How soon is too soon for a woman to remarry?
The matter of how long a woman should wait before remarrying after divorce or death of a spouse is highly controversial. Is the ground fair for both sexes when they find new love?
Sandra Wekesa @Andayisandra
About three weeks after Uasin Gishu County Women Representative Gladys Boss Shollei finally divorced her ex-husband Sam Shollei, private pictures of the lawmaker surfaced online revealing she had jumped onto the deep end of the dating pool.
In the pictures the former judiciary chief registrar was seen embracing and holding hands with a man of Caucasian descent, leading people to believe that the duo was in a relationship.
The public’s reaction to this news was fairly predictable; she was judged and harsh tags thrown her way on social media in crude language.
In the minds of many, the newly divorced Gladys shouldn’t have dated ‘too soon’, although no one has actually determined what the ‘too soon’ period exactly is.
Is it a year? Is it after the children leave? This torrent of backlash came despite her ex husband also officiating his marriage to his long-term lover barely a week after the divorce.
In fact, he received congratulatory messages and was applauded for picking up the pieces and moving on with his life.
The Shollei divorce drama paints a grim picture of the double standards society applies when it comes to ‘moving on’ or finding new love after divorce or death of a spouse.
Men are expected and even encouraged to carry on with their sexual lives including remarrying even before the ink on the divorce paper drys up.
The same cannot be said of women. She is expected to stay single and take care of the children or home even after the man leaves.
But what happens to women who are still in their prime age? How do they drive their cravings for companionship without being judged harshly?
Maryanne Omariba, 39 whose husband divorced her six years ago says it is difficult to start another relationship without stepping on the toes of society’s expectations.
“Society makes it so difficult for divorced women and widows to move on with their lives. It’s like they expect you to stay strong and suffer through life alone with no companion.
People talk and you can’t even be seen with another man before rumours start doing the rounds about how you are changing men like clothes since the divorce,” she says.
The top college adminstrator in Nairobi is glad she was able to overcome fear of judgement and is planning make her new relationship official by the end of the year.
Marriage and relationship coach, Grace Achoki says just like in the event of death, a divorced woman should be allowed to move on.
She says there’s no hard-and-fast timeline when it comes to grieving the death of a spouse and to giving yourself another chance at love.
“When a woman loses her husband, she can get lonely and just like the man, may need a companion. It is only fair that she is allowed to move past it when she is ready to do so,” says Grace.
She points out key essentials that once a woman successfully overcomes, she can confidently move on to another relationship.
Accept the reality of the loss, allow herself to experience the pain of grief, adjust to the environment in which the loved one is missing and finally, invest the emotional energy you have in healthy and life-giving relationships.
Rather than quantifying the space between relationships in number of months or years, Grace says its more critical to focus more on how ‘healed’ or ‘emotionally raw’ or ‘in grief’ one is or isn’t.
“If you get in a relationship before you have healed from the past hurt, you will have set yourself up for a messy new relationship. First understand what you are getting yourself into,” she cautions.
Grace’s views are not far from Gladys Nyachieo’s sentiments. A sociologist at Multimedia University, Gladys says a woman is expected to uphold high morals standards, especially in the patriarchal society we live in, making it difficult for women to thrive.
She highlights that in Ancient Egypt a dead pharaoh would be buried with his living wife to show that when your husband dies you are equally dead.
It means you have no place in the society. In today’s society, you may not be practically buried, but socially you should be.
“The same treatment applies to divorced women. The longer a woman takes to get back to her normal life the better for her,” she says.
Gladys traces this problem back to the moment a woman is divorced or declares her intention to divorce.
The woman will take the blame both ways; you will be described as a bad wife who cannot keep her marriage, and when it is the other way round, they will say you are ‘big headed’.
“The society will be harsh on women who want to move on after divorce because they will view it as disrespect to the family, but why the double standards?
Isn’t the man also disrespecting the family when he exits the marriage?” she concludes.