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January 17, 2019

Is widowhood better than divorce?

Friday morning found me driving to a 9am meeting in Karen. Since I was coming from Westlands, this gave me a lot of time with Maina and King’ang’i. Of all things, Maina was talking to women who were saying they wouldn’t mind if their husbands dropped dead.

One woman has been married for eight years and recently found out that her man is cheating. She was a virgin when they met and does not know another man, she said, “Si, if he died we would just bury him.” Another woman lamented that her marriage is ‘a financial arrangement’ with no emotional connection and recalled that her husband went missing one night and she was not happy to see him darken her doorstep the next morning. With bitterness she went as far as to say, “All these thugs in Nairobi, they can’t find my huzzy?”

I get it.

I was mortified that these things were being said on national radio and in the morning but hey, at least it was after 8am and the kids were in school, right? You see I have heard these sentiments severally; from men and from women. Every person who has been married or is contemplating divorce will tell you that the thought of accidental and oh-so-convenient spousal death occurred to him or her during the conclusion of his or her marriage.

You see there is a dignity to widowhood, and it is tidier than divorce. Divorce offers no absolute truth - only his and hers versions of what happened, who messed up and whose mother was a witch. Death on the other hand… death is so neat, it is as final as can be. You get to wear black and grieve your loss publicly and with a lot of support. There is food offered, time off work, people might even educate your children for free. And later, when the hullabaloo dies down, your children can still visit with your in-laws; unlike with divorce when someone on each side of the family is left embittered and upset.

Society has been dealing with spousal death forever so there are social structures in place for widows and widowers.Not so for divorcees.Treatment of divorcees is a murky, fluid thing where you are always in danger of offending someone, or worse hurting their feelings. I bumped into a friend recently and asked about her husband. She looked down and said she has filed for divorce. I said plainly, “I have no idea what to say to you.” And she thankfully replied, “I am in the happy phase; giving me permission to offer what might otherwise have been inappropriate ‘congratulations!”

Divorce is also a personal failure. As with every breakup, divorcees wonder, could I have done better? Should I have tried harder? Did I forgive enough? Then there are the added considerations if there are kids involved. Will they survive? Have I ruined their lives? Were we selfish parents? etc. Death is an act of God. And his acts are surrounded by supreme benevolence even when you are impervious to it… so just wait, the wisdom of the situation will show itself.

Between lawyer’s fees and the time spent in acrimonious debate over jointly owned property, you may also find that divorce is more expensive than a funeral.

I am in no way not advocating the murder of a spouse… but I get it.

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