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Forget the budget deficit, Kenya suffers from love deficit

By XN Iraki | November 29th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Our national, county, and even home budgets are characterised by a deficit, we have more expenditure than income.

We borrow, reduce the costs, or get donations to fund the deficit. At the family level, relatives are important funders of deficits. Needless to say, Covid-19 has exacerbated the budget deficits at all levels.

The term deficit has found a new home, our hearts. That Kenya is slowly becoming a love deficient nation is no doubt. The amount of love between parties be they couples or even friends is not balanced, just like the financial budgets.

Lots of men and women are complaining about shortage of love, love deficits. One loves without reciprocation. I am sure you have heard friends complain of lack of love in homes and elsewhere. Majority particularly men suffer silently, unwilling to share their stories, they don't want to be seen as weak.

Women are better in defining and describing this love deficit. They are often the key victims. But men have lately joined them. Perhaps, women are quicker to love than men, investing in emotions than men whose interests are more physical. Men have become adept at exploiting women's vulnerability, with lots of men living off women sweat, providing “love“ in return.

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In traditional society, love deficits were rare, men and women were too busy defending society against the forces of nature. High mortality rate meant procreation was about ensuring the continuity of the society rather than expression of love. They did not even have time to coin a name for love and its derivatives. It is very likely that your mother tongue has no local names for love or romance.

Divorces were rare because the society was too busy to realise there was a deficit. They had to shield against weather, wild animals and hostile communities.

Why is the love deficit so pronounced today? Why are men and women crying in silence over love deficits? Curiously, you are more likely to find love deficits among the affluent than the poor. It’s not hard to explain.

Love is an illusion, you can’t hold it in your palm. What’s love to one person is not love to the other. It’s a moving target but most adults have an idea what it is. This illusion is what easily turns it into a deficit, when reality dawns after marriage or pregnancy. You thought you had fallen in love, it was all a bubble, busted by reality.

Deficit comes from another fact. Without definition of love, we use proxies to define it like the amount of money one is willing to spend on the other. We rarely have equal amounts of money, it logically follows there will anyways be a deficit.

This is aptly captured when a couple has unequal income, the deficit is more pronounced when the wife earns more.  

Defining love in material terms is perhaps the biggest source of love deficit. What gift does one get on birthday? On wedding day? Where are you taken for tea, dinner or holiday? What does one own?

That is becoming more pronounced on matters of the heart. The conventional wisdom from young ladies, so I hear is, “if a man can’t take me to the altar, he can always take me to the bank”.

Yet material things on matters of love are like an iceberg. What really matters can’t be seen particularly the hidden agenda. We all pretend that in relationships all we bring is love. But most come with vested interests from financial support, public approval, sex, covering our inadequacies or fulfilling what we saw in movies and documentaries.

The third cause of deficits is comparing ourselves with others. Love relationships ought to be unique. With media blitz we end up comparing ourselves with others.

Traditionally, we had little time to compare ourselves with others unless one was polygamous. Today, we compare ourselves, friends or spouses with men and women paid to act, the movie stars and actors.

Just like in an iceberg, you only compare what you can see. You never ever see what really matters, the mutual feelings. A couple riding in a helicopter might seem in love but we can’t tell unless we bug their bedrooms.

The love deficit afflicts the affluent more because they have more time and opportunities to compare themselves with others. That includes social gatherings, media and more time together. Poor couples spend less time together which might reinforce their relationship or love in the long run.

Can we fund the love deficit or it’s there to stay? Religions over the ages tried to cover the deficit by defining what love is and even came up with laws. When they failed governments came. Do you ever wonder why matters of the heart have to be consummated by law?

Even witch-doctors are at it with promises of cures for all love ailments. Cheating from mpango wa kando to gacungwas, shows there is no shortage of misplaced means to fund love deficits.

The best way to cover love deficits is to be sincere with ourselves. Why pretend you love someone when the intention is different? Maybe we should become more blunt. If a lady wants your money, she should state it clearly. If a man is after figure 8, he should just say so.

In other contracts, all the facts are put on the table. Why do we fail to do so on matters of the heart, love? As long as we believe and act as if love is blind, love deficits will follow us, all the days of our lives. Are you a victim of love deficit? Share your story with us.

- The writer is associate professor at the University of Nairobi

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