“You are an angel,” Edith Mathenge remembers being told by her husband Timothy Mathenge. At the time, they were still in courtship, and after four years through the riff-raff of dating, Romeo and Juliet married at a colourful wedding, buoyant with bliss and hazy warmth of companionship.
It was all lovey-dovey in their first year of marriage; perhaps a kiss every now and then; blank stares into each other’s eyes; endless handholding; sweet and scintillating words of approval… and who can deny a great romp on the sack. For the two lovebirds, the seal of love was on their fingers and not only could they see it — they could literally feel it in their loins.
“It was very odd for us when we realised that about a year later, the majestic love we had between us began flailing away,” recalls Edith. “We grew busy for each other and even the little things like flowers and gifts faded away. I felt like he was not giving me enough attention.”
The soap opera days were over. On Timothy’s part, it was apparent that their communication was taking a dive into the dearth. “‘Darling’ and ‘sweetheart’ were replaced by ‘Edith’ and ‘Timo’. The excitement was not there anymore; we stopped doing what we used to do together when we were going out. It’s like we had gotten used to each other and were too familiar with one another that we resorted to a routine lifestyle of saying and doing things — after all we were expected to behave like husband and wife,” divulges Timothy.
It was hard for the couple to understand how they had transformed from an extoling people to mordant and stale cussed partners. The silver lining to their story, however, is that before their waning compatibility leaped beyond a fugacious zone — which would have ultimately smothered their love — the growing discontent halted after they sat down and thought deeply on why they needed to have a better relationship.
Marriage experts agree to marital upheavals. Just like all designed mechanical structures, marriage needs an unending stream of oil to keep the wheel supple, if James Mbugua, a psychology don at Africa Nazarene University is right in his postulations. “When spouses stop working towards maintaining the marriage, it falls apart. Marriage is rooted in friendship and not lust. When friendship between spouses goes obsolete, it would mean they won’t stand each other for long. They will stop valuing each other’s presence,” opines James.
Like a castle built in the air, according to the lecturer, such a union will come tumbling down as the force of gravity scuppers the whole structure into a ramshackle. He argues that whereas hitches will always occur between a husband and a wife, most could be prevented before the actual formalisation of the marriage is officiated.
“Individuals need to be open about their expectations in marriage to their spouses,” he states. “The interests of both parties need to be known so that it does not come as shock to the other person when those needs are not being met, causing discontentment and divisions.”
Researcher Prof Beverley Fehr, of the University of Winnipeg in Canada writes in the journal Personal Relationships that if a relationships’ researcher were to approach people on the street and ask, “What is the major obstacle to lasting love?” the most frequent answers would be “conflict”, “betrayal”, “selfishness” and the like. However, a study she led and authored clearly shows that boredom is an important factor.
The professor is quoted saying: “Those who are dating might experience less boredom because they can more readily extricate themselves from a relationship once boredom sets in.”
The missing link seems to be what happens in marriage and during courtship, as we would find out from another successful couple Mike Gitonga and Joyce Gathigi. “Every relationship goes through plateau phases characterised with boredom. It happens many times because we are human. It is, however, important to know that the power to revive and inject spark back into a marriage solely lies with you as a spouse,” says Mike.
His wife Joyce adds that marriage is a form of partnership in which two people assist each other in surmounting challenges. When boredom creeps into marriage, Joyce admonishes that it is the duty of spouses to help each other regain interest and spontaneity that makes living together fun.
“You enter into marriage without exit clauses,” she voices her thoughts, adding, “You have to make it work by yourself; the secret is in being creative and finding that which made your spouse feel happy — especially when you were still getting to know each other. Gifts, flowers, sweet words and the things you showered your partner with during courtship shouldn’t stop just because you are married.”
Both the Mathenges and the Gitongas agree on the eroding power that ‘being busy’ has on marriage. Having been married for 15 years, Mike advices couples experiencing turmoil brought about by boredom and over familiarity to take a few strides back to the drawing board, and re-examine how they delighted in each other before.
According to James Mbugua, boredom results when couples begin to take each other for granted; losing the touch of creativity that keeps the sparks of love flicking for both spouses. He says that marriage calls for prudent decisions geared towards finding happiness in each other. Being dynamic, as James calls it, gets rid of chances of two people running out of options on how to spice up the marriage.
The good book says that Adam and Eve were created to enjoy the company each of them would provide to the other. That, however, lasted only until an apple became too sweet to ignore. Could this be why boredom continues to besiege many relationships, otherwise hatched on love?
James provides the secret: “Never take your partner for granted. Treat them with love and respect. Constantly device a new thing to do or to engage in; be ‘mysterious’ and let your partner long to find out more.”
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