Thursday May 15 2014

She stuck with him, when her family thought twice

Charles and his wife Harriet on their wedding day in Lira Town on February 16 this

Charles and his wife Harriet on their wedding day in Lira Town on February 16 this year. Although Harriet’s family was against the relationship, the couple stuck together and have since managed to defy the negative public perception of their relationship. PHOTO BY HUDSON APUNYO 

By Hudson Apunyo


How did you meet Charles?
It was in May 2012, in church. The first time I saw him was when he was leading a children’s choir. I did not take much interest in him then, although I must admit I liked the way the children sung. When I got to church the next time, I wanted to be a member of the praise and worship team, and he was the first person I met.

Did you immediately develop feelings for him?
No. We first became friends because we discovered we had some thing in common. We both loved music.

Then there is a way he treats himself. He is a no-nonsense man and that was the kind of person I wanted. We started getting along. As our friendship grew, we felt we were getting closer. We started to ask each other simple questions, sometimes we would go for missions, so we would interact more.

Was he your first love?
No, he was not

So, did your first loves disappoint you?
About 10 years ago, I told myself that there was no need to get married, so I drew big line between me and men. I just waited on God to send me the right person. I put aside whatever relationship I had because I felt that if all relationships were like that, then it would be better to stay the way I was. Little did I know that God was preparing me for Charles.

Did you have children in that relationship?
Yes. I had one child who is 10 years old now. However, I have dependents I was staying with even before I got my own child.

How many more children do you wish to have?
Hmm, I don’t know.

Your wish?
I have always wanted four children. But I can do with two because these days, it’s not about the numbers, but the quality of the children you get. But if God can bless us with four, I would be happy.

Did you ever think you would date a man with a disability?
You know when you are growing up, you always draw a picture of what kind of husband, wife, job, home that you want. But I did not grow up saying I must marry a disabled person, no.

All I wanted was a serious man, somebody who can understand me, trust me, and someone to share my passions with. One time, someone told me that if you get six out of the 10 qualities you want in a partner, go for it. I felt I got more than six of what I wanted, disability aside.

Who proposed to the other about marriage?
It’s funny. We didn’t have a proposal. It was kind of automatic you know; we just kept on understanding what the other meant. He is a proud man and strict. He did not openly say, “hullo, would you marry me”. The way he would ask and do things, I just felt something was coming up. But finally he came around. I remember him ‘interviewing’ me. It was a tough and weird way.

Did you have second thoughts about marrying him?
Yes, and there were reasons. At first I got funny reactions from some people. They would tell me, “Harriet, you are making a mistake, think about it”. And then sometimes I would sit and wonder, am I really doing the right thing? Others would say, “don’t rush”. But then I told myself that if it’s your will God, let it be.
How about your family, what was their reaction?
The first time I introduced this to them, they were not positive. But it was just a matter of time before they understood exactly who he is and I assured them that all they needed was to get to know him just a little bit more, beyond the disability. He is intelligent, loving, and normal.

What’s the most memorable moment you have shared together?
I remember the time we went for a mission in Ogur to reach out to people living with HIV. There, he shared with me his deepest secrets and from that time, we developed feelings for each other. I really felt like that was the best moment of my life.

It was a short time and most of this happened in a car. We sat together in the front of the van and we talked all the way to Ogur and back.

Are there things that irritate you about him?
As human beings, there are some things that annoy me about him. He is so critical and analytical. He does not leave small things unattended to and sometimes he actually turns out wrong.

What is your advice to people in a relationship like you?
I would say there are people without a disability but actually have more ‘disabilities’ than people with a physical disability. People in young relationship need to get to know one another before they get into a serious relationship.

What you would do to a man without a disability is the same thing you would do to a disabled person, except that sometimes, you need to be ready to go an extra mile because before you go into it, you need to accept them the way they are.

You need to accept that they will never see, hear, or walk. I have accepted that my husband will never maybe run or do those things able men will do.

After accepting that, then start planning on how you can fill the gap, while empowering them. For example, when I am going to work, I cannot leave tea on the table because I know he will not be able to pick it. I must put it where he can reach so that he does not call someone to help him. I also always put a small stool for him so that he can use it to climb on the chair so that I do not need to lift him.

How do you handle conflicts?
We have had our share of conflicts almost from day one. That is why I said he didn’t even propose to marry me. [Laughs]
But the best we do is talk about it. We have tried so much ever since we started courting to make our communication effective. I always tell him I want updates on things, but sometimes he forgets. If you know that you should be home at 6pm and by 6:30 you are not back yet, call and inform me.
I remember sometime when I wanted to go back to school, we discussed the possibilities and he didn’t seem open to the idea, but I went ahead and got my admission. I started school but got stuck along the way. Then he said; see I told you. We talked about it and got a solution. Couples should learn to communicate; sometimes you need to be a friend not a wife to resolve conflict.

So, were you sure you were marrying a “real man”?
Those are things that are a bit tricky; if you are a born again Christian, you try to understand, and there is something we call faith. We have friends in the medical field who counselled us and he also showed me a number of examination results he took.
They told him polio reduces a man’s strength sexually, but does not remove it. Definitely every man has a weakness just like every woman has a weakness, sexually. So his is not exceptional.


How did you meet your wife?
We happen to be from the same Church (Lira Pentecostal Church LPC), we were in the same choir.

Was it love at first sight?
No, it wasn’t love at first sight, proximity led to love. One thing that inspired me is her intelligence and dress code.

How did you propose to her?
We had a trip to Ogur, so I had the opportunity to chat with her, exchange contacts and then we kept chatting via SMS. It was then that she proposed that we meet and talk relationship issues.
I took her seriously and told her that coming into my life should not be out of sympathy because of my disability. She also admired my conduct and way of life.

What’s the most memorable moment you have shared together?
There was a time when we almost hit a dead end. Each of us had a reason to end the relationship; she told me she was the breadwinner in their home, while I told her there was no money for marriage, until 2015 and that I am a secondary virgin, disabled and not sure of my health.
She also feared getting a blood test but later, I convinced her.

How did you get the money to pay for dowry then?
I personally had Shs1m and two cows, my clan members contributed 50 per cent, and my friends also contributed.

How much bride price did you pay?
I paid eight cows, 10 goats, Shs4m, a gomesi for the mother-in-law, suit for the father-in-law, and other small things, according to the Lango culture.

Do you have some things that irritate you about her?
She is too social and doesn’t think of the future. She grew up from a fairly well-to-do family. She had adjusted so much to simple life. She is so empathetic and tends to forget about her own problems. She is also too serious with everything.

How do you go about conflicts?
We are open to each other, sometimes I choose to keep quiet before I say anything. We also try to foresee potential areas that may bring conflict. Sometimes we counsel and sensitise one another.

What was her family’s reaction when they learnt you wanted to marry their daughter?
There was resistance. They hoped to see some big, rich person to marry their educated daughter. But they later understood. There was a meeting, where the mother announced that she was fighting the will of God yet the love her daughter had for me was too much.

What is your advice to people like you who wish to marry?
Marriage is not a miracle. For a person with a disability, God can bring the person He has prepared for you without struggle. Put a condition that the person you will be marrying loves you more. Also, you should involve other people in your relationship. I first disclosed to my best friends, pastor, and parents.