Marriage sometimes feels like a dance. I put one foot forward and he puts one foot forward too: he pulls back and I pull back. Sometimes the waltz is smooth and sometimes we step on each other’s toes: at times we laugh it off and at times we don’t.

I have been married for two years now and this marriage thing isn’t quit what I had expected. My husband comes home at 5pm after a long day at work and gives me a peck on the cheek. I place our six-month-old baby into his arms and he descends into the basement and turns on the football channel. A few minutes later, I bring him a cup of tea and ask him what he wants for dinner. He gives me a tired smile and tells me that he’s down for whatever. He uses a few more words to praise my cooking then rivets his eyes back on the TV as he rocks our little boy in his arms.

An hour later, dinner is served in the dining room and we sit as a family and talk about the day’s events. He then helps me clean the dishes and we settle down to watch our favorite TV series. I mean, depending on whether the baby allows it. Later on, we steal our way into bed and cuddle or on a great night, make love. This is the routine for Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

         Tuesdays and Thursdays are another story. My husband Donald calls these days ‘boys’ nights out’. Donald comes home at 5pm as usually and I make him dinner. I call him Donald on these days as opposed to husband, I think because a subconscious part of me does not agree with his schedule. After dinner he rushes out of the house and comes back home at 11pm, takes a shower and instantly falls asleep. We don’t really talk much on these two days but I try to respect his wishes and understand his need for space. Compared to other families, I think we are a happy couple.

         Take Mrs. Miriam my neighbor for example. She’s always fighting with her husband. But here’s the thing, they have been married for thirty years and have so many kids that I’ve lost track of their names. Thirty years. Thirty years? Can you beat that? Maybe yes, maybe not. But what’s certain is this … one has to acknowledge and respect her achievement.

         “Winnie my daughter,” Mrs. Miriam calls me. “If I was young again and half as beautiful as you are, I would twist these men around my finger and use them as lapdogs: have them run all around me, tongues hanging out.” I laughed. We always bumped into each other at the market and Mrs. Miriam wasn’t famous for her silence or words of caution. “Winnie, don’t let these men run you over. You are a nice girl. Once you spoil them, then they will start taking advantage of you and you will be lucky to see five years of marriage before they take off with some younger girl. Those days when women belonged in the kitchen are over.”

         I liked listening to Mrs. Miriam my neighbor and I did want to see thirty years of marriage. I didn’t know this but the more time I spent with Mrs. Miriam, the more her words saturated my brain and began controlling me. She wasn’t just the ‘careless whisper of a friend’ but a master at mind control. ‘Mrs. Miriam’ is real and she exists in our everyday life: at work, in school and in our neighborhoods.

         One day, my husband came home and found me on the couch watching the Kardashians reality show. He pecked me on the cheek and took the baby to the basement as usual. A few minutes later when he realized that I hadn’t offered him anything, he came upstairs and started ransacking the kitchen. The kitchen was spotless clean and I was still on the couch transfixed on my show. Donald handed me the baby and within a minute I heard the clanking of pots and pans. Men, so clumsy, I thought. An hour later and my show over, Donald had cooked and set the table. “Honey, dinner is ready,” he called and I joined him. His cooking was just okay and we ate as a family and talked about the day’s events as usual and later on watched some TV together. It felt good for a change to not have tired myself and I gratefully snuggled close to my husband. At this juncture, I took a moment to recognize the wisdom of my neighbor Mrs. Miriam.

         I didn’t know this then but the day my husband cooked for me was the turning point in my marriage life. After this, my cooking patterns became erratic and at times Donald and I ended up having a sandwich for dinner or ordering for pizza. Finally, we were a 21st Century couple.

My husband never said a negative word and always adjusted to the situation at home. Twice on ‘Donald’s boys’ night out’ I didn’t cook and Donald left the house hungry to go and hang out with the boys. And when he came back late at night, he went straight to bed and this made me angry because I knew that he had eaten somewhere else.

One Tuesday evening, Donald didn’t come home at 5pm. He called me and said that he was gonna work late and then go straight hang out with the boys. He did, and when he came home at 11pm, he was tired. I tried to talk to him but he fell asleep as soon as his head hit the sack. I felt like a patient in a coma: alone and unable to evoke emotions.

And then it got worse. Donald stopped coming home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I guess he was tired of trying to predict whether there was gonna be food waiting for him. He just stayed out all night and came home late. I knew that I was partly to blame for this, but I also felt used. Didn’t he want to come and see the baby and me for a few minutes? Was food the only reason that had previously brought him home?

         My agitation was growing. One day Donald walked into the house and left his shoes at the door. “Why do you always leave your shoes there?” I asked him. “Don’t you know that I have to put them away for you?” Donald didn’t reply but instead picked up the shoes and put them in the right place: his countenance non-expressive. His silence infuriated me and I stormed away into the bedroom: the anger of being stonewalled. I needed an exit, I needed to vent but he wasn’t giving me the chance.

         “You don’t look happy any more,” Mrs. Miriam my neighbor told me one day. “The sparkle in your eyes is gone. Is everything okay at home?”

         “Yes,” I replied unconvincingly and Mrs. Miriam pulled me aside.

         “Talk to me child, is your man beating you?”

         My face flashed with horror. “Oh no. God forbid no!” Why would she think of such a thing?

         Mrs. Miriam finally broke my silence and I told her about the cloud of tension in the house and about the whole boys’ night out thing. She laughed sarcastically.

         “You rookies. How do you even know that he’s out with the boys? What if its girls?”

         That thought had never crossed my mind and suddenly I was thinking the unthinkable. For the first time in my marriage life, I pictured my husband cheating and the image knocked the breath out of me.

         “Do you check his pockets after work?” Mrs. Miriam was still talking.

         “What?” I looked up in surprise. “No, I don’t. That’s invading his privacy.”

         “There’s no privacy in marriage,” the older woman said. “He lost his privacy when he said I do.”

         Mrs. Miriam’s words were blatant and yet they always had a way of slicing through my heart.

         Wikipedia defines the domino effect as a chain reaction that occurs when a small change causes a similar change nearby. Donald and I argued about the toothpaste, the toilet seat, the hair in the sink, the dishes… and then when we ran out of topic, we argued about nothing. I call this, the free falling state of marriage. You try to grab onto something but there’s none… everything is slippery. The more my anxiety grew the more my husband withdrew from me. The fences between us were high and I couldn’t remember the last time we had made love.

 

According to Steven Stosny and in quoting psychology: A man is likely to stonewall, be critical, defensive, or contemptuous if he experiences feelings of failure or inadequacy as a provider, protector, or lover. A woman is likely to be critical, defensive, or contemptuous if she experiences fear of harm, isolation, or deprivation.

         I waited for Tuesday and as usual my husband didn’t come home at 5pm and later on crept into the house at 11. I played dead and waited until he started snoring then crept out of bed. His pants were on the floor. I went through one pocket after another and what I found… I didn’t know how to react… just sat there for a long time in the dim light staring at it. In my hand was my husband’s wedding ring! Mrs. Miriam had been right. The scale was tipped, the anchor gone.

         In my opinion, there are only two concrete reasons why a man would take out his wedding ring: to protect himself from injury or cheat on his wife. It had to be the latter. I packed my things and in the morning told my husband of my decision.

         “Why are you leaving me?” Donald asked me. “What did I do wrong?”

         “Things are not working out lately Donald,” I said with tears in my eyes. “There’s too much tension between us. I need time to be alone.”

         And there they were. The magic words… I need to be alone. I never thought I would ever get to use those words but now that I had, I felt diminished. I was but a statistic.

         My husband walked me to the car and said goodbye. “I’m sorry for everything Winnie,” he said and his calmness almost drove me insane. I wanted him to yell at me… beg me to stay… cry, maybe. But all he did was give me a grand escort and watch me strap the baby into the car seat. My worst fears were confirmed. There had to be another woman! My husband wasn’t sorry to see me go and his disconnect hurt me dearly. I zoomed off in the full SUV leaving him in a cloud of dust and watching him cough from the side mirror gave me little satisfaction.

         My mum welcomed me back home and of course my bedroom still looked the same way it did seven years ago: too much pink and colorful beddings, a portrait of a sixteen year old Linsay Lohan. It made me feel like a little girl and mum treated me like I had never left. She took the baby from me and without the baby I found plenty of time to take walks down the lake near our home and ponder the direction of my life. Where to go from here was the question on my mind. Donald hadn’t called me yet. Back in my room, I turned on the Barbie TV and watched the news: the president was addressing the victims of the Storm Sandy that had fatally hit the East Coast. “We rise and fall as one nation, one people!” the president said. He always looked so cool. I wonder whether he quotes Thomas Jefferson when fighting with his wife?

         I stayed with my mum for a few weeks playing little girl and on Thursdays baked for her friends who came over for their weekly book club discussion… mostly romantic books that made them reminisce about the good old days. Most of them were divorced now. I watched them keenly … studied them… listened to them. They had bravado in their words, yes, but I could see beneath the mask and camouflage… they yearned for love and a need to be held and hold. I felt sorry for them and prayed that I wouldn’t end up single when old.

         “You want something, you fight for it,” my mum told me. “Running is not gonna cut it. You wonna end up like these women?” My mum stoked the fire. “You can either remain a spectator in the game of love or be a part of it.” I didn’t say anything to my mum. She’s the one who helped me heal … listened to my wails of anguish in the middle of the night.

Donald hadn’t called me in three weeks. What kind of a man was he? I always thought… I mean, all the movies I grew up watching showed men pursuing women… fighting for love. It was obvious that my husband was doing fine just by himself, probably having boys’ night out every day of the week. I laughed at myself as I tiptoed downstairs and grabbed whisky from the wine cabinet. I took the bottle back to the bedroom and took a big swing. The liquid burned my throat and caught me by surprise. Whoaaa… now that’s what you call a drink. I drank some more and Linsay Lohan stared at me with doll-like eyes. “What you looking at Linsay?” I said. “How’s your life going?”

         Today was Tuesday, the time was 8pm and Donald was at the bar, I thought. I wanted to call him and ask him why he hadn’t called me at all, why he hadn’t come to see his baby. I drank some more liquor and cursed him. To hell with Donald, am a princess in my mother’s house. The bottle was empty: my head was spinning. To hell with being a princess, I grabbed the car keys and headed for the garage. Don’t drive and drink Winnie… hic…hic. I got into the car and sped away.



Marriage counseling 101: Our sense of identity and self-worth often rests on the strength of our relationships and we can despair when our prime relationship fails.

The car swayed dangerously on the road and I laughed. I wanted to yell at someone and there was only one person worth yelling at, and it wasn’t my mum. I arrived at the bar and both front tires of the car ran over the pavement before I managed to hit the brakes. I burst through the door and yelled Donald’s name.

         “Donald! Where are you? Donald?” My vision was hazy as I walked over to where a group of women were launching, neon lights above their heads, cocktail glasses on the table. “Which one of you is sleeping with my husband… hic…hic?” They laughed when they realized that I was drunk. The men gaped at my body and my Tina Turner hair. I was a mess and yet somehow… seductive. Even in my state of mind, I could see it in their eyes.

         “Winnie?” a voice behind me called and I turned almost falling. The man caught me. “Get your filthy hands off me!” I yelled and he backed away.

         “I can take you to your husband,” he offered. “He’s a block down the street.”

         I felt the veins in my heart open up as circulation increased. Finally, I was going to catch the bastard red handed and call him out on his lying behind. I would find myself a new man, a descent and loyal man. I followed the man down the street and we stopped in front of a large building, a really large building. “He’s in there,” the man said then bolted.

         What was this place? I wondered, and what was I doing here so late at night. I took in a deep breath, steadied my steps and then walked into the building. The first thing that caught my attention was the noise: the rumbling of truck engines, the yelling of men. The room was brightly lit and conveyor belts ran in different directions. And then…. and then he was there. Donald, sleeves rolled up, sweat dripping down his radiant face… unloading boxes from a truck onto a belt. He raised his head to wipe his face and I ducked behind a cart.

         “Winnie!” he called as he walked over. I cursed softly at my folly. And then he was above me staring down at my face like he had just seen a ghost. He recovered soon enough and pulled me outside the building. “Winnie, is everything okay? What are you doing here?”

         I wanted to hit him. I did. I slapped him hard on the face and he reeled back stunned. “You… youuu!” There were tears in my eyes. “You never called me… why Donald? Why didn’t you call me?” He opened his mouth to say something but words got stuck in his throat. “Answer me!” I yelled. “This is your boys’ night out? Why didn’t you tell me? I feel so stupid now!”

         Donald moved closer to comfort me but I stopped him with my bloodshot eyes. “I wanted to tell you Winnie but then you started acting weird and capricious. You started complaining about small things and your questions became accusations. You changed Winnie, you became a different person.”

         He had a point but still, why the secret life. Gosh, men and their egos! I had missed him. And more important, he hadn’t cheated on me. He was just a man trying to feed his family… maybe too proud to admit that money was tight but still a descent man.

         “You should have told me Donald, you should have told me. I missed you so much when you didn’t call me.” I softened my voice.

The past few days had been a wake up call for me… a choice between cooking for my husband and cooking for a group of divorced women. While the women ate and gossiped, I had missed Donald’s look when I served him food or tea. He always looked happy when I did small things for him and I realized that his happiness was what gave me my joy… my strength… my life. I didn’t cook for him: I did it for me.

         “Let’s go home Winnie,” Donald said.

         “And your work?”

         Donald ran inside and talked to his boss for a minute then came back and walked me down the street. I put my arms around his waist and felt the energy ebb back into my body. It felt good... the unity of the moment intoxicated. It felt like love.

         “Donald,” I said. “What did you tell your boss?”

         He laughed happily. “I told him that I have never seen my wife drunk before.”

         I laughed and tickled him. “You shouldn’t have told him that!”

         “Its okay honey. The whole town will have known by tomorrow. We might as well have a laugh about it.”

         We arrived at the front door and my husband looked me in the eye and said. “Honey, a marriage is based on intimacy and trust. We fight and keep vigilant over our hearts, yes, but we never question each other’s love, trust and loyalty because the moment we do that is the moment we die. I married you because I love you. You are the most beautiful thing in my life.”

         “And the baby?” I teased.

         “And the baby too,” he laughed.

        

         Marriage sometimes feels like a dance… the rules are simple… there are no rules… couples inability to stir each other is usually wrongly coined as communication problems.

 

        

 

        



Taking my time, walking the line

For someone who doesn't care

Taking my time, walking the line

For someone who's never there


It's a fool's game that I know

Nothing but a broken heart to show

And I know I'll never change

It's the nature of the game


She loves me, she loves me not

Remember how your heart used to stop

As the petals would hit the floor

How you wished there could be just one more


That's a fool's game that I know

Nothing but a broken heart to show

And I know I'll never change

It's the nature of the game
Nature of the game


Taking my time, walking the line

For someone who isn't there

Taking my time, just walking the line

For someone who doesn't care


She loves me, she loves me not

Remember how your heart used to stop

As the petals would hit the floor

How you wished there could be just one more


That's a fool's game that I know

Nothing but a broken heart to show

And I know I'll never change

It's the nature of the game
It's a fool's game that I know

Nothing but a broken heart to show

And I know I'll never change

Yeah, it's the nature of the game
Nature of the game

Nature of the game

Nature of the game
It's the nature of the game



News

Off to AFRICA

 

My book A Whisper in the Jungle has been picked by a publishing company and approved by the board. It has been scheduled for release soon.

 

The music is all around you, all you have to do is listen

 

Contact

 

mrobertto@yahoo.com

Without God, what are we? What do we have? What is life...