When people hop into marriage, they tend to thrust the phrase ‘old habits die hard’ into a coal fire. Everyone in marriage would love their partner to change positively although many are in for a marital shock when things do not turn out as anticipated.
Rose Namuli, a resident of Namugongo was occasionally cautioned her fiancé was a drunkard and serial womaniser. Her prayerful mother too told her God had revealed to her Dave was a wrong choice. Leaving God out of this, Dave’s friends re-echoed similar warnings but all fell on deaf ears. All these ‘blackmailers’ (like she referred to them) were reported to the kind and romantic Dave, who went as far as confronting her mother for an explanation.
Namuli reassured them (‘blackmailers’) if it were true, her fiancé would definitely change after tying the knot. A few months into their marriage, he was the perfect husband she ever dreamt of. After their first daughter was born, he began returning home at 3am, reeking of alcohol.
When their daughter started school, Dave brought home two sons, six and 11-years-old and introduced them to her. To add on to the bundle of bitterness, he had another daughter who was her daughter’s age mate. Namuli was torn, but could not leave her home for fear of public ridicule. “What will I tell people who attended our wedding?” She constantly asks herself.
Namuli is not the only one nursing regrets after warnings in the past. Benard Byakika married his kind and well-mannered girlfriend after five years of dating. Three years down the road, he can barely recognise her as she has turned into a psychopath. On top of her worrying hygiene, she treats all his relatives, including his mother with cruelty when they visit.
Change, according to Hilda Bahati, a life and relationships coach, is relative. It may be positive or negative. Spouses change habits, interests, and even their company. What happens before marriage is that people pretend a lot. Tradition has modelled us into cowards who are good at covering their flaws. So, one is forced to pretend to fit into another’s image of a perfect wife or husband.
Bahati, also founder of Lifefix, notes that people change but their characters are hard to kill. In any case, there is a possibility of getting worse. Only two per cent may decide to change to have a stable marriage.
“There are characters and interests that are hard to change for the better. For instance, when someone does not love you, chances are slim that they will love you when you get married. Women have a tendency of pushing for traditional marriages and weddings hoping men will love them in the long run,” Bahati says.
She relates: Back then, there were 20 per cent chances that women could learn to love their husbands and 80 per cent that the men could love in the end. Now, the tables have turned, there are very slim chances of men loving spouses they did not love in the first place. 50 per cent of the women will try to pretend. Tradition has taught us the road to marriage is a one way; after completing studies, you get a job and get married. This also leaves many, especially women with few options—the reason we have so many pretenders. When they are unmasked, partners are usually in shock.
Clearly, sometimes people hope into marriage hoping they will rid themselves of habits that irritate their partners, but this sometimes turns out a barren venture. The ring alone is only a symbol of commitment. To think that it is magic that can turn around situations is sometimes overly ambitious.
However, other marital experts argue that change is possible when people are truthful in a relationship. Dr Ellis Mutabazi, director of Clear Joy rehabilitation services, says honesty in a relationship breaks many barriers. “When you are one and still keep your mask on, you are only cheating yourself. Some habits such as alcohol and drug abuse are hard to hide”.
Similarly, Judith Nandutu, a lawyer, believes couples can change for better when married. If they can change before marriage, then they can change when married since change is part of human nature. It only depends on the circumstances surrounding that marriage, and sometimes people don’t even notice that they have changed.
Inducing change in a spouse
First, ascertain if your spouse really loves you because change may not miraculously occur. You need to love yourself first and know what you really want in a relationship. To change someone, according to Hilda Bahati, a life coach, is an impeccable venture. You cannot do much to change someone. All you can do is understand them and help them discover themselves. Who knows? With time, they may change, although not totally, but at least to cover a part of your picture.
Don’t keep pointing at flaws
Secondly, do not keep poking into their flaws. If you accepted them in the first place before you tied the knot, understand them now more than ever, especially if you did not walk into a wall.
However, do not over compromise; learn to be honest, and as polite as you can be. Continuously act with kindness, romance, and compassion. This will push them to the edge and their guilt conscience could cause them to change. “You cannot force someone to change. By the time spouses come up to seek help, it only means they really want to change and they always do. Success stories in my line of work are about 95 per cent of cases,” Bahati states.
Avoid the blame game
She cautions; Counsellors should not use the blame approach but instead teach spouses how to behave in that particular situation in order to foster change. Sadly, a number of spouses instead turn to their peers for help and instead end up being negatively influenced. They turn out worse or even quit marriage without trying to save it.
But since prevention is better than cure, Dr Mutabazi says it is only important to avoid going through the hustle of changing someone. Always be yourself so that when people approach you, they know what they are taking home. This way, they will learn to tolerate you. It also means your strengths outweigh your weaknesses, which is a good start. Short of that, once your mask falls off, it may breed hatred which is the commonest cause of many cases of separation and divorce.
“Also, before marriage, encourage each other to open up. You can start by saying out your vices so that the other can also remove his skeletons out their closet. After marriage, many people are not scared of break-up, so they may go back to their roots without warning”.
Mary Butamanya, president of the Uganda counsellors association highlights that sometimes people pretend while cohabiting until there is a ring on their finger. This, she says, is when their true colours come out. Their personality totally changes over time.
Butamanya observes; Marriage does not change people; it’s only the mask that falls off. That is why the true version after the mask falling off will be displeasing compared to the person you met.