Christopher Gatarayiha and Marie Louise Nyirabashi both got married at the age of 18 which is considered a minor’s age under the Rwandan law.
Born in 1938, the couple which has managed to stay together for the last 52 years in their home at Lower Kiyovu, say they will only be separated by death.
The couple gives valuable advice to what they call today’s commercial lovers, who get married not because of love, but because of materialism.
My name is Christopher Gatarayiha, born on March 1st 1938, in the northern part of the country (formerly Ruhengeri Province). I am the second born in a family of seven. I joined Rwaza primary school in 1946, and then Byumba secondary school, where I did commerce.
In 1957, I went and worked with Burundi Commercial Bank (BCB). Life became good because I was earning good money.
In 1962, I was transferred to BCB’s branch in Gisenyi, when both countries had gained their independence. During the same year, I was sponsored by BCB to Belgium for further studies.
I am called Marie Louise Nyirabashi, born in the northern part of the country (former Ruhengeri Province), on September 1st 1938, I am the seventh born in the family of nine.
I was not able to continue with studies after my primary two, but later managed join a vocational school where I specialized in weaving.
How they met
Oh my God! What I can tell you is that these are one of the sweetest moments I ever had in my entire life. (She closes her eyes and immediately shed tears of joy).
If I can remember very well, our relationship started when both of us were 15-years-old, and luckily, our families were great friends.
Gatarayiha used to regularly come to my parental home and he would sometimes surprise me with gifts. (She recalls). After picking interest in me, he started telling me how much he loved me.
But sometimes I would hardly believe his words because he was educated and coming from a well-to-do family which was not the case with me.
But as time went on, our relationship grew stronger and each time Gatarayiha visited me, we spared sometime talking about our relationship.
It was rather tricky for us because by then, it was not allowed for girls to freely associate with boys. Otherwise, you would become an outcast in the society.
I will never forget the day he surprised me with a gift of a necklace. He took me behind our house, where none could see us, put it around my neck and then hugged me tightly.
I couldn’t hold it any longer and burst out into tears of joy. What I recall is, I expressed all my love for him and I saw all the love and care he had for me.
From then on, I started craving for Gatarayiha to an extent that every time he came home, I could hardly control myself but express my true feelings for him even before my parents. I developed deeper love and affection for him and had no way to hold back these feelings.
He used to write letters to me with pictures of the heart, cupid signs and roses in the middle of the writings. This drove me crazy and it made me think about him all the time.
Whenever he came home, I would feel shy to tell him that he had won my heart and that he was driving me crazy, but the moment he left, I would cry and feel like following him. Anyway, this was the man of my dream and honestly, he is God given.
Yes! She was the one I truly loved and wanted her to be part of my life. I married her because she is well-behaved and pretty.
Our relationship grew when we were both in our primary six vacations. I remember, I used to go with my father to visit Mr. Rugirangana’s family (Nyirabashi’s father), and I saw this pretty and well-behaved girl.
I started chatting with her and discovered that she was very interesting and hospitable. From then on, our relationship grew stronger, and we decided to stay together as man and wife.
After acquiring my diploma in commerce, I proposed to marry her. She objected to my proposal and instead insisted that we were still too young to join the marriage institution.
Yes! We were still young, but I had already made my decision to marry her regardless of our age!
I was confident because my parents were rich and willing to support our marriage, and I had also attained a certificate in accountancy and I was confident that I would be in position to sustain my family.
I went ahead and told my parents of my intentions to marry. At first, it sounded funny to them because both of us were 18years of age, but they eventually accepted because I was through with my basic education.
My father got a good job in Burundi where he worked as an administrator. My family supported me and we went for an introduction ceremony to her parents and later we got married.
I paid two cows as a bride price and immediately marched away with my bride. I was overjoyed because I could not imagine us living as husband and wife.
To be honest, we have not encountered horrible challenges in our marriage. My father was an administrator in Burundi at L. Tanganyika, he secured us a house in town and used to support us financially until my salary improved.
We became stable and lived a successful marriage. We were blessed with 10 children, but four passed away after maturity.
Sustaining a marriage
The fundamental strategies we used and are still using are; giving true love, absolute care, respect, and being patient with each other. Our marriage has succeeded for all these years because we have true love and honesty.
The other thing is, we are both good Christians who respect God, and in this case, we obey the “Ten commandments’, especially the sixth, which stipulates that, “Thou shall not commit adultery.”
We thank God because we got married when marriage was recognised as a holy institution before it turned into a business institution.
Marriages today hardly go beyond the first birth because couples get into marriage for material gain. When they fail to achieve what they had targeted they resort to divorcing.
Advice for the inexperienced
We are advising people intending to join this institution to be aware, marriage is neither a bed of roses nor made in Heaven, but by design and commitment.
Today, young people rush into marriage without knowing that they are entering into another lifestyle, which requires commitment and sacrifice.
Again, people should know that marriage is all about trust, patience and commitment if it will succeed. Mutual patience and honesty are the secrets of a happy marriage.
Married couples should learn how a settle family issues between themselves and avoid insulting each other in public because this will cause the marriage to disintegrate.
Spouses should also endeavour to show true love and care to each other. This will create confidence and harmony in the family.