Every time Martha Mgaya, 42, recalls her nuptials with her estranged husband James ten years ago, she cannot help but feel sad and betrayed.
When she said “I do” to the man she had patiently waited for two years to return from study abroad, Martha had no idea their marriage would end the way it did, leaving her heartbroken.
The two had met at a Tanzania Assemblies of God church in Temeke where James used to sing in the church choir. His aunt who also used to go to the same church introduced him to Martha.
“I was 30 years old when we met after his aunt introduced him to me. We got close and eventually established our relationship,” says Martha, an accountant living in Kawe, Dar es Salaam. Shortly after they became intimate, James got a two-year scholarship to study in the UK.
“We continued to communicate through phone and social media and as he was about to complete his master’s degree, he proposed and we tied the knot just a few months after his return,” Martha recalls.
Just like is the case with any other newlyweds, life was great in the beginning. However, this did not last long for their marital bliss gradually went out the window. After two years into the marriage, James’ behaviour started to change.
“He started drinking and coming home at midnight. He even stopped going to church and I wondered whether he was really a born-again christian or if he had been pretending to be one all this while. This really disturbed me but I just prayed hard so that he could change his ways and repent,” says the mother of two.
Martha says she did not know James very well given that they had little time to know each other. She wishes she did not rush into marriage after he returned from study. As an after-thought, Martha says she believed he would be a good husband since both were born-again.
She found out he was having an affair after she found a text message from another woman on his phone. However, Martha continued praying, believing God would save her marriage.
When matters got worse, she consulted their pastor to whom her husband confessed he was involved with another woman and promised he would stop seeing her. Unfortunately, he went back to his old ways two weeks later.
“My husband didn’t change his strange behaviour. At some point I thought God had abandoned me and I was really heartbroken. I considered leaving him but I thought about the children. I did not want to leave them and the idea of having them raised by a single parent pained me a lot.”
To add salt to injury, James completely stopped taking care of his family. He even stopped paying school fees for their children now aged eight and five years.
Their marriage went south when James told her he did not love her anymore and suggested they part ways. “That day I cried and told God I had had enough of it. The better part of my marriage was full of tears and heartaches. I blamed myself for having married a man I didn’t know well and who did not value marriage,” Martha says bitterness and regret written all over her face.
She says she could not believe he was the same man who used to shower her with gifts and countless promises. How could he change like this, she wondered.
Why people change
What happened to Martha has happened to so many other people, both men and women. Some, like Martha choose to call it quits while some decide to stay for various reasons. What they all usually have in common is the disbelief that people who had once promised them heaven would betray them later.
But why do people change after living together for some time?
Noverty Deograthias, a psychologist at InforPsych Centre in Dar es Salaam says getting to know each other well before marriage is very important.
When people are together long enough to know each others’ true colours, it helps them to decide whether or not to commit.
The psychologist mentions personality, a person’s background, the nature of their upbringing, influence from friends and family as things that have far ranging effects on their marriage or relationship.
He says there are four types of personalities that define how people think and behave, which is why he advises couplesthat; “Before entering marriage, couples should know each other and especially how each one of them thinks, feels and behaves.”
He notes that there are people who are enthusiastic, active, and social, others are short-tempered or irritable, while there are those who are wise and quiet. The last personality group is one that consists of people who are usually relaxed and peaceful.
He says due to these diverse characters, couples should make an effort to know the personality of one another. This he says helps in building a good relationship once each knows how to live with their partner.
On how influence from friends affects marriage, Deograthias gives an example of how some women change from better to worse after integrating with bad friends, men like wise, something he says may have a negative impact on their marriage.
He says one’s family can have an influence on their relationship too. The expert says in the past couples used to consult families during turbulences but says this is no longer the case.
These days, according to him, it is very rare to see couples in conflict seeking redress from their in-laws because everyone thinks they know better while in fact, no one is perfect.
He says elders used to play a pivotal role in keeping couples together through counseling during the storms.
Pastor Jimmy Nduu from the House of prayer for all nations(Hopran Ministry) says marriage comes from God. He says God is the one who chooses partners for us but not our inclinations.
Referring to our ancestors Adam and Eve, pastor Nduu says the couple maintained their relationship under God’s guidance and therefore enjoyed life in Eden.
The pastor therefore believes problems in marriage crop up because people enter into matrimony without involving God. He says today most couples seek God’s blessing when they are already married.
“But if couples are God’s choice, separation cannot happen. There would not be tears over choosing wrong partners,” says the pastor adding; “The time for dating should be used wisely to learn from each other. It is through spending time to learn from each other that partners can live a happy life in future.”
Faustin Kamala, 47, concedes saying that people forget to involve God to choose the right partners for them. He says neither do they get to know each other before committing.
The father of three says some people make mistakes by tying the knot just because they want to get married, which he says is why some end up making wrong choices. He also is of the opinion that one should take time to know the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with.
A mother of four, Ashura Ramadhani 45, believes most people choose to stay in marriage when they realise they married the wrong partner for the children’s sake.
She herself does not believe in perseverance if one is not happy in their marriage and thanks God she is a muslim.
“Thanks Allah I am muslim and our religion allows us to marry up to four times, so we are free to move on and start a new life when things don’t work out.”
She says the holy Quran also allows a man to marry four wives which helps to avoid extra marital affairs. This she says saves most marriages from breaking up.
“I don’t mean you have to break up with your partner when things don’t go well but I suggest you should take time to know him or her to avoid ending up with a broken heart,” Ashura adds.
She refutes the claim that all men are similar in that they all have roving eyes. She believes human beings differ and that their behaviour is influenced by their backgrounds and how they are handled.
“Most people live fake lives because they want to maintain a positive image before the society but if one goes into detail one would find that all is not well in their relationship,” she says.
Faustin says it is unwise to pretend wearing a wedding ring while you actually are living in hell. He says choosing the right person is the best thing to do regardless of age, education, wealth, religion, race or nationality.