That is the response I gave to Betty when she asked how long I’d been married. Do you know what Betty said when I gave her that number?
Not, “Congratulations!” Or, “That’s great.” Or, “What’s the secret?”. No. “Dear God!”
For the first time in my married life, I came face to face with someone who had the balls to speak out what was in my mind. Congratulations? No. Dear God was more like it. Betty made me think. And think I did. Why was I not feeling alive anymore? I realized that a part of me had died and I made a decision to revive it.
I was drawn to Betty. We stayed in touch after that meeting in the club. We talked. She was easy to talk to because she did not have that “Pray for your husband to stop cheating on you,” vibe. To be honest, my girlfriends did not have it either – woe to any woman who has those kinds of friends. Unfortunately, my girlfriends – and I love them to bits – were the “Congratulations!” kind.
The first time I found out my husband was having an affair, I was shattered. You have to know that at the time, I was still wet behind the ears. I believed, and this was like a creed to me, that if I was a good wife, my husband would find no reason to step out of our marriage.
I believed that the reason men cheated on their wives was because those wives grew fat, denied them sex, disrespected them. So I made it a habit of watching Bi. Msafwari on TV every Saturday and nodding to every piece of marriage advice she gave. I visited my hairdresser every two weeks, I tweezed my eyebrows, waxed my bikini line, shaved my legs, my armpits too, had a facial scrub every three days in a week, jogged every morning, cooked his meals making sure to give each meal a twist, served him with a smile and a curtsy, was never too tired for sex even when I was too tired for sex, never got angry and if I was, I never showed it – what’s the purpose of a smile if not to blanket the anger, conceal emotion and avert confrontations?
I was everything he needed in a wife. For six years I was that woman who smiled, tagged ‘my husband this,’ ‘my husband that,’ in every sentence. I adored marriage life even when I loathed it to the core. For six years, I wondered (aloud mostly) how unlucky some women were to end up with cheats and batterers. Like, who cursed them? I mean, there were good men out here if mine was anything to go by, so why were there angry women out there complaining about their men? Weren’t they capable of finding themselves one of these good ones?
For the life of me, I could not understand what those women who called Maina Kageni in the morning had got themselves into. Like, they had the opportunity to choose a man, and they chose one who disappears from Friday and strides back into their homes on Sunday evening after spending the weekend with some loose whore? What was wrong with these women? Why were they so poor at judging character? Why did their husbands keep cheating; where they not pretty enough?
Before I could lose this train of thought, I found out that my husband was cheating.
We had been whatsApping the whole day like we always did. Bi. Msafwari had said that we should check on our husbands during the day, ask how their day was going, appreciate them for the hard work they do, that kind of thing. So I was a concerned, supportive wife checking up on her hardworking husband. I’d texted “Hi handsome. How’z your day going?” Even though the ticks had turned blue, I got no response from him. In the afternoon, when a notification came in, I knew it must be a response from him. And it was. But the message was clearly not meant for me. “Told wife I’m traveling this weekend. So as promised, we have two days (and nights) to ourselves. Think of all the things we’ll do to each other!” Yes. He’d told me he was traveling upcountry to oversee the construction of his mother’s house that weekend.
I was shattered.
I had done everything by the book.
I was woke.
I did not reply to the message. He came in the evening and acted like a man. He said nothing. Interesting. My husband sends me a message meant for his girlfriend and he decides he will not explain himself to me.
I decided not to bring it up and see if he would travel “upcountry.” Son of a bitch did. I called his mother to say hello and she never mentioned that her son was around. Son of a bitch had the audacity to screw his girlfriend with the full knowledge that I knew. I didn’t know which was worse; the fact that he was cheating on me, the fact that I had given the marriage my all, or the fact that he did not respect me enough to stay away from her.
We spoke about it eventually. He said he was sorry. We spoke about other affairs that cropped up after that too. He kept being sorry. I kept wanting to leave. We kept accumulating the years. From six to sixteen. Congratulations? No. Dear God is right. Betty hit the nail on the head.
Look at it this way; by getting a sponsor for my husband, he gets to pay the price for his infidelity. If it wasn’t Betty, it would be someone else, I’m resigned to that fact. He might be dating another woman too, besides Betty, for all I know and care. But I don’t. Like I said, if I wanted to catch him cheating, I would. But I am not interested anymore. He doesn’t touch me anymore. That does not, however, mean that I am not being touched. What, he started it.
Why did I not find a sponsor for myself? Because I don’t have sex for money. There’s a name for women who do that. Plus, there are things one does for money and things one does for pleasure. Life ends when we start doing things meant for pleasure, for money.
My life has just begun.