"We set out to find out between a man and a woman, whose opinion finally carries the day when it comes to choosing a life partner and the split was evident."
In a round-the-table evening party after a close friend’s wedding at the Sailing Club in Lang’ata last weekend, a debate ensued among a group of us over who between a man and a woman “chooses the other” when a relationship is moving to marriage.
One of the friends, an unmarried lady, was categorical that she believes women choose the men they want to marry them. On the other side, one of the married friends, a man, thinks he chose his wife and that she had few reasons, if any, of turning him down.
It got all of us thinking. Do men really choose their dear wives? Or do women make the ultimate decision on whether the relationsip moves to the next level or not?
Unlike in the old days when communities had mechanisms that made it utterly impossible for women to choose their husbands, the modern woman could easily list “her right to choose a husband “ among several of her other rights.
Saturday Magazine sought opinion from a cross section of readers.
“Men definitely choose who they want to sire children with. They look for specific characteristics. But this is changing since women are talking of equality and they also want to participate in making their own decisions,” says John Ayenda, a businessman in Nairobi.
Joseph Kimutai, a tour consultant and married for twenty five years, believes young men are no longer in a hurry to commit themselves and therefore women are getting impatient with them and take the role of determining the next level of relationship.
“For me, the ideal situation is where the man determines the direction of a relationship. This includes deciding when the two of you can call it a day or settle down,” he says and estimates the prevalence of women determining who to marry them.
“For me, 75 per cent of men choose their wives while 25 per cent of women choose who will marry them. This gap will narrow in due course,” he says and insists “it is out of experience”.
Most men believe it is the decision on whom to marry is their preserve, while Saturday Magazine learnt that the independent woman is increasingly taking it upon herself to chart the way forward.
Lydia Obara, 25, will not wait to be chosen by a man. Instead, she will only settle with the one she feels she can live with stress free.
“Often, women will have several men after them. Each man has his own interests. It will then be for me to consider my interest and choose the most favourable,” says the database administrator in Nairobi.
Wicky Ayietta, a social worker says a woman should determine who marries her. According to her, women are more concerned about their security and should therefore look for a man who guarantees this future.
“After staying with a man for a while, a woman should be able to know a man who is caring and worth an investment in life. Long gone are the days women will be dragged into bad marriages to lead miserable lives the rest of their lives,” says Ayietta, 27.
Obara and Ayietta are apt examples of the independent woman who believes time is ripe for women to be equal stakeholders in all spheres of life, including when and whom to marry.
Another school of thought among women however argues that the way to go is to have 50/50 participation of both parties.
“Both can choose. In earlier days, it was the men who were supposed to do the legwork but with changes in lifestyle, the women can also propose,” says Regina Wambui, 42.
In her opinion, women who are not married during their prime ages of 23 and 27, may find themselves in an urgency to move love to another level.
“There is a kind of generational competition. The aging women is in the field with younger women and because the men have drastically reduced their level of commitment, this independent woman will find herself wanting to make things in the relationship move faster,” says the businesswoman in Embakasi.
For Claudia Onsare, a woman can take charge of things if she feels her man is moving too slowly for her. However, she is categorical that the best way to do this is using non-verbal means as “men still believe it is their duty to propose to a woman”.
Onsare, a broadcast journalist, says it really takes a lot of guts for a woman to ask a man to marry her.
“There is the risk of looking like you are lording it over the man if you blatantly tell your man to move you in,” she says and adds, “the trick is to communicate to your man that you are ready and worthy to be somebody’s wife and mother without necessarily nagging him verbally,” she opines.
Other men believe it is their prerogative to decide when to marry and no amount of coercion or pressure from the woman should determine the marriage time.
Like Obara, Abednego Ateka, a recent graduate in accounting, says people normally have a selection of potential soulmates when they come of age and sampling is inevitable.
“When a man has several women on her neck, he samples who is best suited to his interest and therefore it is the man who decides who he will take in,” says Ateka who is still single and searching.
This view is easily picked by fellow man, Okibo Motari, a political activist from Kisii. “ I had always wanted to marry a brown woman as I am a bit dark, When I spotted Eunice, I instantly identified her as the woman I wanted to marry,” he says.
What was left for him, he says, was to sell his “policies” to her by way of wooing, and as he says, she played difficult for a while before yielding to his advances, “ Now in that case, who chooses who?” he poses.
Motari says the ideal situation has not really changed and the legwork remains a man’s work. Generally, in situations where the the woman is in control, the relationship is likely to experience a lot of problems sooner than later.
Lillian Lelei agrees that women are increasingly turning to men who will provide them with what they want in life and therefore they will not just take anyone.
“There are those who will target a man’s money, physique or the one who can give her good, handsome children,” says the communications officer.
Lelei, 29, however, cautions that choosing a spouse to fulfil certain needs is disastrous and has no future. “Yes, the man will accept but he will one day feel he isn’t in control and problems start cropping up,” she says.
Sharing this view is Abel Nyamamba who admits that men are being pushed to commit as more are increasingly becoming irresponsible. He says committing to one woman “these days” is a serious responsibility and calls for “sacrifice”.
“It is now evident that many people are not getting into relationships with the future in mind but to satisfy their current needs,” says Nyamamba, a micro biology analyst with a pharmaceutical firm in Thika.
Depending on who you talk to, it is clear that women will cause more shifts as they seek to enhance the roles they play in every aspect of life. With divided opinion, the question remains, did you choose your spouse or you were chosen?