The impact of long distance marriage on the family:a study of families with spouses abroad in Kiambu county
The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of long distance marriages on the families with spouses abroad in Kiambu County. Residents of this County are ambitious hardworking and aggressive in exploring ventures deemed to improve social-economic standards. The three main factors or reasons that contributed to individuals traveling abroad were employment, education and career advancement. Despite outward mobility contributing positively to the welfare of the family, it also had far reaching negative consequences. In order to assess the impact of a spouse’s absence, three objectives guided this study that is; to analyze the state of long distance marriages, to assess the effects of long distance marriage on the family and thereafter to identify appropriate strategies to deal with challenges associated with long distance marriages in the County. Four main components of family focused on in this study were; couple’s relationship, parenting, finances and communication. This descriptive research was conducted in Kiambu County in the central region of Kenya. The target population comprised of married individuals living in the County who had spouses abroad. Questionnaires with open and closed questions were used to collect data while findings were presented by use of tables, graphs, pie charts and percentages. The study revealed that (73%) females and (27%) males were left in the county presenting a form of “single hood” for married individuals. Three main factors/reasons contributed to a spouse’s outward mobility. These were; employment at (68%), education (29%) and career advancement (27 %). Specifically the absence of a spouse impacted negatively on a couple’s sexual relationship where (81%) of respondents were sexually unfulfilled, (72%) were emotionally distant with the absent spouse while (45%) cited the existence of infidelity in the family. Children who are significant members of a family were equally affected by the absence of a parent. This was evidenced by (83%) of the respondents saying that children were emotionally distant with the absent parent, (56%) respondents said that children lacked models while (35%) of respondents said that children became depressed. Family finances (51%) and communication (68%) were aspects of a family affected by absence of spouse /parent as recorded by the respondents. In conclusion, families must possess the following virtues to survive; trust (81%), honesty (67%), open communication (57%) and integrity (48%). Family members must prepare adequately for a long distance marriage by; attending counseling (70%), consulting with those in long distance marriage (59%), consulting a religious leader (30%) and prayer. Respondents gave their peers the following advice useful for strengthening their long distance relationships; seek reunion; trust each other, being honest. They were informed that if they were not prepared to be left alone, they should never get married. They should also learn to cope with the absence of a spouse positively. Finally, the following recommendations were made; need for healthy communication, the need for proper preparation prior to travel abroad by families attending counseling, sharing their experiences with peers and consulting with religious leaders. Reunion should be the ultimate goal for couples in long distance marriages. Further studies should be conducted focusing on the absent spouse and singles in long distance relationships.