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No one to marry as women defer marriage for careers

Living

In their quest for personal growth and financial independence, more women are now, more than ever, shunning committed relationships and marriage.

“Naomi, what do women want?” Simon Kamau asks as a conversation on relationships and marriage rages on social media. He has always been the ‘I date to marry’ kind of man.

Now 28, the focused real estate business investor feels that getting the right marriage partner is becoming a mirage. He has been ready to marry. He has been looking around. Most of the women he has eyed are not ready to settle down yet… women who ordinarily would be starting families.

Mike Njoroge, 38, shares the same experience. Most of the women he is interested in are career women in the corporate world.

In their 30s, he says his would-be partners are keener on investing in financial issues and furthering their academic skills. Marriage takes the third option. Not having a man in their 30s is not an agenda that would cost a woman sleepless nights, he says. 

Like Simon and Mike, men are finding themselves in a tricky spot when it comes to dating and looking for partners. Many women are giving education and professional training as well as financial stability a top option when it comes to picking priorities in life.

These women want to embark on serious relationship matters such as marriage with a clear view of the road ahead of them. And so marriage has sort of been put on the back seat, leaving men agonising.

It was not always this way. There was a time women were ready for marriage soon as they completed their secondary school education. In fact, at college and university levels, it was never a shock if a girl brought a man home to ask for her hand in marriage.

Women are also becoming choosy about the kind of man they want to marry. It borders on the man’s career, financial strength, religion, and age. Having good looks is no longer the license to getting the desired woman, leave alone having the vibe to put her in your ‘box’.

Matters of past experiences and trust also pop up when it comes to women deciding on which man to give the green card. As it occurs, past love experiences, as well as information from others about the same, also has women having second thoughts about putting marriage first.

“My mind was always set on a career and this is what would eventually determine everything. Before I attained the right level of academics, I felt that dating was not meant to end up in marriage. I believe this is the matter with most women today,” says Maria Nyambane, a counsellor and author.

“The gamble is always about having all the security issues in your life, from stable family life to finances confirmed before you move into marriage. As much as I ended up getting married before I attained the academic goals I wanted to have before that, I liked the fact that he was working and it did not matter what he did but hard work that would end up in family fulfilment.

"His career also did not matter to me but I did not want someone who travels but then again he started after marriage due to career growth, I had no choice,” Maria says.

“Love can never be enough. It is important but there are other things like respect and self-fulfilment. Hard work is my number one, trust and communication. Friendship is also a must-have.”

Lillian Wangeci is a paediatric doctor and was always sure she wanted to finish medical school first and get a job before she got married. To her, academic achievements took top priority.  

“I met a lot of nice men in medical school but nothing came out of it because my career was not where I wanted it to be. I probably would have married that nice man I met in my Second Year at university. I wonder how different my life would have been,” says Lilian.

She says that as much as marriage should in most cases be driven by love, love is never enough as there are other factors for a woman to consider when settling down with a man.

“I am 53 years old and have met a lot of men. I can tell you from experience his past does not matter, especially if the past was inevitable. Just because someone grew up in an abusive home does not mean they will abuse you. I know some very messed up people who had happy childhoods.

"When I met my first husband, he had the perfect childhood and was learned, yet our marriage still failed. That is when I learned that what matters is the person in front of you now,” Lillian says.

Now one month into marriage, Maggie Wambui says her ultimate goal is to be a professor. She says having a defined career prospect first was important to her.

“I found it satisfying and self-fulfilling that I would have certain skills before I settled down.  With a career, I was able to make some informed decisions when it to comes to accepting family obligations later on. I want to get my PhD and the continuity of my studies and career is important to me, so much so that I would be keen on getting a partner who would support this process.

Together with her love, Maggie is in paleo-sciences, a field that involves a lot of travelling. This too (travelling) was a point of reference when she was thinking of who to choose for a partner.

“His job was an important factor. This field sometimes involves two to three months in the field, lots of travelling both locally and internationally and attending annual conferences. I have been through this so I can understand and accommodate the dynamics. I was also looking for someone who understood my career and the demands that come with it,” she says.

Susan Mueni is a director at a school her husband owns and unlike the other women, having a career first was never very important to her before she got married.

“I wanted to be a housewife and my husband was okay with it. He was a teacher at the time and when he decided to open a school, I helped him and now I am helping him run the school. He helped me realise my potential, helped me go back to school and I am glad to be the woman I am now,” says Susan.

For her, his career choice was not that important as long as he was making a living.

“My father was a farmer and he opened up a kiosk for my mother. I come from a humble background and my parents still managed to give us everything we needed. So it did not matter if he was a cobbler or a doctor, as long as he made an honest living,” she says.

Most of the women I talked to did not want to marry too far from their tribe because of differences in culture and traditions.

“He could have come from any tribe and religion as long as their cultures and traditions were not so different from mine,” says Lillian.

Maggie wanted someone from her tribe and religion because it made communication easy; there would be similar family traditional rituals and similar child naming systems.

“I wanted to experience love with someone whose language and practices I am familiar with,” she says.

Maria however found herself so in love at the time she got married that tribe did not matter.

“Religion was a huge issue to me even in dating. It mattered seeing that my dad is a pastor; I had to bring in a God-serving man, “she said.

Women are notorious list takers and whether it is a physical or mental one, they almost all have a list of things they are looking for in a partner.

The common themes border around personality traits like someone trustworthy, honest, hard-working, loyal and all those essential qualities.

Other everyday things on the list were must-have factors like nationality and relationship with the in-laws.

Ironically, Maria says her husband met almost none of her expectations, was not her type and now he is her dream man. That took a lot of work with a lot of love.

Lillian says the list is important when it comes to moral and personal attributes but there is a need for flexibility and room for compromise when it comes to marriage.

Having gotten divorced five years into her marriage and now happily married to her second husband, Lillian says women may not always get what they are looking for in a man and that should not be a license to dismiss a possible suitor. She says that even with a list to tick, it is important to note that nobody is perfect.

“All the things that were important to me stayed the same, including our careers, his religion.  But there are things I have had to compromise on; on paper, my first husband was perfect but I am happier now,“ Lillian says.

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