LAST week the nation woke up to screaming newspaper headlines of John Ngarambe, a Rwandan diplomat caught pants down (no pan intended) with Joyce Ngaiza, the wife of Edmond Rugunda, a Mbarara-based businessman. While the scandal had ghastly diplomatic implications, not as much attention has been focused on the issues it raises about the great institution of marriage.
Why are such cases happening so often nowadays? Perhaps the problem stems from the start. Marital problems are solved from the start not at the end. And it begins with the ideal partner. But how does one find a companion, who will make a lighter â€˜burdenâ€™ in marriage? Someone easy to love, cherish respect and be faithful to?
This puzzle, as councillors will say, has peculiar specifications for individuals. But there are some generally acceptable standards.
Deborah Serwadda, a counsellor and chairperson/founder of Empower Child and Communities Against Abuse, says the fundamental issue is friendship. â€œA good relationship should be built on core, unconditional friendship if it should stand the test of time. When people are companions, they are interested in each otherâ€™s interests â€“â€“ not too much, but enough to show sensitivity to each otherâ€™s feelings.â€
Serwadda says in her counselling experience, she has seen marriages that go beyond recall because of lack of friendship. â€œWhen things go wrong, there is nothing to fall back onto and the relationship crumbles.â€
She cautions however, that friendship is not something that can be forged but rather something that happens naturally. â€œThe problem with young adults however, is that they want to get married to someone because he/she hails from a rich background and they think they will be better off. Thatâ€™s superficial.â€
Serwaddaâ€™s contention is unconditional friendship. â€œThis means that you are going to respect your partner and his/her relatives. It means being accommodative of each other. It also means you cannot do something that you know will hurt them.â€
Ruth Senyonyi, an experienced counsellor with Bank of Uganda, says it is just as important to consider attraction. â€œI believe physical attraction is one of the most important aspects of starting a successful relationship. If you are not attracted to someone, it is hard to sustain a relationship.â€
Senyonyi says exposure is another important quality that young adults could consider in their prospective life partners. â€œThis is especially necessary where you have cultural diversity. A lot of young people say it does not matter if he/she comes from a different tribe. They are dead wrong! It does. What makes all the difference is whether one is exposed enough to appreciate that these differences exist and need to be worked around.â€
Martin Sempa, a renowned pastor and counsellor, says faithfulness in a relationship requires divine intervention: â€œIt is hard for anyone to be faithful without faith in God.â€
He says an ideal marriage partner must be God-fearing, trustworthy, able to keep money, secrets, and be faithful. â€œShe must be friendly and interesting. She must be beautiful in the eyes of the beholder,â€ he adds.
According to James Lwanga, a counsellor in town, one should first be economically independent before getting married.
Lwanga also thinks that people ignore the differences in religious affiliations which come back to haunt them at a later stage. â€œIf people look for partners outside their own religious inclinations, it is the beginning of strife,â€ he says.
He says young adults should mind the age of their partners too if the â€˜Ngarambe sceneriosâ€™ are to be avoided. â€œThese days we are talking about cross-generational sex. If a middle-aged man marries a girl young enough to be his daughter, there are a lot of issues like communication gap. So, the age difference should be manageable.â€
But Steven Langa, the executive director of Family Life Network and a reputable counsellor, has a slightly different take on things. â€œLooking for the right person begins with you. Where you want to go is where everyone else wants to go. But you forget that the most important person is you. Are you a quality person? First have character and value, then you will attract the same in the other person.â€
People of the same values attract each other, he says. â€œThat is why Ngarambe and Ngaiza were drawn to each other. They both did not see anything seriously wrong with moving out with a person who is not your spouse,â€ he says.
Langa says three fundamental areas are important when looking for an ideal partnerâ€“â€“ spiritual, social and mental.
â€œSocially check to see if your backgrounds are similar. A boy from Katwe cannot marry a girl raised in Kololo unless he factors in the differences. Family background is also important here,â€ he says.
Spiritually, he says, both of you have to share the same ideals and values. Mentally, â€œif you a graduate, please stay away from a P.4 drop-out. You will not be on the same wavelength. One of you will feel inadequate and that is the beginning of problems,â€ Langa says.
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