When we are preparing for marriage, there are a lot of things that people tell us, they give us sound advice; we Google the 5 ways to have a happy marriage, the 10 steps to make a happy home, etc. but none of these things adequately prepare us to being married to “Umurundi”.

When you get married to Umurundi, endless lonely evenings come with the package. And surprisingly enough it doesn’t matter if the guy has studied abroad, that his dad was not like that, or whatever attribute made him seem “un-Umurundi”… at some point his people/friends/peers’ influence will be stronger – Believe me!

When I got married to my handsome Murundi I was so excited to spend my life with him… Goodness, how I love my man! I imagined spending every moment after work with him, having movie plans, walking dates, chilling home, going out, etc. In my head, the question was always going to be “what to do together” with the expectation that he was to be mine and with me 99% of his time.

BUT

Soon after our honeymoon, he would arrive home, and shortly after get a call from a friend who would ask to hang out… “Chérie, ndakumbuye abajama banje vraiment. Hinge nsimbe gato ndabaramutse nsinteba. Je reviens vers 21 heures.” Mbo aho aba ari muma 18h mwese muvuye kukazi. And of course I said yes… And of course he would come back muma 23 heures… Quand même aho yaba yagutelefonye muma 21 heures n’akajwi kari mielleux avuga ko ateba gato and that he is taking “a last one for the road”.
Avec le temps le scenario se répétera encore et encore – going up until 3 AM at times during the week – gushika aho usanga le même scenario iba nka 4 days a week, which means 4 out 7 days is the average… Some weeks ni 5 out of 7 days but other weeks it could be less.

My husband and I both studied abroad. We had incredible opportunities to travel and see the world and get a glimpse of what we want in life. Our parents’ marriages have been a huge source of inspiration for both of us, so there was no way I could have foreseen this behavior!

So what do you do during those lonely/solo evenings at home?

Well, here, ladies have a range of activities to choose from: work on their academic homeworks (kubakiri muri kaminuza), do some chores – they clean the whole house, cook; watch TV, do a series marathon, visit the neighbors, their folks, the ‘girls’, coffee plans with colleagues, work on personal projects, etc. But you know what? Whatever you do you reach a point where you get tired… The movies aren’t always interesting… et d’ailleurs ikibazo c’amatara kiralimita ama options… the cooking, cleaning, visiting friends, family visits, etc. birahera… Erega biragoye gutekera umuntu ataha waryamye canke ibitirotiro bikwishe… N’abagenzi at some point urarambigwa… You just want to go home and the only person you would love to spend time with is “fully booked”.

So then comes the “crying myself to sleep” part… You feel sooo miserable… Ariko rero in all that you do not want to dwell on your pitiful self – You know, I am a Gladiator! I can fix this!

So now the mupfasoni moves to action…

At this point the wife has mastered the pattern of her man’s going out behavior – it’s always the same. In general the fella goes home straight after work, checks that everything is okay and then the phone rings and off he goes.
At beginning you can tell him that you miss him and would love to spend some time together – he will stay, but the next day, it’s back to square one! Then you plead, try to convince… In short you play every single card you have to break the dreadful behavior cycle… ariko wapi… it could work once, twice, or three times when you’re lucky, mais à la longue it will be like you did nothing.

Worse, sometimes he could decide to stay home with you, but at the first sign or hint of a disagreement he will explode: “Erega nico gutuma ntaguma ngaha! Ehe raba wama ushavuye! Akantu kose uca ukagira a big deal!” Mamawee… Aho rero uca wumva wosara!!! As in, umengo n’ibintu vya enchère – Qui dit mieux! Genre je pourrais rester à la maison si tu me traitais bien, si tu riais quand je te fais une blague, si tu étais tout le temps attentionnée, si tu m’écoutais et buvais tous mes mots, etc. Feels like he would stay home with me if… and the “if” is all about my doings… “If” I do X then he would stay and be my date for the evening. But in my head him staying at home means talking projects, saving some money, and maybe a romantic weekend getaway in Muramvya or Ijenda – Why not?

After hearing my husband complain, I started feeling awfully guilty for not knowing how to “keep” my man home… I am known for being easy to live with, I am lively and I’ve tried my best to befriend his friends, serve, cheer, support and even anticipate my husband’s needs. Of course no one is perfect, but when I married him I knew that he knew I had the “I am here it to stay” psyche. But after repetitive complaints, you still feel like you’re a failure. You wonder how other women married to Abarundi like you survive this… After all ntiyinywana! You wonder which super power they have that you don’t… You wish there could be class for that – one that you’d enroll into and get this drama fixed…

It is hard to talk about these things around here because in Burundi, serious couple matters are few and limited to: “Yagukubise?” “Yakuvanze?” “Yataye urugo aragenda?” And if no is the answer to all these three questions then the verdict is: “Urifyinisha!” “Spoiled wives issues!” “Ivyo ni bito!” “Mureke azogenda atebe aruhe” “Amaherezo y’inzira ni muhira”… akanyica koko ni “Mbega umugabo wawe umuhora iki? Ko ataco akugoza?”
In short, “your issues are petty, he will come back eventually. He’ll get tired at some point”… or worse: “Woman, what are you complaining about?” from the married ladies with at least 5 years’ experience under their belt.

Really?!?

Ubuhoho hagiyemwo amasasu ni hatari… you call him and he’s like “Amasasu nayumvise hinge ndindire ahere. Agabanuke nca nza” Same old same old…

I read somewhere that if someone hurts you the same way again and again, then the problem is on you too. In the sense that if you allow them to hurt you again and again, then you’ve got a share in it. Chances are, you haven’t learnt from it or you don’t realize what is happening/hurting you, or worse, you’re in denial. Either way, after you’ve had your wake up call, things start to change.

In my case, I got used to the situation after sometime.

Uripanga bien! You plan your evenings and you start to like the new “you” without him. You still have low moments but it’s not the same. If he’s not going to be around anyway, I better brace myself and get over it. I started to check on him less and less, started doing everything around the house by myself WITHOUT complaining – I now know about plumbing, electricity, wall reparation, etc. When family passes by to check on us and he is not around, I always have an already made up excuse for his absence… “Ni ahantu akubitiye aca agaruka mu kanya” “Yagize une urgence y’akazi” “Duhejeje kuvugana ambwiye ko agomba ashike” No need to call him because I already know the answer.

And guess what? You start to enjoy your life. You become lively again. Joyful, so productive at work… It’s like you’ve found your inner peace, made peace with yourself… You are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You are happy and everyone can see it including your husband. When you kindly ask him to help you with something around the house and he says yes, you celebrate him as if he just got a promotion at work, and when he says no, you do it anyway, but with a smile!

And oh, the sex life changes as well! Before, during the week he could wake you up and sweet talk you into it at 1 AM with horrible breath, and you would say one word, bitter enough to drive him away. But now well, you are used to someone waking you at crazy hours so you’re mentally prepared to do it, and sometime you surprise yourself by liking it – Ibaze nawe!

Want to know what’s weird? After I went through all that, that sweet juicy husband of mine started to feel uncomfy with my newly found happiness. He felt abandoned, like my life didn’t revolve around him anymore. At some point he told me that my laughter annoyed him… that I should “pull myself together” – “Kanguka!”

That’s when I got lost… none ngire nte?

My ladies married to “Umurundi wa vrai” how do you do it?

Is there anyone out there who can feel me right now?

By Ndiho

P.S: Of course not all Burundian men are the same. This particular article talks about one category only. Sorry if others may feel offended. It’s just a much needed girl talk though!

(Photo and painting by Nelson Niyakire.)