Why puppy marriages end in tears

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well. /You could see that Pierre did truly love the madamoiselle. /And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell. /"C'est la vie," say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well. /You could see that Pierre did truly love the madamoiselle. /And now the young monsieur and madame have rung the chapel bell. /"C'est la vie," say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.

The song goes on to say the young couple went off to furnish a two-roomed apartment. Their fridge was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale. And, though Chris Rock says women get married and men surrender, when Pierre found work, things started coming together.

They had a hi-fi phono, boy, did they let it blast./Seven hundred little records, all rock, rhythm and jazz./But when the sun went down, the rapid tempo of the music fell./"C'est la vie," say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.

It's a tale with a happy ending, but for many young couples things seldom work out and the ending can be downright ugly.

"The truth is, marriage is hard with or without the money," says relationship counsellor, Mike Gumbi.

"So when young people come together, 'blank' and naive, their expectations are like chalk and cheese. Young women expect to be put first and pampered at whatever cost. Young men, on the other hand, have been told by their friends to wear the pants. So they become resistant to change, thinking before leaping. That's where conflict begins," Gumbi says.

And since money is another root in matrimonial strife, it's natural for the young wife to start resenting her husband for the inevitable financial struggles.

"Real problems start to surface when there's clashing opinions on how to spend the money. How much money there is, is seldom the problem, but the budget of preference is," says Gumbi.

As Thembeka Nyawuza of the royal Faku clan found out, it is easier to downgrade on lifestyle than to deal with a budget that satisfies both parties.

"He always had this thing about not having a car as if our marriage or ilibolo irrevocably set him back. I would ask him if he would have it any other way and he would reply that it was just a wish. But in the last eight months of our two-year marriage, I also started wondering how different life would have been if we did have a car. I realised we could have bought the car with the money he spent on his label clothes, partying and boozing."

Nyawuza says she beat him to the car by putting all her tax earnings down for a deposit - an act that put the final nail in the coffin.

For Thapelo Morewa, the intellectual scales did not balance.

"We were high school sweethearts who married immediately after matric. She was 17 and I was 21. She was a baby and thought like one. I was considerate until she wanted to name our child Thadina by joining Thapelo and Dina. What can you do with someone like that?"

But while society may condemn young couples who walk down the aisle too quickly, fewer and fewer people who enter their 30s as singles find the time, or the partner, to settle down.

"When you have lived your life according to set rules or lack thereof, it's hard to change," says Celiwe Mncwane, 33.

"If a guy questions me about unmade beds and dirty ashtrays, I often ask where he gets off asking me about my habits."

Perhaps marrying young hones personality and benevolence.

"I suppose if he was my provider, as society prescribed, I would control my slippery tongue.

"But if someone cross-examines me under my roof, I'll take offence."

Cynthia Langa, who works for Family and Marriage Society of South Africa (Famsa), reports a decline in teenage or younger couple marriages.

"Our parents married younger because it was the only way the system could legitimise them for everything from a house to credit, and that's why they stuck it out," says Langa.

"Also, men have been providers in most households until recently, and that explains the decline of the numbers."

Langa says while she has seen many young people thrive in their marriages, she has also seen an unchanging culture of dependence by women on their men. "And that leads to all sorts of problems," she says.

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