Why all these absentee husbands?

02:17 by Kaggwa Andrew


When Sylvia dated Gerald, he seemed to tick all the boxes. He was the kind of man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
In fact, with ‘responsible’ men not to be taken for granted these days, Sylvia thought: ‘why not move in, have the full package, and get started with the task of building a family?’
Soon, she was going by the name of Mrs Lutaaya* – the woman of the house.  In the novels and movies, they would live happily ever after.
But in the Lutaayas’ real life, the ‘honeymoon’ did not last very long. And the issue was not the usual suspects; it was not another woman.  The problem was the men in Gerald’s life. It was, Sylvia recalls, as if he had married her to keep his house for him.
 “I am not complaining about their nights out as buddies. I know it’s crucial that men have time to go out without their wives, and I have no problem with that. But does he have to stay out until the next morning?”
At the time, Gerald would party with his friends on Fridays, drink with them on Saturdays and watch football on Sundays. And even when the football leagues were in recess, he always found a reason to be away from home and from his wife.
“He attended all his friends’ weddings, meetings, introductions and graduation parties,” Sylvia says.
At first, she tried a stoic approach, persuading herself that her fears were exaggerated; that her friend of a husband would reform. She was wrong.
Yet she was – and is – not alone. She is just one of many women struggling to understand their men’s hankering for ‘guys’ nights out’ at the expense of family time. For such women, one recurrent question is: Why do men do that? 

FEEL YOUNGER
According family expert Krishann Briscoe, women are usually happy for their men catching up with buddies for some guy-time. But women also get utterly jealous because they wish their husbands were instead more eager about spending time with the family.
Writing on www.babble.com, Briscoe notes that men stay away with friends because it’s an experience that makes them feel men again, away from the responsibilities of being a husband, or some conservative role model to the children.
“They want to hang out minus the ‘filters.’ They don’t want to do anything to compromise their marriages but they do want to be able to just hang out for a little while and not have to worry about their spouse or children,” Briscoe says.
Gerald Lutaaya agrees that there were times he wanted to just be himself without having to act responsible. He felt the need to have time without his highly demanding wife.
“Staying out helps you break free, act more ‘stupidly’ and talk about anything with the guys,” he says, adding that being out with friends usually made him feel younger and even escape the “cruel fact” that he has a child and a wife to fend for.

CANDY STORE
Samuel Kabanda, 34, a doctor running a clinic in Kampala, seems to share Gerald’s sentiments. He says the day men become fathers, their right to enjoying a movie, hanging out or being ‘cool’ is lost to the attention they give the children and their mothers.
“It’s very hard for a wife to let you drink in the house because it’s allegedly bad example. Then you can’t watch a music video because its vulgar,” Kabanda says, explaining that after putting up with that for weeks, men usually seek solace in the company of buddies who must also be living the same life elsewhere.
 “You know you won’t be free when you take your wife along to chill,” he adds.
“Being single is like living in a candy store. You pick any candy you want, well knowing they are not good for your teeth,” says Gerald, admitting that most of the times men who party till the wee hours of the morning are not ready for marriage.
Gerald however notes that sometimes men decide to stay away from home because they are tired of their wives, can’t divorce them and would want to put on a show for the sake of the children. He reminisces that in his situation, it was a mixture of fortunes that included Sylvia’s nagging tendencies and demands.

INSECURITIES
“She would assume that every time, I stayed at work late I was being unfaithful,” he says, adding that life at home became unbearable and since he hated fighting before their son, he decided to extend his working hours.
“I would work till 9pm, catch up with friends after that, and only came home to sleep.”
This was the time he started jumping on each and every outing opportunity – just to stay away from home.
Others have stayed away from home, not because of something their wives have directly done but something maybe worse. Sylvia reminisces the time she overheard a man complain about his wife ferrying all her relatives to their marital home – they were not just many, but untidy too.
“He was resigned about going back to his house thus opted to work overtime,” she says.
Gerald says that when he stayed away from home, he was satisfied that he got his own time without the stress from the wife and child, but slowly, his house was falling apart. His wife was contemplating on leaving, while his son was at times having health issues. But since he was barely home, he knew almost nothing of this. Yet, that wasn’t the worst – his son was also afraid of him.
“We missed a lot of moments and we somehow grew apart. He couldn’t even look me in the eye, which hurt me indeed,” he says.
For Kabanda, it took a security threat to bring him back to his senses. While partying out with his buddies, his wife’s life was threatened by robbers who tried to force their way into the house, well knowing she was practically home alone. It took a male neighbour’s intervention to rescue her.
“I still find it hard to forgive myself for that night,” he says.

BOYS MUST BE BOYS
Others have had to endure even worse pains. In one of the hilarious headlines on the popular TV news slot, Agataliiko Nfuufu, a wife was accused by her husband for allegedly cheating on him. Her apparent reason was that he was barely home for his marital duties.
However, even when women like Sylvia detest men staying out late, others like Helena Lwandago, a freelance model and usher, believe sometimes boys need the time to be boys and not the wife’s husband. She argues that women tend to spend a lot of time trying to change the man and it mostly backfires by him avoiding her.
“Most of the times we (women) forget that he had a life before us, thus we try to change him overnight into what we want,” she says.
Lwandago’s views are shared by English psychologist, Prof Robin Dunbar, whose 2012 study discovered that men need to go out with other male friends at least twice a week. The study shows that men must meet with at least four friends in order to reap the benefits of male friendship.
“Those benefits, in addition to general health, include faster recovery in times when faced with illness,” he says in the study.
Sylvia says it took a lot of understanding and self-checking to deal with the problem. But it’s not an initiative she came up with – it was a brilliant plan by her pastor.
He made her look at the problem more objectively rather than always pushing the blame onto her husband. That’s when she realized she had been hard on him.
“We then made a decision to face and overcome the problem together. I personally had to change the way I was treating him.” 
Sylvia believes that women on average get ready for marriage by 25, yet their male counterparts may not even be ready at 30. Yet, ready or not, the two find themselves married, and must learn to put up with each other.

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