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Cheating and other common problems that Nairobi couples face – therapists


All relationships have problems. Some may be major, others minor, but for the most part, we all feel like 1. we are the only ones who have experienced the pain we are suffering, and 2. our hearts hurt so bad that no one else will ever understand.

However, when you speak to relationship counsellors and therapists, you will quickly find out that no matter how big your particular problem is, others have been there before you – and some have experienced much worse. You are far from alone, no matter the intensity or nature of your problem.

We asked a few local relationship and marriage counselors what the most common relationship issues they treat are.

Unfaithfulness is the top-ranking issue for many women in relationships. According to Shadrack Kirunga, a counselor and dean at the Multi Media University, even women who have not been cheated on believe that it will happen to them at some point.

“The attitude appears to be that either the man has already cheated and the woman is just unaware of it, or that cheating is happening or it is about to happen. Few women will be willing to vouch for their partners’ fidelity,” he says.

According to Grace Kariuki, a family counselor based in Nairobi, more women are raising the alarm regarding emotional infidelity now, compared to earlier on when smart phones and messaging apps were not a huge influencer of relations.

EMOTIONALLY DISCONNECTED

“This is especially common in marriages where women are complaining that their husbands have become emotionally disconnected. This disconnection almost inevitably turns into emotional infidelity,” she says, adding that a majority of women she has counseled report having found sexually suggestive exchanges on their spouses’ phones.

“The phone has become a catalyst to emotional cheating, leading to increased snooping and mistrust,” she says.

According to Truphena Wakaba, a columnist and relationship therapist based in Nairobi, many married women still believe that men are naturally wired to have more than one sexual partner.

“Out of this belief, many sit back and endure being cheated on silently until things get out of hand. Many women who seek professional help regarding their husband’s infidelity do so after cheating has taken place multiple times,” she says.

Women who have been cheated on will have the urge to revenge-cheat more than they will to leave.

Wakaba says such a dilemma is more common among women who already have one significant broken relationship or divorce in their wake.

“Some women feel that since their ex-husband was ‘snatched’ from them, they can, and should, also ‘take’ someone else’s,” says Wakaba.

Extended family interference is another hot-button topic in therapy rooms.

“Many of the women I have interacted with feel looked down upon, to the extent where they are shouted at or demeaned by relatives. They crave boundaries so that their self-respect within marriage remains intact. Their main concern is that men have seceded from their supportive and protective role,” says Dr. Catherine Gachutha, a psychologist and director at the Kenya Institute of Business and Counseling Studies.

Another issue that crops up is how women feel after the birth of a child.

“They feel that they are taking the hard reproductive journey alone while the man sits back waiting to celebrate the joy of the newborn,” Dr Gachutha says.

Away from marriage and relationships, single women are worried that men have become dependent on women.

According to Dr. Gachutha, a majority of dating women say that their men have moved from their traditional positions of authority in relationships.

Similarly, how men end relationships is also a major concern. “There is this expectation among single women that relationships should be terminated in a respectful manner. Many feel that men end things inconsiderately, for example by introducing new women to show the primary woman that she’s no longer needed, or resorting to physical abuse to send the message home,” she says.

Many of the relationship issues that Kenyan women face are global, too. Nonetheless, there are minor differences in how women respond to their relationship issues, depending on their geographical location.

“In Western cultures for instance, women are more empowered to confront such issues head on, including seeking legal means such as divorce,” Kirunga points out.

On the opposite extreme, says Grace, the local woman is more likely attempt to nurture the relationship for a significant amount of time, with or without the man’s participation.

REPAIR THE RELATIONSHIP

“If her attempt to repair the relationship is not reciprocated, she will end up generating hatred, anger and depression, “she says.

This is why, as Grace points out, by the time many Kenyan women see a counsellor, it will be because they have reached the end of their tether regarding the anger and resentment they are feeling.

Her sentiments are echoed by Kirunga who adds that since many women in African settings are still dependent on their men for provision, they’ll be more likely to endure bad relationships and marriages.

“This endurance sometimes ends in painful consequences when they can no longer withstand the pressure, anger and resentment that have been bubbling up,” he says.

While many of these issues might seem like the same old wheel that has been a part of relationships for donkey years, women in modern relationships have had to contend with what they see as odd, emerging problems.

These are some of the issues that women will find difficult to discuss even with their counselors. Apparently, this is because such issues are socially seen as being way out of the normal.

“For instance, I have observed that few women will discuss poor sexual performance from their men, especially when it has nothing to do with their health,” says Kirunga. “For example, where their men have potbellies or where their men get tired too fast even though they are sexually active.”

In the same vein, as Kirunga attests, issues that are culturally and socially perceived as taboo are increasingly coming up in counseling sessions. One of these is bi-sexuality.

Says Kirunga: “One issue that I have come across is of men who cheat on their wives, not with other women but with other men.”