As you can imagine, I love love stories. How people meet, connect and fall in love seems miraculous to me. That both are attracted to each other, that they say the right things and want the same things – it’s wonderful. Among my parents, their siblings and close friends, long-term marriages are par for the course – 30 years, 40 years and even 50-year unions are not unusual and last Mashujaa Day found me celebrating my aunt and uncle’s 43rd anniversary. Perhaps I am in awe because I’ve never even dated someone for 43 months.
But I digress. My aunt and uncle renewed their vows and over the course of the ceremony, they talked about how they met and what attracted them to each to the other. My uncle recounted how he was working too far away from my aunt to grow the relationship and so he quit his job and moved to Nairobi leaning on nothing but faith he would get a job and that she was worth it. My aunt said she trusted he would do anything to raise her children and that played a key role in her decision to marry him. It was sweet, nostalgic and we all had fun urging my uncle to kiss his bride after the vows.
Being Presbyterians, we had to have speeches over lunch. Friends talked about what knowing this couple has meant to them; their siblings shared what this marriage has sown in their lives; and of course their children talked about their experiences of mum and dad. It was lovely and now days later, I cannot help thinking that a good marriage is worth more than the sum of its parts. For those close to one, a good marriage:
- Sets a standard for how we should treat other people and also expect to be treated – how to apologise, how to forgive, how to respect the other even when we differ in opinion and so on. My aunt was the first in her family to have a white wedding and that became the family standard.
- Illustrates how to love and be loved.
- Animates all that God wants us to be – compassionate, kind, forgiving, patient, perseverant, gracious.. and that these virtues are muscles that you have to keep exercising.
- Can be a foundation or a soft landing pad when life is tough – my aunt and uncle have housed and educated many family members. Theirs was my first home when my college-student-parents had me and could not yet afford a home of their own.
There is much in the media and especially on the radio that denigrates marriage and especially Kenyan men as partners. Their infidelity, cruelty and selfishness are easy themes to pick out. This narrative is not only lazy and uncreative – it is incomplete and damaging. There are good marriages in Kenya and you do not have to search high and low for them. They are not made of or by perfect partners, simply men and women who commit to being together and loving each other the best way they know how. These marriages are worth venerating because they are the beginning of family.