“I don’t blame my ex-husband for pulling out of the marriage. I had told him that if he reached a point in time when he was no longer happy, he just needed to give me the green light,” says Nina Mirembe, a 29 -year- old fashion designer.
Mirembe, also a former 2012 Miss Uganda contestant, made the disclosure while recently reflecting on her former marriage.
“He had suffered because of me and so, when he eventually wanted out, I agreed to let him go,” she says.
By the time the divorce was initiated in 2019, the couple had been together for three years and had a son, now aged five years .
Where things began…
Mirembe and her now former partner first met on Afro introductions, an online dating application accessible across the world by different people. This was towards the end of 2014.
Due to the sensitivity of the matter, she prefers not to reveal his identity. Their conversations started after he sent her a message asking particular details including who she was, her interests, hobbies, dislikes, among other things.
“He pursued me and afterwards asked whether I was interested in talking to him more and I responded yes,” Mirembe says, adding, “He was a gentleman.”
Thereafter, they exchanged phone numbers and continued communicating from time to time. Over time, Mirembe learnt that her pursuer was an Italian man who was deployed to work in Oman, a state in the Arab world. Away from work, she also learnt he was 38 years of age and had two children from a previous marriage.
Mirembe was in her early 20s at the time. The continuous communication drew the duo closer and they set out a plan to see each other physically.
A few days later, her love interest flew from Oman to Uganda. And, what was her first impression of him?
“He was perfect,” Mirembe says.
She adds, “He was handsome and looked quite youthful.”
The two connected like magnets after he also proceeded to compliment her on her beauty and style.
He stayed in the country for three days and during this time, the duo went out on various dates as well as meeting some of her family members and friends. It was a great period for the two lovebirds.
After the three-day stint, her then partner flew back to Oman because of work obligations. A month later, Mirembe flew out of the country to see him. While there, she had the opportunity to meet some of his colleagues and friends. Being her first time in the country, she also had the chance to experience the different culture and scene of Oman.
She realised their way of life is absolutely different from the one back home. There, dignity and respect are fundamental elements with women required to often dress modestly with long dresses and skirts.
She returned home a month later. From there onwards, they juggled their visits back and forth. The disadvantage with such movements is that it becames costly for the couple at some point.
That’s how they eventually zeroed down on the idea of marriage.
“The back and forth was quite draining because beside the financial constraints the movements brought upon us, authorities would also disturb us from time to time when it came to visa processing,” she says.
In order to limit some of such challenges, the duo opted to get married in August 2016. By the time of their wedding, the couple were already parents to a baby boy. Mirembe learnt she was pregnant in September 2015 and later gave birth in June 2016.
Like any other new parents, the duo were excited and happy about their new life. They were optimistic that the future ahead was bright. Things however did not go as planned.
Challenges crop up in marriage life
Juggling life as a newly wedded wife and mother became tough for Mirembe who was also overseeing her swimwear fashion business. At some point, she found all three responsibilities overwhelming her.
“I was stressed and ended up making my husband priority number three after my son and business,” she says.
“My husband felt left out. Because of this, he spoke of being sad and many times desperately pleaded for my attention and time. Instead, I ignored him and did not want to know,” she adds.
According to Mirembe, she emotionally switched off from the marriage.
“I became emotionally unavailable in the marriage by continuously rejecting him. I was obsessed with sewing clothes (for her swim wear business) in the night rather than lay in bed with him,” she says.
Mirembe blames her change of attitude to having a baby that partly played a role in reducing her sexual desires.
“Poor man suffered. In fact, sometimes he was patient and rode with it,” she says.
Previously, Mirembe had told her partner that if he reached a point in time when he was no longer happy in the marriage, he had the responsibility of speaking out.
And, he finally did. Eventually, the man opened up about the frustrations he was facing in the marriage and wanted out.
“I was like okay, that is fine,” she says, adding, “I did not cry. I was not against the divorce because deep within me, I wanted him to be happy.”
She attributes her then lack of emotion towards many things that were going on in her life, theset did not give her time to grieve a lost marriage.
The couple separated in 2018 and eventually divorced in 2019. Though an initial custody battle ensued between the two over their son, they eventually reached a mutual agreement. It was decided that their son remains under the care of Mirembe while his father was free to see him anytime. In addition, he was to continue offering child support, a responsibility the man accepted to take on.
“He still adores and loves his son regardless of what has happened between us. He remains a good father to our boy,” Mirembe says.
Currently, her former husband is in Oman while she stays back home raising their son.
“He last saw his father two years back and it was partly because of the pandemic that brought about restricted movements. But, I am sure they will meet again soon,” Mirembe says.
On whether she remains in speaking terms with her husband, Mirembe responds saying they are friends.
“We have all moved on. He has someone else and so do I,” she says.
Lessons and regrets
When Mirembe’s son sometimes asks her about his father, a cold sweat runs down her spine.
“Those are times I wish his father was still in our lives. But, there is nothing much I can do now,” she says.
The divorce experience has also taught Mirembe other fundamental life lessons and regrets as well.
“I wish I had paid more attention to him rather than leaving him to suffer. This is after learning that a section of men are like children who always need attention” she says.
“He hurt because of me and I don’t blame him for walking out of the marriage,” she mentions.
One of the notable lessons she learnt from the experience is to be more considerate in the marriage.
“I can’t change what happened but can only work on the next chapter. Everything happens for a reason and I guess I had to go through the experience so that I learn how to treat a married man better,” she says remorsefully.
Secondly, she learnt to be considerate of other people’s feelings.
“Marriage is also about being mindful of the partners’ feelings and not being selfish. This I learnt the hard way,” he says.
To other married women, Mirembe advises they learn how to compromise and in circumstances they are not happy about particular matters, they should openly discuss the issue with their respective partners. Sometimes, it is helpful to seek professional advise from counsellors when going through challenges in marriages.
Mirembe and ex-partner had a civil marriage in August 2016 at the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB).
Their marriage was dissolved in 2019 under the guidance of lawyers from respective sides.
Did she share her marital issues with anyone?
“I was low key with our marital issues. I did not put myself out there to look for help because I knew the storm would pass. Sometimes, I believe that if I had reached out to some trusted people, I would have saved the marriage,” she says.
Then adds, “When the marriage collapsed, I did not even try to ask for him back because I was only trying to focus on getting sole custody of my son. You know when things fail, they have failed and holding onto something that is already broken does not help matters either. You cannot force a person to stay in a marriage where they no longer want to be.”
For couples facing similar issues in their current marriage, Joseph Musaalo, a counselling psychologist at Adonai Counselling and Training Services advises:
“There are many things that can easily take a toll on one’s marriage. Regardless, I want to appeal to married women to learn how to prioritise in a home. Your husband should also be part of the priority. For men, I want to advise them to be considerate by bearing in mind what their wives are going through when they are trying hard to navigate the new role of motherhood. Not forgetting, it is important to talk about issues because some of these problems happen because of breakdown of communication in marriage. So, sometimes all the duo needs to do is sit down and resolve issues as a couple. If discussing issues on a round table does not help, then, the couple should proceed to get professional help including counselling.”