The Lonely Kenyan Youth. Why They Avoid Marriage.

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“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life – to strength each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?”

Great English Victorian novelist George Elliot penned the aforementioned quote in her now famous book Middlemarch. Since time immemorial, marriage has always been looked at as one of the major rites of passage that adults have to observe at one point in their lives.

The idea of starting a family, ideally with the right partner, has been addressed even in old works of literature such as the Bible, with the most famous example being Jacob’s famed love triangle with sisters Leah and Rachel.

Jacob had to work as a shepherd for seven years tending to their father Laban’s flock in order to gain Leah’s hand in marriage but after the time elapsed, he would later discover, on his wedding day, that Laban had tricked him when he handed over his first born daughter Rachel instead.

Not one to be deterred, Jacob took it upon himself to work for an extra seven years in order to land the woman of his dreams in Leah. The biblical narrative perfectly encapsulates the extent to which men will go to tie down the woman of their dreams. In African culture, marriage is portrayed on an even higher pedestal than in European countries. African men and women are actually reprimanded by their relatives if they have not yet settled down and had a family at a particular age.

But there is an emerging new trend among young educated Kenyans that has seen many individuals opt to stay in casual relationships or have children out of wedlock and raise them as co-parents instead of permanently settling down.  This is largely due to severe trust issues.

The now famous song by Bensoul and Sauti Sol perfectly captures the fears that many young Kenyans have about settling down.

“Nairobi… Yule anakupea, pia ananipea, akikuletea, ananiletea, wanakula fare, sote tunashare, Ogopa sana mama….’”

In a nutshell, the lyrics point to how many youth in metropolises such as Nairobi, have multiple sexual partners and how most people have unexpectedly come to terms with the notion. Many youth would rather just sleep around than actually settle down, but who would blame them though?

No man that I know of, would be willing to invest as much as seven years of time on a woman only to have the story end in tears . The saying ‘once bitten twice shy’ similarly captures the issue raised so it’s only reasonable if some persons shy away from settling down.

Tevin Wekesa, a young father, resonates well with the previous statement.

“My fatherhood journey began at the tender age of 21, back when I was doing my final year in campus. I wasn’t ready for the added responsibility and a part of me, if I am being honest, contemplated on whether or not my then partner and I should keep the baby,” he says to me in his apartment as he sips a cup of coffee.

“Looking back, it’s a decision I am glad we never made because when I held my beautiful daughter in my arms for the first time, time stood still for a moment and all the worries and doubt that was troubling me quickly faded away.

After five years of bliss, things between Wekesa and his partner went downhill because other parties encroached on their space. The duo consensually opted to terminate the relationship and raise their daughter in a more co-parenting manner.

The problem however arose when Wekesa returned to the dating scene and realized he couldn’t or rather he doesn’t want to commit and settle down. This has seen him turn down a number of potential suitors with his reasoning being that he has already continued his family tree and as such he doesn’t want to relive the long courting process all over again.

“Every person has needs and I was no exception but I always mooted the idea of a casual relationship as soon as I met a woman who was interested in me. If that’s not what they were looking for then we would just go our separate ways. Plus this is still Nairobi,” he explains cheekily.

The surge in the number of independent single mothers has, to some degree, also contributed to why many of them opt for casual relationships. We have all heard stories of how single mothers, have had to put up with deadbeat fathers, for the longest time, before parting ways and none of them wants to end up trapped in such a cycle again.

“I couldn’t take it anymore. My child’s father was not helping me out at all. I was actually even begging him to come see his child but he was busy with other women. As soon as I landed a job, I didn’t give him a second thought. I can take care of myself and my child and that is enough for me. He really did a number on me and now I have severe trust issues. I don’t see myself committing to any man anymore,” 24 year-old single mother Susan Njeri explains.

“Do I want to get married? I am not so sure about that. Do I need to get married? Absolutely not! At the end of the day the decision to settle down is one that people, including myself, will make individually. Just make a decision that you are comfortable with and ignore hearsay from people who are quick to judge your actions before understanding your motives.”

Story Courtesy

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