Dear Annie

I have been with my man for over 14 years now. We started dating in 1999 and he paid a part of lobola in 2002. After that we had a lot of ups and downs in our relationship which resulted in us having to put on hold all of our marriage plans.

Since then I feel that he has changed: he has become so possessive and controlling and even physically abusive.

I have tried to end things with him several times but he comes back and begs me and he somehow shows some change

I went back to him and we were fine again and in 2011 we had a traditional wedding where he paid all the lobola and
umembeso. (Umembeso is a traditional ceremony whereby the groom’s family buys gifts according to the list that they were given by the bride’s family.)

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We were very happy after that and we were planning a civil wedding soon after. Unfortunately due to limited financial resources, we agreed that it wouldn’t be possible and decided to use the money for the deposit on our house.

Recently I have been contemplating our marriage status and looking at things

I feel I have just had to settle for a marriage certificate if I canâ??t get the big wedding and I communicated that to him. He promised that he will go to an attorney to draft the contract for us and I believed him. Months have passed and there is no contract. When I raise the subject he becomes so upset.

I asked him if he has changed his mind about marrying me but he doesn’t want to say

I am so tired of asking him about it. I think in a way I am falling out of love with him or preparing myself for any rejection. I don’t feel like making love to him or doing anything with him, so he feels as if I am using intimacy to get him to marry me and I know I am not. I still love him but I want the full commitment from him to make our relationship work again.

Kind regards

Thandi

Dear Thandi

Thank you for your letter. From your letter it is apparent that you have been with your man for 14 years and traditionally married to him for two years. This traditional marriage included lobola, umembeso and a ceremony.

Before we go any further we need to talk about umembeso

As this is a traditional practice, many white people are unfamiliar with it. If you fall into that category, let me explain.

Your beloved daughter is getting married. You have probably maxed your credit cards and auctioned off your hubbyâ??s spare kidney to pay for her wedding.

You have considered auctioning off your own kidney, but realising that it would only mean that you lose 120g of weight, you have concluded that it would be a foolish sacrifice.

The wedding is beautiful and most of what you wanted. (You probably had to compromise to include some of what the bride wanted too.) Now you are flat broke with no budget for new patio furniture, a new rug or cappuccino maker in sight.

Wait! All is not lost! If during the wedding planning you suddenly remember, that as a result of living in Africa, you feel more traditionally African then what your lily white reflection ever led you to believe, you claim that you want to include a touch of your roots into the ceremony, specifically umembeso.

Of course any other traditional practices like lobola, would just be over the top. You now get to present your daughterâ??s future in-laws with a list of gifts that they can buy you!

At this point, our darker skin readers are probably shaking their heads at the clueless fair skin womanâ??s interpretation of a wonderful traditional practice, and rightly so. Meaning no disrespect, I will get back to your letter Thandi.

I think that there are two issues here. The first is: are you married?

Your friends and family already regard you as married. I am wondering at what point you will feel married to your man? Is it the piece of paper from the home affairs office that will make it so?

What will change for you if you should get that? Will your relationship be any different to what it is now?

If I checked your husbandâ??s Facebook status would it say â??marriedâ???

Do you think that a legal document will change the way that he feels about you or your marriage? Does he consider himself already married to you and the piece of paper an unnecessary detail, or does he think that he is not really married and he would like to keep his options open?

You need to understand what your current marital status means to him to be able to decide if he is committed to you or not.

The second issue is: Do you want to be married to him?

You mentioned that your husband has become possessive, controlling and abusive. Has this changed since your traditional marriage? I am wondering what his attitude towards this kind of behaviour is.

If he considers it completely fine and he is not interested in getting help to learn more effective ways of communicating with you, you need to consider if this is what you are able to live with.

It is hard for a woman to be intimate with her body when she is battling with intimacy of her heart

So it is completely understandable that you want to steer clear of the bedroom. An open conversation about commitment to each other may help to join those dots for your man.

If you both want the marriage, you know that it takes hard work and falling out of love is par for the course. The trick is to continually choose to step back into love every time.

You are beautiful!
Love and blessings
Annie