Why Marriage May Not Be For You!

After 20 years of marriage, I’m convinced that marriage isn’t for me! Before you jump to conclusions, please read on.

weddingBack in the day, finding a spouse was not a complex proposition. Your folks shortlisted the suitable candidates and chose the one who’s family was most complimentary to theirs. Complex terms like love and personal choice were not part of the equation! But in our very different world, many people struggle with the question of how to locate the One. “What if I end up with someone who makes me miserable?” The result? Commitment phobic people who are mortally afraid of entering marriage because of the misery they fear it might cause them. And subsequently after marriage when the going gets tough, many end up convinced that their unhappiness is because they made a mistake and married the wrong person!

Recently, I read an article by author Seth Adam Smith who made the same discovery I made when I faced the same fears, years ago. His commitment-phobia came to a head as he was planning his engagement to his high school sweetheart and best friend. Was he ready? Was this the right person to marry? Would she make him happy?

wedding 2In his confusion, he decided to confide in his dad about his fears. His dad’s response floored him. Instead of empathizing with him, he told him that he was being totally selfish because marriage was not for him. “You don’t marry to make yourself happy; you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

Seth’s blog post received 2 million views in 36 hours and when I last looked, that had jumped to 24 million. As countercultural as his message was in our culture today, it evidently struck a cord. You can read his original article here.

wedding 3One of the biggest problems in our lives today is caused by our expectation that the people around us are there to make us happy. Life is after all, the pursuit of happiness. Whether it’s our spouse, our friends, our boss, or our workmates, we only want to hang out only with people who contribute to our personal bliss. But this is a selfish extractive approach that is based on not on what I give to others but on what I can get from them. It turns us into net consumers and not net contributors.

So the next time you find yourself wondering if you married the right person, turn the question round and ask ‘how can I be the right person for the person I married?’

Things I Wish I’d Known About Money

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a talk about managing money to a group of mainly young adults going through the Mizizi experience. As I answered their different questions, I realized once again how poorly our education system trains us to manage this critical resource!  And I reflected on some of the things I wish I knew about money when I graduated from college.

money1Critical lesson numero uno: it’s not how much you earn that counts but how much you save. The work of a job is not to make you wealthy! It only provides the raw material for growing and multiplying wealth i.e. your salary. It is what you do with the salary you earn from your job that determines if you will grow wealthy or remain poor! The book of Proverbs (6:6) tells us that even with their little brains, ants are smart enough to put aside food for to ensure they survive future droughts. Years of observation have convinced me that it’s not the people who get big salaries that attain financial security but it is those who learn to live within their means, save something every month and invest when opportunities present themselves!

financial wisdomSpeaking of opportunities, number two critical lesson is regularly increase your financial wisdom. This comes through reading books about money management as well as spending time with and asking the right questions to wise investors. The truth is that money flows from the well salaried to the wise.  I have gained amazing insights and opportunities by spending time with people wiser than myself. Here again, the book of Proverbs has something to benefit us when it challenges us to ‘get wisdom at any cost’ and counsels us that wisdom is better than silver or gold (I know, you thought Bob Marley came up with that, didn’t you!).

debt

A third important lesson is understand the dangers of debt. It’s all the rage nowadays to borrow money, whether it’s to fund your business startup or to buy new furniture. But the wisdom of the Proverbs warns us that ‘the borrower is a slave to the lender’. I’ve found that for most of us, the easy availability of credit short-circuits the development of creativity and patience, as well as wisdom gained from slow growth. Coupled with which the Swahili saying ‘kukopa harusi, kulipa matanga’ (to borrow is like a wedding, to pay back like a funeral) is extremely true!

Lesson number four is live for more than money. Money is simply a tool. At the end of the day, the reason you want more is so you can have time to enjoy peace, health and good relationships with the ones you love. What the good book refers to as ‘shalom’. Never sacrifice your relationship with your loved ones because of the pursuit of money. That’s putting the cart before the horse!

familySo every Sunday this month, Pst Oscar Muriu of Nairobi Chapel is speaking at Mavuno Church about ‘The Four Horsemen Of Financial Ruin’. You owe it to yourself to be there!

Celebrating Fathers

commercialism2I’m not always sure I know what to do with the different imported holidays that have become fixtures on our calendar. Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and so on have gained such prominence you’d almost think they were national public holidays! Even Chinese New Year and Halloween have seem to have gained their small (and markedly elite) groups of followers here! All these are clearly indicators of the globalized world we live in. They are also great opportunities for retailers to create demand for goods we don’t really need!

All that said though, I do believe if any of these holidays would be a good candidate for global public holidays, Father’s Day would be it. Celebrated widely on the third Sunday of June, it was first declared a public holiday in the US by president Woodrow Wilson in 1972, 58 years after Mothers day became a public holiday. Clearly, fathers don’t have the same sentimental appeal that mothers do!

In today’s world, men are often seen as the villain – and it is certainly the case that men are often the cause of great pain in the lives of their spouses and children. When I visit our various prisons, I find that most inmates had a poor or no relationship with a father figure. Abusive, passive or absent fathers are the cause of much societal destruction in our nation.

father's loveWhich is all the more reason we must celebrate those men who are doing their best to be good husbands and fathers! It’s much more effective to applaud good deeds and examples than to bile about or simply ignore the bad ones. Because it’s true that you get what you celebrate. Let’s celebrate even those who haven’t done as well for whatever little they did right!

It’s not easy to be a dad in today’s world. Most men have few examples of what good fatherhood should look like. My friend, pastor Simon Mbevi, runs a class called ‘Man Enough’ that teaches men their role in family and society. I’m always amazed at how valuable the experience is to the many who take it.

fatherAnd so here’s to all those fathers out there who are working hard to provide for their children. Here’s to all the baby daddies who at least make an effort to visit their children regularly. Here’s to the single fathers who have chosen to faithfully bring up their children (I know quite a few remarkable ones!) Here’s to those men who are seeking to develop a relationship with their kids even though they didn’t have one with their own fathers. Here’s to those guys who take their kids to church because they want them to grow up with good morals. Here’s to those who are passionate to see their kids have what they didn’t have when they were growing up.

To all those fathers out there, I say to you, Happy Fathers Day!

father's day

True Love Is Not What We Thought!

To commemorate 20 great years since I married my college sweetheart, I took some time this week to think through some of lessons that I’ve learnt about marriage. The biggest one is that the pathway to love is not what we thought it was! Let me explain…

 attractedTwenty plus years ago, like any typical dating couple, we did some rather unconventional things! Have you ever seen a guy outside a dress shop carrying a ladies handbag as the girl he loves looks at and even tries out different outfits? That was me. Little did she know then that I hate window-shopping! She was no different; she sat with my friends and watched the rugby games I played in. Little did I know that watching sports was not on her top one hundred favorite things!

 A big complaint in marriages today is that people no longer feel the same way about each other as they did when dating. Or do the same things. Somehow, they figure, the love must have run out along the way.

 The problem however is in our definition of love. If you ask people what love is, you’ll get definitions that have to do with feelings – like ‘love is holding her hand and feeling your heart skip a beat’, or ‘love is gazing tenderly into his eyes’. Or as one person put it, ‘love is a feeling you feel when you feel that your are about to feel a feeling that you’ve never felt before’!

christmas4But the bible’s definition is radically different! As 1 Corinthians 13 (the famous ‘love chapter’) says ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’

 Have you noticed none of these things are ‘fun’ or ‘romantic’? Love is a dramatic action of giving despite my feelings. And the only way I can offer such unconditional love is because I have experienced the same love from my heavenly Father!

 true intimacyThe interesting thing is that as we begin to embrace God’s definition of love – something begins to happen in our marriage. We stop trying to turn the other person into something they’re not. We accept them as flawed people who have been loved by God. And they accept us too in the same way. And true love begins to flourish, in the only atmosphere it can – one of kindness, forgiveness and acceptance.

So… you need to determine even before you begin the journey together that divorce is not an option. I like a bumper sticker I saw once that read, ‘be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet!’ Don’t be fooled; every marriage faces problems. But the paradox is that it’s only as we allow God to use us to bless the other person regardless of how we feel, that we eventually find fulfillment, joint purpose and true intimacy with our partner.

Okay, I need to say this…

I truly love you Carol. You are my lover, helpmate, partner, fellow dreamer, co-creator, mother of our lovely children and purpose companion. The last twenty years have been more than incredible and I’m amazed at God’s genius in giving me you. May the next 20 be even more awesome! Also, I hid this little nugget deep in the post to see if you’d read it till the end 🙂

Where was I? Oh yes, we’ve even written a couple of books together based on the lessons we’ve learnt in our relationship and marriage! ‘Ndoa’ is a ten-week course for couples preparing for marriage, or for already marrieds who want to strengthen their foundation. ‘Finders Keepers’ helps you figure out how to find and keep the love of a lifetime. You can get any of these from the bookstore at any of the Mavuno campuses.

True love was not what we thought it was; it turned out to be much harder but ultimately much sweeter. God bless!

Sober Love Decisions

month of loveFebruary is the month of love. And love is such a beautiful thing! Scientists tell us that when you fall in love, chemicals called neutrophines and dopamines are released in your brain giving you a permanent high. Scientists have compared falling in love with taking heroin or having obsessive-compulsive disorder. Your ability to think straight is compromised! A haze comes over your eyes and you can only see the other person through your love-induced state.

That’s why you want to make some critical decisions before you fall in love. It’s a little like figuring out how you’ll get home before you sip that first drink. Most people already have already thought through what they absolutely can’t stand in a relationship. Ladies generally tend to have more substantial criteria, and will write off a guy who is constantly in debt, lives with his mom, or has a roving eye. Guys generally tend to focus more on what they see and have no time for a gal with bad breath, poor social poise or who doesn’t pay attention to her looks.

sober decisionsA major problem in relationships today though, is that we major on minor things and minor on major ones. That’s why our relationships keep blowing up over and over! Most people don’t know a real deal breaker when they see one. The dictionary defines a deal breaker as ‘any issue or factor that is significant enough to terminate a negotiation’. You need to figure out your deal breakers while you’re still sober, and not when you’re already love-high from a relationship!

Some of us have a loooong list of deal-breakers. “He must be taller than me so that I can get married in high heels.” “She must have nice long legs, and cook like my mom does”.  But in my new book ‘Finders Keepers: How To Find And Keep The One You Love’ (coming out this March), I describe the only two deal breakers that are critical if you are looking for love that lasts a lifetime.

money crazyThe first is a common authority. Each one of us has something or someone that serves as our ultimate reference point. Examples are money, career, self, or God. I’m not telling you what your ultimate authority needs to be. But for love to last a lifetime, you need to hook up with someone who subscribes to the same authority.

The second critical deal breaker has to do with passion. You need to connect with someone who values the things that are the most important to you. You may be in different professions but you need to share a bigger passion e.g. to mentor young people, to help poor communities, to preserve the environment, or to advocate for justice.

Do you want a love that lasts? Make the sober decision to only hook up with a person who fits these two criteria!

Remaking History

‘I had no idea when we got married that he would turn out to be abusive!’

crying womanJanice held her head in her hands as she sobbed. Her story was one I’d heard many times before. She had sworn she would never end up in the same situation as her mother – married to a physically and emotionally abusive man. When she met Jack soon after college, he was so attentive and caring, the complete opposite of her father. The first time he had hit her was several months into their marriage, and then he had apologized profusely and sworn never to do it again. But now, 4 years in, she was terrified of her husband and feared that the baby that she carried in her womb would become exactly like her.

Why does history repeat itself in relationships?

The reason is that people tend to attract people at the same level of emotional maturity as they are. It’s common to fantasize that when you finally meet Mr or Ms Right, they will fix you or make you a better person. But the reality is that a relationship only compounds the state it found you in! If you are lonely, you’ll attract another lonely person and each of you will demand that the other provide the companionship that they’re incapable of giving (that’s why they got married to you in the first place!)

attractedPut another way, you don’t attract what you want; you attract who you are! Clingy, desperate women tend to attract uncaring, insensitive men – and vice versa. The reason it’s not always obvious at first is that unhealthy people attract people with complimentary dysfunctions. For example, people with addictions tend to be (unconsciously) attracted to people who are co-dependent; saviors types who have a need to be needed. Unfortunately, your partner will not only not be able to help you, but they may actually oppose your healing because your remaining as you are meets their need!

The result? Two very dependent people, each working hard to ensure that their partner never changes because then their need might then not be met! This is like two patients with no doctor. Or two ticks with no dog. I know, that’s gross. Point I’m making is that you don’t want to end up there!

thinkingIf you don’t take time now to deal with issues from your past, they will only reappear in your relationships at a compounded level. If you don’t resolve that issue with your mom, deal with that rivalry with your sibling, or sort out that lack of trust that you have for others, it will only reappear ten times bigger in your marriage. It doesn’t matter what qualities you put on your list; you will only attract people like you. Only a whole person can attract another whole person!

The best thing you can do for yourself and for your spouse (present or future) this ‘month of love’ is commit to do whatever it takes this year to become the spiritually and emotionally whole person that God created you to be. History does not have to repeat itself!

Parental Advisory

tantrum1It was a moment that saved our life. My then girlfriend and I were visiting a young couple with a rather hyperactive six-year old daughter who was prone to throwing tantrums at a moment’s notice. True to form, just as we were getting into our conversation, the little girl began to raise her voice demanding attention, and the atmosphere began to tense up. But this time, the outcome was completely different from what had come to expect. Her dad looked her in the eye and said a single word calmly and with authority, ‘No!’. To our amazement, with no more incentive beyond that, the little girl immediately calmed down and the rest of the evening was spent pleasantly catching up with her parents.

Welcome to the complex world of parenting today! Many in my generation grew up in traditional homes where children were meant to be seen, not heard. Parents ruled their home with an iron fist and punishment was regularly meted on offenders with belts, slippers and in some cases slaps and even more extreme measures. Open disobedience was unimaginable and parents were feared and obeyed unquestioningly. This model in a better form had actually worked well for generations. But in an urban setting without supportive extended family structures, it broke down and more likely isolated children from their parents. It often became abusive in the hands of parents who were ill-equipped to bring up children in the new setting of the city.

tantrum2Much of today’s parenting practice is a reaction against the negative extremes of traditional parenting. Starting in the 60’s and 70’s, many parents in the West stopped depending on age-old techniques and wisdom to bring up their children but instead began relying on the teachings of modern psychology with its focus on self-esteem. As usual with time, these trends made their way here. But clearly, they too have their shortcomings. Who has not witnessed that child screaming as they demand something from their embarrassed parent in the supermarket aisle? Or had a panic attack when your friends mentioned they want to pass by your house with their not so well behaved children? The modern ideal of busy working parents who delegate almost all of the upbringing of their children to maids and drivers has only served to complicate the matter. The result of modern parenting techniques is pampered, insecure, demanding, out-of-control children with short attention spans and a sense of entitlement.

airplane2I must at this point confess that my inspiration to write this article came out of serious annoyance and sleep deprivation! I was on board a long flight in a Boeing A777 cabin where ninety adults were kept forcefully awake for several hours by two screaming toddlers whose mothers seemed unable to control them. Whereas in the past parents may have tyrannized their children, today, it is the kids who tyrannize adults!

The problem with children is that they don’t come with instructions. And yet how we bring up our children is extremely important not just for the future of the home but that of our nation.This sacred duty has huge, generational consequences and yet few people study or prepare for it. The good book in Proverbs 22:6 encourages us to ‘direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it‘. But how exactly should we do this?

An important part of that answer is understanding the end result. What is the goal of raising our children? If we’re raising them to depend on us, then we are ensuring they will never succeed in life. As one of my friends used to say, children come into the world disorganized and parents have the option of either entering into their disorganization or organizing them and preparing them for an adult world. All parenting must bear in mind that we are equipping our children to be independent, productive citizens who live purposeful, value-based lives that positively impact others.

Back to the moment that saved our lives! What we learnt that day at our friend’s house is that parent’s can learn how to train their children effectively. Ourfamily2 friends shared that they had taken a class that had changed their approach to parenting. The results were so apparent that we decided that when we had our own children, we too would take that class. Several years later, we did, and have never regretted it since. Neither have our kids!

This month at Mavuno Church, Pastors Oscar & Beatrice Muriu of Nairobi Chapel will be sharing secrets they’ve learnt about this critical topic. They will be speaking candidly from their successes and failures about how to prepare our children for modern day realities. Whether you are an actual parent or a potential one in the making, you owe it to yourself to make sure all your friends, colleagues and relatives are there with you. The fate of our homes and nation may well depend on it 🙂