Why some African marriages are a serious illusion

Marriage is a sacred institution that has been around for centuries, and many cultures celebrate it in profound ways.

While divorce has become more common and accepted in most countries, African marriages remain largely traditional and are still viewed as a union between two (sub) tribes, families, or clans.

Unfortunately, data on divorce rates in Africa are sparse, so we can only assume that the divorce rate there is much lower than in America. However, this does not necessarily equate to healthier marriages – quantity does not always equate to quality.

People in African marriages often feel intimidated by certain societal pressures, such as having to answer to elders if their relationship takes a turn for the worse. This can lead to feelings of distrust or resentment within the relationship.

Here are some things you should think about so that you don't fall into a trap or an illusion of a marriage:

Modernizing marriage therapy and making it more relevant

Let's face it; some marriage therapy is just simply outdated! Some counselors aren't qualified to be marriage counselors. By modernizing marriage therapy and providing resources to help couples in African marriages navigate these unique pressures, we can work towards creating healthier and more equitable unions between partners.

Marriage counselors should strive to provide support and resources tailored to each couple's specific needs. They should also address communication, trust building, managing conflict, and understanding one another's views.

Additionally, counselors should strive to create an environment free from judgment and allow couples to speak openly about their feelings and experiences to create a stronger bond.

Understand that marriage isn't a degree

Marriage is not a degree or qualification; it is a commitment to another person and should be taken seriously. It is essential for individuals looking to get married to understand that marriage involves more than just deciding their future - it also includes the responsibility of caring for and respecting one another throughout the relationship.

Marry regardless of tribe

When it comes to marriage, it is crucial for individuals to look beyond tribal lines and instead focus on finding someone they truly connect with. Marrying solely based on one's tribe can lead to a relationship that lacks love, trust, and understanding - all essential components for a strong union.

Instead, couples should strive to find someone who shares their values and beliefs and with whom mutual respect is present. This will help ensure the relationship's success as it will be built upon an honest connection between two people - something more meaningful than any tribal ties.

Have honest conversations

When a marriage turns sour, many couples are unable or unwilling to communicate about what's wrong for fear that it will be seen as a sign of weakness or failure by their communities and families.

Additionally, when people talk about certain topics, such as infidelity or domestic abuse, they often feel judged, embarrassed, or criticized instead of being given the support they need - making it even harder for them to confront these difficult subjects.

As such, African couples need to try and overcome the shame and stigma associated with marriage breakdown so that they can have honest conversations about their issues in order to stop them from escalating further.

Quit mixing traditional and religious values; this never works, i.e., polygamy and Christianity

Although marriage is a union, it can be difficult to reconcile two different sets of values and beliefs. When it comes to combining traditional and religious values - such as polygamy and Christianity - this can create confusion for individuals looking to form strong unions.

This is because these two distinct philosophies do not always align in terms of what is accepted or rejected within society. As such, it can be beneficial for couples to take time apart to reflect on the path they want to pursue when making decisions about their relationship.

Grow up and mature before marriage

Couples need to be mature when it comes to marriage. This means understanding the meaning of commitment and responsibility and being aware of one's self and desires in a partner. This includes having realistic expectations about life together and accepting that there may be obstacles ahead. Taking time to reflect on these matters can help individuals determine whether or not they are truly ready for marriage — something that will benefit both parties involved.


The solutions offered here are just suggestions and by no means should be seen as the only way to strengthen African marriages.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual couple to find what works best for them in order to create a relationship based on mutual respect, trust, and understanding.

-Heather Chesiyna, MSW, is an Award Winning Kenyan American Author and Blogger based in Washington, D.C. You can find her via her primary blog www.madeofstill.com

The Standard
Celebrate Easter in style with our KES999 annual offer