Being newly married wasn’t easy for Mary Munene, 32, and John Munene, 34 - there were unresolved issues from their courtship years and then later four miscarriages. Now married for seven years, the couple shares their experience in the hope that newlyweds and those planning to tie the knot can learn from their story
Like any couple, you expected your happily ever after, but a year into your marriage, you considered calling in quits, what was going on?
John: Expectations. I had a million expectations about marriage. I thought after the wedding day, everything would just fall into place. It was my time to rest, or so I told myself. I expected my wife to do everything for me. I expected her to know what I needed and when I needed it. After all, our hearts were beating as one in divine harmony. Therefore, when this did not materialise, I was disappointed and the ‘self’ kicked in. I wanted her to obey me, to listen to me and attend to me. I wanted to win every argument. In fact, at the time I believed that my decisions were better, my judgement ultimate and my focus clear. I was also rigid. I entered into marriage with a rigid unteachable heart. That was my greatest undoing. What ails most young marriages is unwillingness to adjust their expectations. I do not mean lowering your expectations. One needs to leave some room for flexibility. Secondly, the self has to die. The ‘I’ in the relationship changes to ‘we’, ‘mine’ to ‘ours’, ‘us’. This calls for one to put the spouse’s needs before his or her own or the marriage will not work. You cannot love if you are selfish.
Mary: For me, I struggled with unforgiveness and the issue of submission -- having a lot of “self”. I would contend for my way in everything -- since my way was better. It was difficult to submit my will, so we fought over everything! From the toothpaste, to the utensils, to what route to use when driving. Everything! We really almost hit the quit button. I had to personally decide to do my part, as the Word of God commands. To have a marriage that works requires both parties to put the self aside. The Bible says that love is patient in 1st Corinthians 13:4. Love has to be a verb in marriage. Most people are not patient to know each other. Marriage requires you to be flexible enough to learn from your spouse too. To submit your preferences for your spouse and to forgive.
When you say you struggled with unforgiveness, what do you mean?
Mary: I struggled with forgiving my husband for what he had put me through before we got married. During our courtship, I felt like I struggled so much to keep our relationship afloat. Our relationship suffered because of boundary issues. He struggled with not knowing how to put boundaries with other women. He would really get cosy, not intimate of course, but he was never forthright in putting up his boundaries with other women. It affected our relationship so much and, as a result, we even broke up for a while. I told him that I could not handle a man who could not keep his boundaries. We got back together later but not without lots of counselling from our pastor who walked with us through every step. That, however, left me scarred even though I thought I had left it all behind. So, as you can imagine, I did not forgive him for what he had put me through and as a result I said, “I do” with that wound, and unforgiveness births bitterness. When we first got married that bitterness would overflow. I would remind him of his faults every time we got into an argument. There was nothing he did that was ever good enough. I would do this repeatedly without even realising that the real source of my pain was from the past and this made our first year very difficult.
Did you eventually forgive him?
Mary: Yes, I did. It was during one of our conflicts, after I had cried my eyes out, it finally dawned on me that I had not forgiven him yet. I was still holding onto how he would not tell the ladies off forthrightly. Therefore, that evening, I cooked, served him and told him how his actions in the past had really made me feel, how he had hurt me, and after that, I told him I had forgiven him. I decided not to allow myself to be a slave to bitterness because I loved my husband. After that, we cried together. I sincerely forgave him and our marriage took a turn for the better. I thank God that I did that because from that day, if we argue, we deal with the issue, forgive and move on swiftly. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness and that can never find anything as good enough.
What advice would you give other couples about forgiveness in marriage?
Mary: My advice to anyone not yet married or even married; practise forgiveness. Also, importantly, critically evaluate yourself and deal with the residues too. Do not walk into or stay in marriage with the burden of unforgiveness.
You also had a traumatic and heart-breaking journey to motherhood; would you tell us about that?
Mary: We conceived one year into our marriage. At 14 weeks, I began spotting and eventually lost my baby. After that, I was so confused that I did not even cry at first. I was just shocked. I thank God that my mother and two sisters were there. All I remember was sobbing so hard and uncontrollably. Further, the fact that our marriage was in trouble made things worse. So much so that I called Johnny and blamed him for losing the pregnancy. I was bitter. I had carried every little offence Johnny had put me through for the longest time possible. I couldn’t forgive him, so in essence I felt he was the cause of the miscarriage. I eventually recovered, not without support from family and close friends. Johnny was so gracious to me amidst my outbursts.
What happened next?
Mary: The second miscarriage happened two years into our marriage. By then, our marriage was in a good place as I had forgiven my husband and we had both decided to fight for our marriage. When we lost our second baby at six weeks, we had each other and God to cry to. When the third miscarriage happened, I remember laughing so hard when I called Johnny to tell him that we have lost it again. I told him that we should consider IVF or adoption. Well, we inquired about IVF, and found it do-able but opted not to do it. Instead, we decided to do hormonal therapy.
What was causing the miscarriages?
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Mary: I had a severe hormonal imbalance coupled with fibroids and ovarian cysts.
What was your experience with hormonal therapy?
Mary: The injections cost between Sh.100,000 - 300,000 depending on the hospital and the insurance cover. After the 6 months, we felt drained. Both emotionally and financially. In addition, the side effects took a toll on me. The injections left me lethargic and totally worn out. I had severe headaches, hot flashes, nausea and I was always sad. As a result, we decided to stop the treatment and instead channelled all our energy on each other and our marriage. We decided to travel to different places, thanking God for each other instead of trying to have a child. We surrendered all to Christ. People need to understand that marriage is complete with or without children. When the fourth miscarriage happened, we held hands and gave thanks. Then we went swimming.
Did you reach a point where you were OK with not having a child?
John and Mary: We had done all we could to have kids, and so we decided to “close” that chapter in our lives and focus more on us. It really was a blessing in disguise because focusing on us made our marriage stronger. We began travelling to different places, enjoying our marriage and the gift of each other.
Did you feel external pressure to have children from the society?
John and Mary: Yes, we experienced it too. I had a woman tell me that it’s because I don’t want to ‘disfigure’ myself. It totally drained me. But I thank God I have a supportive family. Both of our parents were so supportive and didn’t pressure us. Children don’t make a marriage complete.
Did you conceive again?
Mary: I conceived again in 2017. I was so afraid of losing it, but the Lord kept reminding me of His goodness. Little did we know that it was God’s time. The pregnancy was good. Apart from the normal nausea and fatigue, all was well. My hubby was there from day one until the last day of delivery. He was there in the delivery room. He held our baby first. God’s time is so beautiful. Abigail found our marriage solid and rooted in love.
You are so open about your lives on your website Marriage Chronicles. Is that difficult? Where do you draw the line?
John and Mary: Although we are in our seventh year of marriage, we began our website at the end of our second year of marriage. First, it was social media posts and then later we took it a notch higher and started a blog. God inspired us to do this. It is not our own initiative and that is why we base what we write on the Word of God. His grace has been sufficient, so opening up our lives on the blog is not a hard thing. It is always Holy Spirit inspired. We also share with each other before sharing it on the blog. So far, the response is overwhelming; marriages have been restored, but inspired singles to choose chastity, abstinence and to honour the marriage bed. Additionally, our website has won a B.A.K.E (Bloggers Association of Kenya) award.
Where do you see yourselves in five years?
John and Mary: We are in our seventh year of marriage and in a good place and hope that God will continue to bless our marriage. We have also co-authored a book, Singleness and Godly Pursuit and it is available on Amazon.com. We pray that God will enable us to author more, and we cannot wait to see what God has in store because we believe he has a bigger plan than anything we could come up with.