December 26 2008
Nothing epitomizes the disillusionment of marriage like the timeless cartoon strip Andy Capp. Andy is a middle-aged man who spends the entire day napping on the sofa while his wife Flo, a disgruntled matronly woman, works from morning to night to pay the bills and support her lazy husband.
When Andy is not napping, he is watching television, enjoying his beloved pint at the local pub, (where he also gets to make passes at the younger women who are more attractive than Flo) getting home in the dead of night much to the chagrin of his wife.
The irony is that Andy pays for his beer using his wife’s hard-earned money. He also has a weakness for gambling and his way of making money is betting on horses, never mind that most of the time, his predictions are normally wrong.
Andy, like many women have been known to complain about their husbands, is far from the romantic man Flo married – when he proposed to her, he went down on his knee.
Years later however, not even regular counseling sessions can persuade him to take out the trash. And in a scene replayed in many homes, Flo has on numerous occasions packed her bags and left for her mother’s house after having a row with her husband.
But Andy is not the only problem in the marriage. Thanks to unflattering clothes and a permanent headscarf which never leaves her head even during those rare occasions when she accompanies Andy to the races or the pub, Flo is no longer a youthful belle.
Also, she rarely has a kind word for her husband, even when she’s having an internal dialogue and doesn’t raise a finger even when her mother is rude to Andy. Once in a while, she even clobbers him when he is late coming home.
We can afford to laugh at these two characters, especially because, even after all this bickering, they still fondly refer to each other as ‘pet’.
Think about it though, were we to replace these cartoon characters with real life people, it wouldn’t be so funny because their marriage is an apt representation of many Kenyan marriages, maybe even yours.
Many couples find that their relationship begins to take on a different shape as soon as the honeymoon is over. The man, who was used to seeing his wife looking immaculate all the time, has to get used to waking up to a bleary-eyed stranger with wild-looking hair every morning.
During courtship, he found this sweet and would tousle her hair while teasing her gently, probably because he knew that in a few minutes, she would transform herself into the flawless beauty she became after whipping up some magic with her make-up.
But there is something about marriage that makes women get complacent, too content that they stop paying attention to their looks. After two or three years of marriage, most women stop making an effort to look good for their man like they did during courtship.
After all, what’s the point of wearing mascara and lipstick if you’re going to spend the entire weekend at home?
A few years later and two children down the line, the slender waist that used to fascinate the man endlessly no longer exists. In its place are ‘love handles’ which do not feel as nice to hold.
The meals that she used to lovingly prepare are replaced by the bland ones the maid puts together. She is no longer willing to serve the man because she is either not home or is too tired to get up from the sofa.
In some households, the bossy, know-it-all mother-in-law makes an entrance and can make the situation worse if either partner is reluctant to intervene.
The conversation the once loving couple enjoyed also changes. With school fees, homework and bills to talk about, the laughter and the easy banter that they once shared is no longer existent, the activities you enjoyed doing together forgotten in the midst of a harried life.
As for the man, he is no longer the thoughtful chap who surprised you with presents “just because.” That day he placed a ring on your finger is also the last one he lifted a finger in the kitchen, yet when he was courting you, he would insist that you watch television as he prepared lunch.
But it is not only women who ‘let themselves go’. Many men, too, stop paying attention to their looks once they get married.
As his wife’s waist disappears, he begins to develop a pot belly and is quite at home with it since he has often heard it said that a pot belly in a man denotes affluence and speaks to the world about his success. But what does his wife think?
He also becomes averse to helping around the house and finds it difficult to pick up after himself, leaving everything to his wife or the maid, never mind the fact that she, too, works from morning to evening.
Such behavior puts women off and is a major source of discontent in many marriages. If pressed about it, most women will confess to doing housework half-heartedly all the while cursing their husbands for not making an effort to help.
With the year coming to an end, this is probably the best time to start cultivating a new beginning if you are dissatisfied with your marriage.
To help you out, we interviewed a cross-section of married men and women and asked them to tell us how they wanted to see their spouses change and what they wanted them to do differently come the new year.
Forget about the so called best-selling books by foreign authors or a session at a counselor’s couch – this is bound to be more helpful to your marriage since it came from the horse’s mouth.
What men want
A popular joke goes like this: a man placed an advert in the classified pages of a newspaper which: ‘Wife wanted’. The next day, he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing – ‘You can have mine.’
Though a man who is frustrated with his wife wouldn’t go as far as giving her out to any willing taker, it doesn’t mean that he hasn’t questioned whether he made the right choice marrying her in the first place.
However, judging from the responses we got from the men we talked to, men also care about their marriages and would want them to last. This is how they want their women to change:
1. Stop nagging
Judging from the frequency with which this one kept coming up, men get irritated when they are interrogated about every little thing they do. They say that women are obsessive about details, even the ones that don’t really matter – like what their husbands talked about when they met with their friends or expecting minute by minute details of what transpired during the day.
They understand that communication in a relationship is important, but they want you to be satisfied when they choose to give an overview of events because it means that the details aren’t important. They also resent being reminded to do something. Request them once and when you do, allow them to do it at their own time.
2. Avoid the double standards
Why should you expect men to be open about money when you’re secretive with yours? Apparently, this is a major source of antagonism in many marriages. A couple of men said that their wives were dishonest regarding the amount of money they had yet they expected their husbands to declare all they had to the last penny.
One man revealed that just a few months ago, he found out that his wife had a secret bank account. Because of this little secret, their marriage is on the brink of disintegrating. “She obviously doesn’t trust me. What else is she keeping from me?” the 42-year-old father of two wonders. If you want men to be forthright with you regarding money, let him know about your chamas as well.
3. Girlfriends are a thorn
While men have no problem with their wives spending time with their friends; they feel that some are a bad influence to their marriage. One man said that his wife frequently stayed out late with friends, sometimes arriving after 10pm after their children had already gone to bed.
Another confessed that it bothers him when his wife overstays at a neighbour’s house. “Does it mean that she finds this neighbour more interesting than I am?” James, the 32-year-old teacher wonders.
The men also want you to know that even though there is nothing wrong with you having a girls’ night out once in a while, it is insensitive to make a habit of it. They also want you to stop comparing your friends’ husbands with him, saying that it only makes him feel belittled especially if you’re criticizing him.
4. We love our children but…
A number of men resented the amount of time their wives lavished on their children. They appreciate that children need to be looked after, but they also want to know that they too matter in your life. “Ever since we got our first child, my wife behaves as if I don’t exist anymore, yet our son is about to celebrate his second birthday. He only has to throw a tantrum for her to leave everything else and attend to him,” Michael, a 34-year-old account laments. The men are feeling neglected and want you to create some time for them.
5. Take an interest in our work
Most men want their wives to be more interested in their jobs and be involved in investment plans for the future. They felt that their wives assume this is their duty and are therefore reluctant to offer ideas or take an active role in making them become a reality.
They want you to know that they would appreciate it if you showed an interest in how they invest the money you make together. One man feared how his wife would cope were something to happen to him because she has no idea how their businesses run.
6. We miss the good-old days
If you thought women were the only ones who miss the long forgotten courtship days, you’re wrong. Men too would want to revive the spark that characterized the dating phase. They feel that women become complacent after a few years of marriage especially where grooming and body image is concerned. Please start paying attention to how you dress and watch your weight.
They also want you to be more interested in sex and not wait for them to initiate it all the time. It also wouldn’t hurt if you became more affectionate, smiled more often and laughed at his silly jokes.
7. Don’t sulk
Men are human – they can’t read minds. Most men said sulking irritates them immensely. If they do something that offends you, let them know. Bottling up anger or ill-feelings will not do you or your relationship any good.
What women want
1. Cut the booze
Coming home stinking of alcohol and expecting your wife to cuddle and act all-loving is unrealistic. They want the men to know that it is not only a complete turn-off, but a bad example for the children.
They also hate it when you regularly come home late at night or in the wee hours of the morning because it robs them of the time they should be spending with you.
2. Help out at home
They may not voice it, but they would appreciate it if you did more around the house, including picking up after yourself. One woman felt that her husband behaved as if their two children did not belong to him, and did not bother to help them with their homework, find out how they were performing at school and did not attend school open days.
Another woman, Susan, a 36-year-old telephone operator said that her husband treated their home “like a hotel.” “He only comes home to eat and sleep. I wish he would spend more time at home because this way, we would get to do more things together.”
3. Appreciate us
Women, especially those who have been married for a couple of years, feel that their husbands don’t appreciate them as they should. Most women said that the men stopped being thoughtful or caring after marriage.
They no longer bought them presents and rarely went out of their way to do things for them. Women want to feel loved and valued, just like you made them feel when you were courting them. They also want to be complimented. Make an effort to notice when they have a new hairstyle or a new dress. It makes them feel you care.
5. Learn to listen
Sometimes women just want to vent, so kindly switch off the television and give her a few minutes of your undivided attention because it gives them a sense of satisfaction. It also tells them that you really care.
6. Be more responsible
Some women felt that their husbands still behaved liked little boys especially when it came to financial matters. One woman felt that her husband, a manager at his place of work, was too liberal with his money. “Whenever we go for an outing with friends, he offers to foot the bill most of time yet the understanding is that everyone should contribute.”
Karen, the 40-year-old business woman says that this is a major bone of contention in their marriage, since she feels that they should be saving most of the money that they spend entertaining friends.
So as we begin the new year next week, if you recognize yourself in any of the above situations, make an effort to improve your relationship by changing whatever you may be doing that your spouse doesn’t like.
Monday, December 29, 2008
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