DR NJENGA: Do I follow my heart or granny’s caution?

Health & Fitness

Do I follow my heart or granny’s caution?

A couple
A couple. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Q “I am finally ready to settle down with a woman I met two years ago but my grandmother insists that we are yet to know each other well and I should give it more time. Is there a recommended timeframe for courtship?”

It is often said that arranged marriages work out better than “love” marriages. The mere fact of the existence of this debate is evidence that there is no one answer to your question that can possibly begin to address your concern. Indeed, you raise an important matter that seems to have found no answer since man’s existence on earth.

Great men of religion have had many different challenges over this matter. Adam for example seems to have had only one wife. King David took many wives and concubines in his time, while in Genesis 16:3 we read: “After Abraham had lived 10 years in the land of Canaan, Abraham’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid and gave her to her husband Abraham as his wife.”

A woman gave another woman to her husband to become her “competitor”. What a complicated world those people lived in! in this day and age, many marriages fall apart at the thought that a man could take an interest in another woman

In Islam, a man can take four wives, while those under customary law in Kenya can take up as many wives as they wish. In none of the foregoing cases do we allow love, or getting to know one another better get in the way of marriage, or perceived happiness. Love and “getting to know one another” better is a relatively recent concept in marriage.

Your grandmother seems to be from a particular background where one boy meets one girl, falls in love and gets married! I am sure that that system works well in some cases but as we know, is not true in every case. The number of divorce cases is evidence for this opinion.

In the Western world (read America) the frequency of arranged marriages is low, and it is safe to assume that the majority marry for love. The divorce rates in the US have gone up steadily over the years and today, the expected length of a marriage in the US is 11 years. Put differently, if you get married for love in America today, you can expect the marriage to last for only 11 years. In 2015, a woman in Manhattan was allowed to serve her husband with divorce papers via Facebook. That fact alone tells you the seriousness with which marriage is taken in some parts of the world.

Looking to the East (India), where many marriages are arranged by families, we find some of the lowest divorce rates in the world. If one compares India with America (only with respect to marriage longevity) then India wins hands down.

In India for example, marriage is arranged between two consenting families, while in America, marriage is structured between two consenting individual adults.

Based on this rather simple view of marriage, then one may say that a measure of family and societal pressure to stay together might help.

On the opposite scale, the absence of any notion of obligation to the extended family makes divorce and the end of marriage an individual matter.

The subject of marriage and its likelihood of success is most complex and to a large extent depends on many factors that lead your grandmother to have some concern.

For example, how old are you and how many girls have you brought home (to her) in the past 10 years? If every two years you find “the love of your life” then your grandmother might have reason to advice caution.

We must assume that your grandmother means well for you and your future and on that assumption, you must gently and firmly approach her with all love and respect she is entitled to and ask her to help you make the decision.

Who knows, she might end up being your greatest supporter!

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