As a mother, and full-time teacher with a Master’s in Communication Studies, Evah Njauini, 43, is great at speaking. Her own life story has also given her experiences that most women can relate to, the forefront of which is a difficult marriage.
Having been married for 15 years, with three years of separation in between turned out to be an interesting journey that ultimately caused her to look at life differently.
“I was in a difficult marriage that left me depressed. I was raised knowing that marriage is for life,” says Evah.
“I think I still believe that is how it should be, even if mine did not work. I held on for a long time even when it was clear I should have let go. It became a painful experience hanging onto something that was tearing me down.”
It reached a point where she felt lost and confused, did not know who she was, was depressed and losing hope in life, and even became suicidal at some point because she felt like the whole world was crashing down on her, which she has talked about in her book.
“Depression also led me to quit my job at the time so I was out of work. I was unhappy. There was so much going on around me that I lost myself,” she says.
Evah says that this tends to happen to many women in such situations because women can be emotional in the way they hang onto a relationship, leading to self-damage and the destruction of the sense of self.
“It was something that almost eliminated me because when you reach a point of hopelessness and you do not feel like you have a reason to live you are done,” she says.
- Will my children hate me for getting a divorce?
- Why you need to teach your child independence
- What it means being a 'girl dad'
- Bad parenting: How to tell if a parent is controlling
Even if the experience broke her, it eventually brought her to a place where she asked herself who she was and what her life was about.
“In my book, I talk about rebirth. I got to a place where I had to be reborn. To find me again – who am I and where am I going?” says the PR and communications expert who is a lecturer at a leading international school.
That question would lead to her defining moment and determine who she is today.
“My defining moment was when I came to a place where I knew who I was in my adult life. I had always been someone who felt comfortable and did not bring myself to ask ‘What am I about?’” she says.
“Eventually, I did. It did not come in a day, it was a process. I found the beauty of who I am. I realised I could stand on my own two feet and could pursue something meaningful in my life,” she says.
That is one of the reasons she loves to speak to women, “…because I know what it is like to hang onto a marriage even when it is not working,” she says.
“But it is not the end of life. That frustration of working on something that cannot be saved can build into something lethal – either self-destruction or even doing something senseless where people destroy each other, but it does not have to be that way.”
Evah says having failed in marriage does not mean one has failed in life.
“When marriages fail, we do not die with them. We live on. Those situations and circumstances are not your definition. You are still a whole person, a whole human being with a whole life that lies ahead. And increasingly, when you begin to find yourself, you also learn to forgive. At first, I was bitter, but that bitterness is poison to you. You have to learn to let go.”
Having gone through such, what are the lessons about relationships that she did not know then that she knows now? Here are four of them, in her own words:
Lessons about relationships in Evah’s own wordsIt is important to learn to make yourself happy
Your happiness does not reside in another person. First, find out what makes you happy. You are responsible for your happiness. No man or woman is born to make another happy. I think I went into marriage with very high expectations, but when those expectations are broken, you feel frustrated.
I learnt that it does not mean people should not be treated well. Everybody has a right to be treated well and with honour, but at the same time not to peg your happiness on other people. Happiness does not lie in a spouse or friends or family. It lies within you.It is important for people not to lose who they are in the context of a marriage
People can live together and complement each other without losing their identities. If I am Evah, I should remain Evah and pursue the things that Evah should pursue in this life. You should seek to feel fulfilled in your self-growth and development and to achieve the things you wanted to achieve, and so should the other person, so that no one gets lost.
You are a wife and a mother, but you are still going to work and do other things. That sense of defining yourself as an individual - I think I lost a bit of it, so when my marriage crashed I went down with it because I had pegged my whole life onto it. Do not lose your individuality. Build and grow yourself, allow the other person to do it also and complement each other.Neither you nor your spouse is perfect
There is no perfect human. Everyone has imperfections, so it is important not to have unrealistic expectations in a relationship.Do not forget that you are worthwhile
Some people forget their worth in the name of fighting for a relationship. You stoop so low sometimes trying to make it work or save it that you lose yourself in it. It is important to learn where to draw the line and to set boundaries. People can still respect each other without anyone losing their worth in the process.