50 years in marriage are not a walk in the park. Kudos to the Musevenis?

Author: Musaazi Namiti. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • There are a couple of lessons for us to take from the marriages of VIPs like Mr Museveni.   

A husband and wife, someone once said, may disagree on many things, but they must absolutely agree on at least one thing: to never, ever give up.

Another, the British-American comedian Henny Youngman, said: “The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.” And Ruth Bell Graham, the Chinese-born American Christian author, said: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

Graham’s words will strike a chord with many people who are married. Even those whose marriages failed or are “clinically dead” (though they are being made to look like they still have some life in them) will see sense in them.  

Without the ability to forgive, it is hard for two people with weaknesses, which humans have in varying degrees, to live together under the same roof, to share the same bedroom, the same bed, the same bathroom for years or even half-century, as the Musevenis have done. 

You have to remember that sometimes things that divide married people and trigger slanging matches are really small. For some women and men, a toothpaste tube squeezed the wrong way is going to make them kick up a quarrel that may even spill over into the neighbourhood.

Only the ability to forgive and to know that we are all different and have weaknesses can help couples continue living together in harmony and peace — or pretend to live in harmony and peace.

There is one thing, though, that we must acknowledge about the Musevenis’ marriage. It is different from the average marriage. You could say, in a manner of speaking, that the vast majority of Ugandan marriages use the stairs, but the marriage of Mr Museveni and his wife Janet has been using the elevator. 

Yes, the couple have been married for 50 years and celebrated their golden jubilee last week, but 37 of those years have seen them leading a life of (almost) unimaginable luxury by Ugandan standards. They have and get anything and everything they need and want.

Of course, some marriages — such as those of Bill Gates, Frederick Chiluba, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Jeff Bezos and Vladimir Putin — failed yet these individuals have/had (some are dead) everything. However, living in comfort can make a positive difference. 

A Ugandan teacher with a wife and children to support on a salary of Shs500,000 has an enormous amount of stress to deal with, which can lead to unnecessary fights and divorce.

It is hard to tell, just from outward appearances, as appearances can sometimes be crushingly deceptive, whether the Musevenis have had it nice in their union. 

But there are a couple of lessons for us to take from the marriages of VIPs like Mr Museveni. First, couples that have been married for long become allies that sometimes do not even see each other’s weaknesses. And that somehow helps the marriage.

In 2010, the BBC interviewed Ms Museveni about accusations that her husband is running the country like a family business. Her response was surprising. She said: “I know that that is rubbish...If there is anyone who takes the trouble to do everything by the law, it is my husband.”

Second, whatever the differences/misunderstandings, appear in public walking arm in arm, if possible, and find ways of addressing those misunderstandings privately.

Former Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari’s wife Aisha once criticised him publicly, and he responded by saying that he has “superior knowledge over her” and that “she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”

They are still together.

Musaazi Namiti is a journalist and former Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk
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