At 3am, on the ill-fated night of Sunday, October 6, 34-year-old Leah Muthoni barged in to find her 21-year-old lover, Adrian, in the company of another woman in an apartment in Kinoo.
She allegedly stabbed him five times in the neck, killing him instantly, then turned on her lover’s companion, whom she stabbed in the arm. Then Leah called the deceased’s cousin and told him what had happened, adding, “It was either I die or he dies.”
While their relationship was not perfect, and Adrian’s father even said that the couple had been fighting over the young man’s promiscuity, the thought of him by another woman’s side appears to have been too much for Leah to bear.
Leah’s seems to be a crime of passion, committed in the heat of the moment. Just two months before this, on the morning of June 18, in a more calculated act, businesswoman Faith Wairimu lured her husband of 15 years, John Muthee, to an open, busy area in Githurai, Nairobi.
She had been planning this day for weeks. Unfortunately, the “thugs” she had hired to shoot him turned out to be undercover policemen. The justification she gave when she was caught? She could not live with the thought of him entertaining other women.
If she could not have him, no one else could.
These two harrowing incidents are a fitting illustration of the lengths some people go when the vow of eternal love is threatened.
Evidently, love is a powerful force which drives people to the very edge in its pursuit. When threatened, it seems to have the ability to make even the most sensible woman resort to extreme measures. Take 36-year-old Maryanne, for instance.
She cuts the picture of an assertive and self-sufficient woman. She has always been the alpha woman type and four years back, she held a high-end job, drove a good car, and even owned a home. Then a friend introduced her to a man who swept her off her feet. “He was very intense and romantic. He seemed to make everything right in my world,” she remembers.
Four months in, he asked her to marry him and she could not have been happier. Then he asked her to move in with him and she was ecstatic.
“Then he asked me to quit my job,” Maryanne continues. “He said that if I loved him, I should trust him because all he wanted to do was take care of me and make me happy, and he didn’t want me being stressed out by my job.”
Maryanne had a car loan she was servicing. He promised to take over the payments. After a great deal of soul-searching, comparing the weight of her love for him to the importance of her job in her life, Maryanne decided to follow her heart and quit to become a house-girlfriend.
While her friends and family were left mortified, at that time, Maryanne could not see any other option. She saw it as a compromise. She was faced with either having what she thought was the love of her life or letting him go and having to live with the pain and guilt.
Then the honeymoon ended and the not-so-happy reality set in once she had settled in her new home.
She realised that her prince charming was in fact a narcissist who stopped lavishing her with affection when their relationship became a real one. He refused to take any responsibilities and began seeing all sorts of flaws in her.
He let the car payments lapse and she lost her car, making herself even more beholden to him. When she could not take any more of it, she packed her bags and went back to her parents’ home to rebuild her life.
In retrospect, Maryanne acknowledges that she made an unhealthy sacrifice which she attributes to a poor sense of judgment on her part.
“Being so in love clouded my judgment. If our relationship had been healthy, we would have talked about what was the best option at the time for both of us, which was for me to continue working. But I couldn’t see it then. All I could see was how perfect he was and how much I had to lose,” she says.
Everybody has a price
Maryanne can see where she erred. Unlike her, 29-year-old Irene Gathecha says that she does not regret making a drastic change in her appearance to please her man. Even then, she admits that she doubts her husband would fight all the way for her. “He is like most men,” she says. “They like to keep their options open.”
When you meet her, one of the things that catches your eye about the mother-of-three is her smooth, olive skin. Until about a year-and-a-half ago, her natural skin tone was ebony black. Irene knew that her husband loved looking at the bodies of women online and in magazines when she married him. At that time he was in his early 20s and she thought his obsession was a passing phase, but it did not go away.
“I do not even think it was the looking that got to me but the fact that the women he obviously enjoyed looking at looked nothing like me,” she says.
When prodded, her husband admitted that he was drawn to women with a lighter skin tone than hers and that he thought she had poor fashion sense. She was angry but decided to fight these women that he was drawn to.
“Everybody has a price and mine is commitment. As long as he is committed to me, I see nothing wrong with changing bits of myself to keep him happy. I believe that we are both working to keep each other satisfied,” she explains.
When her transformation began becoming obvious, most of her friends could not understand it, seeing as she had already bagged a man. Her elder sister even told her that she was being irrational and vain, but Irene insists that her focus is on the thing that matters most to her; her relationship.
For now, she thinks that it has worked because she has not caught him obsessing about other light-skinned women.
“Men need looking after,” she counsels.
Emily, 29, also holds the opinion that men need looking after but she feels that the lengths one chooses to go needs to be within reason. She says that she has done many things to keep her man by her side and the farthest she has gone was taking pole dancing lessons from a stripper.
“It left my body sore and I couldn’t get it right,” she says.
“It left my body sore and I couldn’t get it right,” she says.
Taking a risk
True, finding a good healthy relationship is difficult anywhere in the world today. Even then, is it reason enough to drive a level-headed person to overly irrational action? Keziah Wanja (one name has been changed to protect her identity) believes that it is.
“I was desperate, I admit it,” Keziah, 30, says about what she was going through when she opted to do what would be termed as drastic by most people. She and her husband had been married five years and had two children when they got to a point where their relationship was clearly skidding. He was barely home, they were barely communicating, and she even suspected that he was seeing someone else.
Keziah says she values marriage and when she got into this one, she had vowed to make it work even if it meant bending over backwards. It had been a struggle just to get them where they were.
She had gone out of her way to befriend women who seemed like they could be a threat to her because she imagined that it would be harder for a woman to betray a friend than a stranger, but still, she kept losing. She could feel her marriage crumbling and no amount of talking seemed to get to him, so she lied to him that she was pregnant.
“I wasn’t pregnant at the time. I knew it was a huge risk but I had nothing to lose. I was losing anyway so I used my last card and it did turn things around. I knew I had him when he began paying attention to me and I allowed myself to get pregnant,” she says.
She says that it if she had lost the gamble, maybe she would have let him go. But for now she is happy that the fuss that came with their now three-month-old son has brought her man back to her.
The psychology behind it
Some of these measures that women confess to have taken or allowed to happen to keep their hold on their man may seem extreme from an onlooker’s perspective. Nairobi-based counselling psychologist Julius Gitari, however, explains that gender disparities are alive and thriving, whether we like it or not.
In fact, he says, women are wired to bend over backwards to hold on to relationships, unlike men. He bases his opinion on the fact that while a man’s self worth is defined through success and achievement, a woman pegs her self-worth on her feelings and the quality of her relationships. She is thus more likely to go out of her way to make these relationships work.
He adds, “This could also explain why women often choose to bear the ill effects of bad relationships.”