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Nairobi News : December 23rd 2013
18 WHAT’S ALL THIS FAMILY FUSS ABOUT INHERITANCE? Dear Michael, My husband died recently. We were from different cultures and now his relatives want my children and I to be inherited. What do I do?” J Dear J, You sound surprised at your relatives’ request, and I’m probably putting it mildly. The truth is that you are inextricably related to your husband’s family. The marriage might have ended, but the relationship will live on because of the children. What you and your relatives are now facing is establishing the nature of your relationship going forward. In their minds, it seems clear that the future of harmonious existence between them on one hand, and their son’s widow and children, lies in inheritance. You don’t seem to share that view. The cultural perspective you were brought up in, and obviously still believe in, does not espouse wife inheritance. You don’t mention your culture of origin. I purposely say culture of origin because at the point of marriage, the couple brings each culture into the marriage to one proportion or another or they choose one of the two that they will take as their own going forward. Either way, there is a new culture for one or both. Wife inheritance in its basest form prescribes that the woman becomes wife to the closest or appointed brother or uncle to the deceased (I’m not an expert in this matter.). Yet, the principle that underlies the practice has to do with ensuring that the children and widow are provided for. It might help to focus on the principle. This could be the point of interaction for you and your relatives in holding discussions with your deceased husband’s relatives. It would have been helpful to discuss such issues earlier, but in African culture to imagine a person’s death is equated to wishing them that very death. Engage in a non-adversarial discussion based on the noble principle of caring for the widow and children. A point of agreement that satisfies each party might present itself. But there is a real possibility that there might be ill motives from either party. The discussions and the outcome depend on various factors: What your relationship with your relatives was to date, individual levels of integrity, the existence of mutual trust, and the degree to which each party desires to see a positive outcome based on compromise and a focus on the beneficial principles of wife inheritance. That notwithstanding, you, as the widow, are at the centre of the matter. Your decision on the matter will affect the future of your children and the manner in which they relate with their father’s relatives. Careful consideration for their safety and well-being in the long-term is welladvised. Do you have a pressing personal problem? Seek advice from Michael Oyier at firstname.lastname@example.org Communication is key in any relationship. File, NairobiNews NAIROBI NEWS nairobinews.co.ke Monday, Dec 23 - Sunday, Dec 29, 2013 Expecting baby with my boyfriend’s brother Dear Michael, My boyfriend left the country for fur- ther studies in the US. We had been trying long distance dating but it was proving difficult. My boyfriend’s brother has been very supportive and now I’m expecting his child. What should I do? Jemimah. Dear Jemimah, What a pickle. Although it would be comfortable to blame several people, you have been an active participant and are now the protagonist as you prepare to be a mother. Long distance relationships are trying but the principles still apply, irrespective of time difference and distance. Some of these values are honesty, trust, faithfulness and commitment. In marriage, exiting on the basis of distance and difficulty of maintaining the relationship would not hold water. Jemimah, at the point where it was getting too difficult, you could have asked out. The situation at hand is complex. What needs redress, whatever your decision, is guarding against people being ‘very supportive’ and later turning into sexual partners. Have you discussed this with the father to be? Are you going to continue dating your boyfriend? To what extent are you involved with the larger family? Jemimah, it would be helpful, though it will cause plenty of pain to you and everyone involved, that you be honest with yourself and that you take responsibility. ask mike AGONY UNCLE ANSWERS ALL YOUR QUESTIONS I don’t want to live at my husband’s home Dilemma.Wife isn’t ready for conflicts with mother in-law Dear Michael, I am confused. My husband is Tanzanian and wishes his family to move there. However, he is a mama’s boy and has refused to move out of his parents’ home. I don’t want to be shipped into his parents home because I will not be able to make any decisions when he is around his mum. The friction has caused me to have two miscarriages and I’m emotionally and physically tired. Ruth Dear Ruth, Any circumstance that would lead to two miscarriages and emotional and physical fatigue is serious. Without jumping the gun, this calls for a • Your in-laws are a crucial part of your spouse’s life and yours as well. No one ever said it was easy to balance your needs with the needs of others - especially the needs of an entire new family. But creating family harmony is possible -and it’s very much worth the effort. •You realise it won’t be easy to build bridges -and rebuild some that have been burnt -but you also realise that it’s a valuable way to spend your time. •Work with your spouse. This is the change in attitude and courageous action. You say your husband is Tanzanian, presuming that you are not Tanzanian, but of different nationality, and you’re not living in Tanzania. The matter you present would have the same effect as long as it involves a significant distance in travel, and living in his parents’ house. You have described your husband as a ‘mama’s boy’, and that he ‘refuses’ to move out of his parents’ home. Aren’t there cultures that believe in living in one home with parents, and the authority of the parents, till death ends the set-up? Even if that is not the case, you are now faced with having to move. Will you or will you not Dealing with in-laws key rule. Dealing effectively with in-laws all starts with first working conflicts through with your spouse. Remember, you’re in this together. • Never put your spouse in a situation where he/she has to choose between you and a relative. Doing so will put your spouse in a nearly impossible bind. •Instead, try to understand the bond your spouse has with his /her relatives. If possible, try to support that relationship. life.familyeducati on.com Couples should always reach a compromise when making family decisions. File, NairobiNews move with your husband? Depending on religious and cultural persuasion, that is not even a matter for debate. Probably, the conflict in your mind concerning this is the reason you are extremely stressed. I am obviously not aware of your husband’s perspective on the matter, but let us look at your options. What happens if you don’t move with your husband? What happens if you move with your husband? In either case, as I suggested ini- tially, you would have to demonstrate great courage and resolve which, apart from needing faith, would call for a well-founded and personally owned decision. This would have to be strong enough to carry you through the toughest times that each choice would present. Whatever your choice, you will have to change your attitude to one or more aspects of life. For instance, not moving could require a change in attitude toward husband and wife being in the same place. Moving, on the other hand, would require a change of attitude toward the autonomy of a wife within her home. Ruth, you might want to begin evaluating the possibility of shifting your position with regard to beliefs in light of the cost and benefit of holding on too tightly to your own. The reasons for the move need to be clear to you both as you make this decision that will affect your daughter’s development, and your health.
December 20th 2013
January 3rd 2014