Breweries Limited (EABL), confirmed my employment on a permanent basis in the general job category.

I supported my siblings through school as well as my mother’s upkeep with my income and would be left with no savings. In 1978, I married Jennifer whom I had admired from afar. She was a well-behaved girl who captivated my heart and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Her parents liked me and so I had it easy getting her. Most men at the time, including Jennifer’s father, were not keen on taking their daughters to school arguing that they would eventually get married and thus not benefit their parents.

Jennifer: I was intrigued by my newly found friendship with Onesmus because he was my first love. His genuine love captivated me. It was therefore not surprising that when he asked for my hand in marriage, I accepted willingly. At 18, I was a wife and immediately thereafter gave birth to our daughter in September 1978.

Onesmus: I stayed with my wife in the initial months after marriage in Nairobi but life became quite expensive after the birth of our first child. Jennifer went to the village to stay with my mother while she also engaged in small-scale farming. It was not easy taking care of my young family and my siblings and I salute my wife because she was very understanding.

For lack of academic papers, I stayed in one position at EABL until my retrenchment in 1998. This was a hard time for us. By then, we had six children and one had passed on. My family looked up to me for provision. I joined my wife in the village feeling very dejected but her support kept me going as she would encourage me that tomorrow would be a better day. Two years later, I secured a casual job in Nairobi at a flour milling company. With the little savings I kept, I bought some land and my wife continued farming.

Jennifer: Our children came in quick procession, which was stressful but my husband helped out, often coming home over the weekends to check on us.

Enjoying our marriage…

Jennifer: Our longevity in marriage can be greatly attributed to consistently applying biblical teachings to our union, and it has worked perfectly. For instance, the Bible commands wives to submit to their husbands and this means recognising your husband as the head of the family. Most marriages suffer because the wife fails to submit to her husband and instead jostles for power with him. This builds disagreement, as harmony cannot exist where there are two heads exercising authority. I would advise wives to take the submission command with gladness because it is a direct order from God who ordained marriage.

Onesmus: Just like wives are commanded to submit to their husbands, men are commanded to love their wives. A husband who loves his wife will stop at nothing to make her happy. He will respect and be faithful to her. My experience in marriage has taught me that when a woman is properly loved, a man can enjoy a happy life. I have been a happy man and I love my wife every day. We have gone through a lot of joyful and painful moments together, which have further strengthened our union. And so it is wrong for a husband to expect love, submission and happiness from his wife if he does not shower her with love.

Jennifer:Marriage is not easy. When you see people who have made it together for many years, you know you are looking at two people who have fought, compromised, and stayed committed to one another in spite of everything. In most cases, marriages do not fail from big problems – at least not all the time. Most times, people end up splitting over small things, thus couples should be cautious and ensure the small things do not add up to cause major problems.

Onesmus: I have no problem apologising to my wife whenever I am wrong. This, I have realised, has made a great difference in our relationship.

Jennifer: We love to laugh and since our children are grown up and out of home, we have been enjoying each other’s company. This helps to keep us strong in our relationship. Marriage requires patience, fun and unconditional love.

Openness is key in marriage…

Onesmus: I have matured a lot since getting married. I advise people who are aspiring to get married to first assess themselves before committing to the other person. Be transparent to the person you intend to marry and don’t wear any kind of mask. From the beginning, my wife knew that I was supporting my siblings and she still embraced me with love. We have had moments when we did not have money but that did not deter her from respecting me as the head of the family. To enjoy a happy and healthy marriage, you must be open to each other. My wife knows me inside out – my flaws and my strengths.

Jennifer: Marriage calls for endurance and surrender. When you decide to commit your life to somebody else, be ready to walk the talk. I believe the way a woman behaves around her house can greatly shape her marriage, and so I purpose to pray for my husband and children everyday.

Letting the man lead…

Jennifer:The fact that I raised the kids most of the time alone because my husband was out at work does not make me the head of our family. The children grew up knowing that their father was the family leader and he deserved all the respect that came with the position. This included honouring him and working hard in school. Our family is based on Christian principles, which demand that I am Onesmus’s helper.

Onesmus: I greatly respect my wife because she brought up our children in Godly ways. In the 35 years we have been married, I have tried to stay with Jennifer in wisdom. We have never argued in the presence of our children nor have I ever raised a finger at my wife. We always find an agreeable way to work out our differences.

Dealing with in-laws…

Jennifer:It has not been a walk in the park when dealing with in-laws. I sacrificed most of my early marriage life taking care of some of my sisters and brothers-in-law. I would visit them in school and also attend parents meetings, as my mother-in-law was too old for that. My husband also spent most of his money on them, paying their school fees and their upkeep and I did not raise a finger even when I knew we were struggling financially. Sadly, those children have never come back to say thank you but am content that I did my best for them.

When sickness strikes…

Jennifer:With seven children, the burden of paying school fees was weighing heavily on us. My husband sponsored me to upgrade my dressmaking skills. He also bought me a sewing machine and I made people’s clothes but the job was not rewarding. I eventually dropped it and got into business. At some point, I would get clothes and foodstuff from Nairobi and sell them in Makueni, thus making some good money.

When all was going well, I was struck by a strange illness in 2004. Tests revealed that I had a tumour in the head and was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital for several scans. Our fears were confirmed when I was admitted for surgery. Although it was successful, I ended up losing one of my eyes. I also had to re-learn to walk and talk, as well as feed myself. Through a lot of physiotherapy, I have been able to make great milestones in my health. I thank God for my husband and my children who stood with me in our darkest moments and through their support and prayers, I am strong today.

John: In 2012, I also got seriously ill and was admitted to KNH with severe pneumonia. My wife was always by my side and this made my healing faster. I plan to retire from work this year and settle in the village.

Raising our children…

Jennifer: We have tried to bring up our children in a God fearing manner. My husband loves his children and when they were younger, he would take us out for family retreats, visiting the national parks and museums and such other fun activities. It was a great way to reconnect. We have been very open with our children and also given them space to grow and be whom they want to be. Talking to children achieves better and more lasting results.

Prayer is another method we have applied to bring them up. As a mother you must pray for your children. We once had a problematic son who did not want to go to school. We spoke to him in wisdom without judging him and this softened his otherwise hard heart. He agreed to return to school and today he is doing well in life.

 Onesmus:We are proud of our children and happy to see how they have turned out. We are grateful to God for their unique personalities.

Testimony from one of their children…

“ My parents have been good role models to us and they are my heroes. They have gone through tough times but their love has seen them through. Each of them is unique; my father is very generous and humorous, while my mother is the prayerful, loving mother and wife. They both love God and are born-again-Christians. My father has taught us the virtue of hard work and self-belief. We celebrate them with a lot of love and best wishes for their future,”

Lillian Mwikali.

Published in August 2013