In Summary
  • Grace advises: Do not assume the small stuff while dating. If your partner is petty while dating, it will exacerbate after marriage.
  • Tracy says: If I were to start all over again, what would I do differently? I would not marry because of the circumstances. It has to feel right.

Divorce, is a much dreaded word. No one gets into a relationship looking to get out.

When a couple are giddy in love, expectations are high and they dream of a life intertwined. Then cracks form, grow into trenches and inevitably, the ‘D’ word happens.

Most divorcees will tell you battling with a marriage break-up turns one’s life upside down. For a lot of couples, though, they will be well into their 30’s when their marriage breaks.

So what happens when you are getting out from marital bliss in your 20’s, at a time that your friends are sending wedding invites?

It’s lonely and alienating. Divorce, for those under 30, rarely comes with sympathy cards and coffee dates, social research says.

A divorced 20-something is, at best, not understood by her peers. At worst, she is stigmatised for failing at the very thing other 20-somethings are just beginning to master.

This exists even outside of the tangled web of dangerous social comparisons inspired by social media.

“Your love is still young, why you would be thinking of separation?” people often ask. A 2018 study by Daystar University reveals that most divorced couples seek to go their separate ways before their 10th anniversary.

'LOVE' FADES

However, some of those who exchanged vows or formalised their marriages in their early twenties confess that sometimes the spark soon fizzles out.

“You are young, in love and you imagine that the love will last for a lifetime. You get into it and things change. You discover that that you had a different idea of what marriage should be. You start figuring out who you are outside the marriage and in that process, it crumbles,” says a young woman going through a divorce.

An on-air personality who got married in a beautiful ceremony while in her twenties revealed that she packed her bags and left 59 days after the wedding.

What happens behind closed doors for these young women?

Grace: Married at 26, separated at 27

My story goes back to 2010, when I got acquainted with my now ex-husband.

We fellowshipped in the same church and we were both in the youth ministry. He was the youth chairperson. We became friends.

I am an accountant, and a few months later, I got a transfer to another town and we lost touch.

Then in 2012 we reconnected and rekindled our friendship. We spoke every day.

I vividly it was just a few weeks to my birthday when he called and asked whether we could meet and talk, to which I readily agreed.

When we met, he asked whether we could be in a relationship and I nodded in consent. He is a church-going man, remember?

I thought that men who go to church are inherently nice people. I loved him and he reciprocated the love.

In 2013, he proposed with a beautiful ring. We both loved God and were in the ministry together and our families and friends supported us. I liked everything about us.

TRAUMA

We were perfect together. Two years later, he came home for the formal introduction and paid my bride price in June 2015.

We were given the go ahead to have our wedding in August same year. I was 26 years old.

Then tragedy struck. My mother, who had been ailing for some time, died a day after the bride price ceremony.

I became numb and lost interest in everything, including the wedding. I was so much out of touch with the wedding preparations that I attended it like any other guest.

I did not choose the colour theme, décor, the cake. However, everything was planned to perfection.

We said the wedding vows, signed the certificates and danced in the rain. I became someone’s wife.

We had been in a long-distance relationship because of our jobs, and I was still grieving. To be honest, I expected more love than I could offer.

My mother’s death had left me empty. We started squabbling endlessly after the honeymoon.

KNOW EACH OTHER

Then there were the insecurities. We reduced the number of times we met but even then, the arguments did not end. “Why did you take long to pick up my call?”, “Why did you get home late last evening?”, “Whom were you talking to on phone?” It was crazy.

I was scared. I had thought that marriage would solve my insecurities. So what was happening? I became confused and even left my job to try to fix my marriage.

We both tried but it was too late. In 2016, we went our separate ways and he remarried soon after. He filed for divorce and we are waiting for it to be finalised.

I don’t know what exactly happened to us, but my mother’s death and my inability to bear the loss could have been one of the reasons.

In addition, I was blinded by the fact that we both served in church. I am still scared of dating or making a commitment.

I have had to face many challenges. I had to move from the church where I used to fellowship because of the persistent backbiting.

Worse still, I have not found another job. If I were to do things differently, I would seek to know my partner and myself better.

Do not assume the small stuff while dating. If your partner is petty while dating, it will exacerbate after marriage.

* * * *

Tracy, 31: Married at 21, separated at 29

I was in my third year of study when I discovered that I was pregnant. This did not go down well with my family, but my boyfriend, now my ex-husband, was supportive.

“We can move in together and raise our child,” he said.

I quit college. It turned out to be a grave mistake! We were from the same hometown and I had met him in December 2017.

The general election results were being announced and my friends and I were at the shopping centre celebrating the outcome.

We were there until quite late, so one of my friends asked to use my phone to call a friend to escort us home. He turned out to be that friend.

He was working with the Kenya Defence Forces. When our son was six months old, we formalised our marriage at the Attorney-General's. I was 21.

We had the normal disagreement couples have – nothing serious. But after a while, I discovered that he was cheating on me.

Although I felt betrayed, I forgave him. The cycle of cheating and the forgiving continued, and we got another child.

He started spending little time with me and the children until I could take it anymore. I left with my children.

He occasionally supports me by paying half their school fees. We are yet to start the divorce process because when we wanted to, we were asked to give ourselves three years of separation.

EQUAL PARTNERS

However, with the new law — you do not have to wait for three years before getting a divorce — I intend to start the paperwork soon.

One of my greatest regrets is getting into investment with him and having only his name on the ownership documents.

Should I remarry — although this is not in the picture now — I will ensure that the ownership documents bear both our names.

My main challenge right now is finances. I am a businessperson and it is not always a smooth ride. However, I have healed emotionally.

If I were to start all over again, what would I do differently? I would not marry because of the circumstances. It has to feel right.

* * * *

Rosemary, 28: Married at 23, separated at 28

In July last year, I woke up one day to find divorce papers at my door. My husband was calling it quits. It was a nightmare come true.

I was 23 when I got married in 2014, a year after finishing school and I was on my first job.

I come from a very religious family and had prayed for an equally religious man. After dating for a year we got married.

He was working in Nairobi while I was in Eldoret. I quit my job to join him. But even while dating, I could tell that my in-laws did not like me.

I was from a different community and they were not happy about it. But we were deeply in love.

We would hear or watch news about divorcing couples but never thought it could apply to us.

There are certain things you believe can never happen to you, and divorce was one of them. We had people looking up to our union.

We were a best couple once and singles flocked our home for advice and counselling. We had two children but, unfortunately, one died.

After staying in Nairobi for three years, I started noting a difference in my husband.

INTERFERENCE BY IN-LAWS

Whenever we discussed anything in the presence of his brothers, he would go along with his sibling’s suggestion.

For instance, we agreed that I would take a loan so that we could build our dream home.

I did and we spent a lot of time looking for the perfect design. But after meeting one of his brothers, he changed the design.

On another occasion, after we agreed to buy a specific type of car because it could accommodate a baby stroller, he simply bought one from his brother, disregarding what we had agreed on.

The problem is that I do not have any documents for the car or house. A month before I was served with the divorce papers, I had talked to him about getting the ownership documents and had even reached out to one of his brothers regarding the challenges we were having. Big mistake. He responded very harshly.

My marriage is still the best thing that ever happened and I hope to find someone else to build a future with.

LOOK OUT FOR RED FLAGS

However, I would caution women to take their time and get to know the other person better.

Do not ignore the red flags and, should you make any investments, ensure that there is comprehensive documentation. It will save you many problems.

I am still repaying the loan I took but forfeited everything else we acquired together.

But it has been tough. First, I have financial challenges because of the loan I am repaying and, because I wed in church, people tend to judge me more harshly.

You get the side eyes and people do not expect you to take up some roles in church.

Also, being the divorcee tag lowers your self-esteem. Still I would rather be alone and happy than be married and sad.