I passed my UACE with flying colours. In fact, it was only by a whisker that my name did not appear in the newspapers. My family, especially my father was elated. His last born was joining university to study Mass Communication. Finally, my father had lived his dream of educating all his 10 children. This was no mean achievement having raised his children in a town synonymous with highway prostitution (Naluwerere in Bugiri). In fact, the day before I joined university, I sat to count numerous primary classmates who were by then married with more than five children.
Off to university
At university, I set out to excel. My grades were excellent. I built rapport with my lectures who were all in one way or another attached to the media houses at the time. I got my first job as a freelancer with one of the dailies. This made my father proud. He went about telling his contemporaries how his daughter was really doing well. Just when my career was starting to take form, I fell in love.
Love of my of life, or so I thought
He was young(29), hardworking, handsome and above all, he too was in love. We dated and my life goals changed, in a way. I started thinking of being an excellent wife as opposed to being an exceptional communications consultant. Before I knew it, he had proposed. That is when it dawned on me that this relationship was no joke.
To be honest, I was confused. It was clear I loved him, but it was also clear that my parents and siblings expected a lot more from me. I decided to break the news to my sister through a phone call. I could tell from her tone that she was struck and surprised but tried to remain calm.
Family opposes marriage
“Are you ready for this marriage?” she asked. “Yes, I think I love him,” I told her. She asked me to give it time. I told her that I was not giving it any more time because the wedding was due in two months’ time. Our target was to get married before Ramadhan (Islamic holy month). She pledged her support but not without reservations.
The news of my wedding was received negatively by the rest of my siblings. They believed there was a lot more to life than marriage. My father was thrown into confusion. At first, he told me that he would consult my brothers and sisters and decide on what to do. When they said no, he was stuck. Deep in my heart, I prayed I could convince my father. Finally, he called to say that he was giving me his blessing. The introduction ceremony is still the talk of the district. It was stunning, to say the least.
I got into my marriage with zeal, energy, love and determination to make it work. I gave birth to a record three children in just four years of marriage. This speed did not go down well with my family. They wondered who I was competing with and why I should not stop and first pursue my career.
When I finally graduated and got a job, I did not think about any personal investments or savings. I was tuned to investing in my marriage. I went out of my way to make life comfortable for the more than five in-laws staying at my house. I would use my last pennies to complete their shopping lists, top up school fees, buy a dress, name it. I never missed their visitation days. To me, they were sisters and brothers, not in-laws. I went out of my way to apply for loans and salary advances to invest with my husband. Not that I had not heard stories of men changing overnight but I chose to think that mine was unique.
One day, I woke up to find that my husband’s plans were not my plans. I woke up to the reality that all we had worked for together was not mine but his. In fact, his family challenged him because they had seen how much I had done. He simply told them that he makes personal decisions for personal reasons. He was not the man I had married. When I challenged him to give me at least one of the investments so that I could start a new life, he challenged me to calculate how much I had invested with him with evidence so that he could pay it back . I desperately mentioned how much I had supported his sisters and brothers and this became my greatest crime, announcing how much I had supported his people. I felt betrayed. I did not have a single coin in savings to start a new life. Amid all this, I acted like all was well. I did not want my family to say, “we told you so”.
I wished I had married when I was mature enough not to love so blindly! I wished I did not have so many children who were now traumatised by our constant fights. I wished I had not invested so much with him and his family. Maybe the loss and betrayal I felt would be less. Above all, I wished I was not married. I was just clocking 30 and most of my agemates were just getting married.
As I organise myself to start a new life, I want to advise young women out there not to rush into marriage. You need some emotional maturity in that institution. You need to always ask yourself the “what if” question and plan accordingly. Above all, for the marrieds, work to please yourself and your family more as opposed to your husband’s family. Their only attachment with you is your man. The day he throws you out, no matter how much they love you and how much you did for them, if they are civil, all they will say is sorry. If, unfortunately, they are not civil, all they will say is “did we drag you into helping us?”, and that will hurt so badly.