Why men marry who they marry

I confirmed something this week. I want the benefits of marriage, but I want them without – you know – getting married. I want to have a consistent bedmate that respects me enough to stay faithful. I want a partner I can talk to and share ideas with, share myself with. I want someone with a special link, an exclusive connection. But I don’t want the in-laws or the drama or the suspicion or the [extra] children. I don’t want to change who I am in the name of ‘compromise.’ And I don’t actually know how feasible that is.

I was talking to a good friend this week. He’s married, and I assume he’s happy. But he says marriages aren’t meant to be happy. They’re intended to be functional. A good marriage is one that works, where the partners are solid and complement each other. Each partner does what they have to do to keep the union solid. Lovey-dovey couples are a myth that only exists in female heads, he says. It made me ask a question on Twitter. I wondered how a guy picks a bride, since it’s clearly not about love.

I didn’t get many answers, so I tried to analyse and theorize. I think the girl a man marries depends on his reasons. If he’s marrying to meet the demand for grandchildren, he’ll marry a girl who’s wifely, motherly, and gets along with his mother. That’s her primary function, so she may not necessarily be the type of girl he likes. That’s why he may continue to fool around with – you know – the type of girl he likes. It’s also why a guy could date a girl for years then break up with her and marry someone else.

A guy like that will likely have a mistress who is just the type he likes, the one he actually loves, the one he is genuinely attracted to. And that girl will probably never become a wife, because clearly, under this theory, the girl a man loves is not the one he marries.

The theory makes sense to some extent. Ancient civilisations didn’t have marriages ‘for love’ and even in the King Arthur days, the knights were always in love with married women who were not – you know – their wives. They would be the ‘champion’ of some married woman while the woman’s husband was the champion of some other girl. The relationships weren’t necessarily sexual, but there was love involved. Hence Lancelot and Guinevere.

The kind of woman who is a wife is raised to know her place. She doesn’t question her man’s cheating or shenanigans, because, well, a wife doesn’t do that. Just listen to the women on Matatu FM. Women – like me – who would question and fight and make demands are generally kept as mistresses or girlfriends, mpango wa kando. We may be hot, confident and great in bed, but we have way too much drama to be wives.

This explains why some klandes have the guts to attack wives. The wife is the well-behaved, quiet, humble type who lets her man do what he wants. She’ll take a lot of crap to maintain her married status. Sometimes she’s just as pretty and confident as the mistress, but she knows enough not to cause chaos, and she knows he’ll always come back home. That’s why she’s the wife. The mistress is the drama queen. She assumes that because the man prefers her, she has the authority and clout to push his wife around. Of course, it’s that exact quality that keeps her safely in the mistress bracket.

When a woman like that finally chooses to be a wife, she adjusts herself accordingly. Either that or she fakes it long enough to get a ring, or manipulates the boy into marriage. Months later, she’s nagging and he’s cheating because the gloves are off. Sigh.

Some men marry for money, though this is rare.  This guy is likely to cheat too, because in many ways, his wife is ‘above’ him, so he needs some outside women he can subjugate.

Genuine church types marry for love. By genuine I mean the traditional types who really feel that marriage is a holy sacrament. I don’t know how well those marriages work for two reasons. One, divorce is unacceptable, so a lot gets swept under the carpet to keep the marriage intact. Two, maintaining appearances is important, so many marital problems stay hidden.

Some guys marry for social standing, to be taken seriously at work or in the community. A guy like that will probably marry a trophy wife, one that is appropriate for the situation, one that can be shown off at office/family functions without embarrassing him, one that can fit in with social groups WAG and company wives. Then he will continue to play with the type of women who interest him.

I think the mistake that women make is that we pick a guy and make him marry us, then we wonder why we end up miserable. If you tricked or pressured the guy into marrying you, things are bound to go crazy once you stop pretending, especially if he wasn’t ready to marry in the first place.

I read a letter in yesterday’s Nation. This guy said he’d been faithful to his wife for 4 years, but he was drawn to other women. He wanted to know if it was normal. The columnist told him it was. Thing is – we get attracted to people every day, but we have to choose not to act on it. When you force a man to marry you, he has less motivation to fight his lust.

When a man decides it’s time to marry, he will. But he will only take a girl that meets his needs. The old quote is true – a man won’t marry a girl, he’ll marry a wife. So if you want to catch a husband, you need to become a wife.

Of course some girls are simply not wife material, and I’m one of them. If I want a ring on it, I know what I need to develop. And I can do it too – any girl can. The thing is … I don’t want to.

Us girls have to realize we can’t have it both ways. We either stay as we are – strong, independent, no nonsense … and single, or we acquire wifely virtues and a ring, and accept that our men will probably spend their time playing with strong, independent, single women. Of course we could go for western men who can accept this kind of woman, but there’s a reason why divorce is so common there. There’s also a reason why some western men look for ‘submissive’ Asian and African women to marry.

In African society, a wife’s job is to care for the children, and a husband’s job is to provide for them. Many men don’t understand why you’re complaining if the children are schooled, clothed, and fed.  Your best bet as an aspiring wife is to find out what he wants in wife, be that girl, then wait until he’s ready. If it’s the man’s decision to marry, he’ll be a lot more likely to put in the effort needed to make it work. Of course it would help if you naturally have those traits, because if you pretend, then you’ll lose him the moment you go back to ‘normal’.

There’s one other thing that girls don’t consider. We have a generation of women that were raised to do anything they want. They’re educated and self reliant. They can have jobs, cars, and houses without men. But what we forget is that there are men who grew up around us too. The opportunities that made us what we are have changed the men as well. The women grew up to do stuff on their own, but so did the men. So while us girls don’t need a man to buy us pretty things, our brothers don’t need a woman to cook and clean. They don’t have their father’s urge to settle down, procreate, and care for extended families. They want to enjoy their youth and have fun with their money.

This man may not feel the urge to settle down until he’s in his 40s. Meanwhile, the strong woman starts to tick in her late twenties, when her ovaries are whining. So you have 28 year old woman thinking of settling down while her partner still wants to play, and by the time he’s 40, she’s over the hill and intimidating, so he prefers a nice 18 year old that’s young, unambitious, and unspoiled, preferably someone groomed for the job by his mother.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and I’m not trying to kill anyone’s marital hopes. There are men who marry for affection and companionship. But these men usually have grown children and a few ex-wives, and if not, they may not want kids at all. You’re unlikely to get a man like that while your bio-clock is ticking. My theory only tries to explain why we have so many singles and unhappy couples, and my solution is to stay out of the fray. What’s yours?

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Crystal Ading' is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through threeceebee.com.