Thirty-eight-year-old Caro Nduti — a Nairobi resident — says she has seen it all in marriage. She was loved, she was deceived, she was cheated on, she was mistreated, and she was treated with contempt. Her only wrongdoing? She loved too much.
Nduti’s love story dates back to early 2000s. She was a teenager studying in a Nairobi college when she fell in love with her childhood friend. Nduti and her flame grew up together and attended the same church a better part of their younger lives.
In 2002, Nduti and her now-ex-husband joined different colleges, but the short-distance did not stop a beautiful love affair between them from blossoming.
Nduti recounts regularly paying her then-boyfriend visits at the institution he was learning at.
The two would, later, move in together.
“My lover begged me to get pregnant by him before I completed my studies. He said he feared that I would break up with him after completing my college education,” Nduti told BBC Swahili reporter Anne Ngugi.
“I loved him so much. At the time, I was naïve and young. I accepted to get pregnant,” said Nduti.
Nduti delivered her first baby, a son, a few months after completing her college education. She said her love life was so solid to the extent her boyfriend had already introduced her to his family as the woman he would marry.
“On my graduation day, my boyfriend attended the ceremony alongside his family members. After the ceremony ended, he took me to his home accompanied by his relatives. I felt loved,” she said.
Her first-born child was given birth to in December 2003, she said.
“My boyfriend was loving, committed and just the perfect man for me at the time,” said Nduti.
In 2006, she gave birth to her second child, also a son. However, Nduti says, she noted her husband had started behaving strangely.
“I realised he was involved in several extra-marital affairs,” she said.
Being only 22 years old at the time, Nduti said she did not have the courage to confront her husband.
“Despite his infidelity, he satisfactorily provided for me. I thought I shouldn’t complain, and I always believed that a woman must persevere in her marriage,” she said.
Nduti said her partner’s unfaithfulness was an open book, and she knew nearly all the women he slept with.
“Some of the women he had sexual relations with, were well-known to me. I would eat and drink with them in entertainment joints. I think my husband thought I was too timid to call him out on his philandering habits,” said Nduti.
The cheating, she said, got so bad that her husband began a sexual relationship with her female cousin. Nduti and the cousin grew up together in one homestead after Nduti’s mother died when she was 7 years old. It was Nduti’s cousin’s mother who took her [Nduti] in following her mother’s death.
The mother-of-two says the cousin would often visit her at her [Nduti’s] Nairobi home after she [cousin] completed her college education. It was during one of those visits that Nduti’s husband began an extramarital affair with his wife’s cousin-sister.
“I remember my husband became so shameless to the point he would call me and tell me that he won’t return home as he would be spending the night out with my cousin,” said Nduti.
The distressed and disappointed wife said her cousin also became arrogant, and would verbally abuse her often.
“Her insults were hurting, too gross. When I showed my husband some of my cousin’s messages, he would do nothing to reprimand her,” she said, adding: “At one point, he told me he saw no reason why my cousin shouldn’t abuse me.”
The illicit relationship between Nduti’s cousin and her [Nduti’s] husband was so open to the extent that the cousin’s mother got to know. Of course, the mother expressed her disapproval of her daughter’s relationship with her sister’s husband, but Nduti’s cousin would hear none of it.
Nduti said in 2008, she moved out of her matrimonial home, but her husband convinced her into reuniting with him.
Now, Nduti, her husband and her cousin lived together in one house.
“It hurt me, but I chose to live such kind of a life for the sake of the children,” she said.
Nduti and her husband would fall out, make peace; fall out, make peace, and the cycle would recur. At the time, her sister had already conceived twice, and given birth twice to two girls sired by Nduti’s husband.
Nduti claims as she concentrated on ensuring her husband’s relationship with her cousin ground to a halt, “he was busy kick-starting sexual relationships with every house-girl I was hiring”.
The mother-of-two said she felt she had had enough, and nothing was going to change her decision to leave her spouse.
She eventually moved out of her matrimonial home, never to look back, saying: “I have forgiven my husband and cousin, but the emotional damage that man inflicted on me, has made me harbour bitterness and self-hatred”.
“It has taken me a lot of time to appreciate myself and perceive myself as a beautiful woman. I really wished I would raise my children with their father in the picture, but he was too unfaithful to a fault,” said Nduti.
She advises women going through similar experiences to exercise self-love, forgiveness and never hesitate to bolt out of a toxic relationship.