Why men change after marriage

2008-11-28 00:00

I am a disturbed man, not because there’s a court order to attach my properties or because the mother of my six daughters has been recalled by her family delegates because of my failure to pay the 14-year-outstanding lobola. I am disturbed because she has stopped calling me by my pet name, “my dear”, and instead refers to me as “stranger in my life”, which to me sounds like a blockbuster movie yet to be released.

She believes that just like many other men, I am a chameleon. Her argument is that she has seen me change from being a boyfriend who floored the competition, to a husband after sweet-talking her family delegates into accepting my lobola payments by lay-by. Later on, I became the father of our daughters. She accepts that she was comfortable having me as a boyfriend and then a husband, but now she’s not willing to have a stranger in her life.

In her regular conversations with her best friend, she has been wondering what happened to the man she loves.

These are some of her common complaints.

• “He used to think ahead and plan our outings. I felt really special. Now he waits until Friday night and asks me where I would like to be taken or what I would like to do. I hate it.”

• “When I got dressed up, he would notice me and compliment me on how I looked. Now he doesn’t even notice. If I ask how I look, he just says fine. It doesn’t make me feel beautiful.”

I feel that my behaviour hasn’t changed but has just shifted in various ways and the behaviour shift is not deliberate but innocent. I still love her with great affection. She’s probably not aware that as a man, for me an intimate relationship is much more goal-oriented and my actions at the beginning of the relationship were the steps I was taking to achieve that goal. Once attained I no longer focused on repeating the things I did to get there. Instead, I focus instinctively on doing what it takes to stay there.

I used to touch her affectionately, buy her flowers and other gifts, call her from work, plan dates, look at her when she talked, compliment her on her looks and clothes, listen intently to her stories and behave in other ways to show that I cared. But after achieving my goal my ways of doing things changed. Instead of taking the time to do little romantic things, I took the time to earn money so that she could eventually do whatever she wants. Instead of calling her from work, I go home each day. Instead of planning dates and outings, I plan to live my life with her. Instead of telling her how beautiful she is or that I love her, I wear the wedding ring that I feel says it all. Instead of just looking and listening to her when she talks, I feel great responsibility for her and always try to solve her problems. I suppose this is why the mother of my six daughters believes that I am a changed man and a stranger in her life.

However, my brother from another mother, who is not a fool in ideas as I am, enlightened me to the fact that the things I did in courtship and in the early years in our marriage are still crucial requirements for intimate growth and keeping the passion alive. So I am now planning a shift back into first gear. I am also thinking of an open discussion with her on why I changed my modus operandi. This could help her understand the innocent reasons that I have for not performing certain loving behaviours. I believe these steps could win me back my pet name, bring back the sparkle in our relationship and the smile back to her beautiful face. Probably the shift could even win me a bonus of having a seventh daughter or perhaps inspire her to lobby on my behalf for the cancellation of my lobola arrears.

• Tiema Haji Muindi is a Kenyan journalist based in Durban.

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