DAY OF love KEEP THE SPARK ALIVE

Ntombi­zodwa Makhoba and Palesa Morei asked some of the coun­try’s cutest cou­ples about their se­cret to long and happy mar­riages

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Re­tired Kaizer Chiefs and Bafana Bafana player Jabu Mahlangu’s 11-year mar­riage, which has borne three chil­dren, has been sorely tested. He’s the first to ad­mit he was stand­ing in the way of their hap­pily-ever-af­ter.

“I was busy with the out­side world – in­dulging in booze, drugs and girls – not re­al­is­ing that my mar­riage was fall­ing apart. But my woman was al­ways there for me,” he says.

Jabu says at one point he didn’t even look into his wife’s eyes be­cause of the things he had done.

“I re­mem­ber telling her to file for a di­vorce – not be­cause I didn’t love her any more ... I just felt she de­served to be with a bet­ter per­son, who would re­spect her,” says the man who still be­comes emo­tional when he thinks of that time.

“When I told her that, she couldn’t say a word; she just looked me in the eye. We started pray­ing and cry­ing to­gether. I will never for­get that.”

When his ca­reer crashed and his life spi­ralled out of con­trol, Jabu lost ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing his cars and house in the wealthy Jo­han­nes­burg sub­urb of Rivo­nia. Th­wana was all he had left.

“We had to stay at my wife’s par­ents’ house. Ev­ery­one was laugh­ing at us, but Th­wana kept telling me ev­ery­thing would be fine.”

Jabu says hon­esty, trust and prayer have kept them go­ing.

“Our mar­riage is get­ting stronger each and ev­ery day,” says Jabu, who has been drug- and booze-free for al­most three years.

He is also a born-again Chris­tian, and ac­knowl­edges his wife for this too.

Jabu’s ad­vice for young hus­bands is: “Al­ways tell your wife you love her and how beau­ti­ful she is. Tell her ev­ery day. If you don’t, an­other man will.”

To­day, Jabu has made plans to spend Valen­tine’s Day to­gether.

“We are go­ing out for din­ner and maybe a spa treat­ment. This will also give us an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on our mar­riage and talk about our fu­ture plans.”

Pop­u­lar celebrity de­signer Gert-Jo­han Coetzee tied the knot with his child­hood sweet­heart, Vicky Vis­agie, two years ago.

Only fam­ily and close friends wit­nessed their in­ti­mate, chic wed­ding at a sa­fari lodge in North West.

Coetzee – who de­signed the knock­out yel­low dress Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela wore to the open­ing of Par­lia­ment this week, and who reg­u­larly dresses celebri­ties such as TV dar­ling Bo­nang Matheba – was 17 when he and his man met through mu­tual friends in Klerks­dorp. Eleven years later, they are still go­ing strong.

Their se­cret to a long-last­ing and happy mar­riage is “great com­mu­ni­ca­tion and work­ing ev­ery day to help each other to be the best ver­sion of them­selves”.

To keep the mar­riage fires burn­ing, they’re al­ways try­ing out new things to­gether.

“Even though we work to­gether and we also spend a lot of time in the same space ev­ery day, it is im­por­tant for us to have a reg­u­lar ro­man­tic date night,” Coetzee says.

Vis­agie, a soft­ware de­vel­oper, is also Coetzee’s de­sign house brand man­ager.

Both be­lieve that Valen­tine’s Day should be cel­e­brated ev­ery day.

“For any cou­ple, it should be an ev­ery­day event, but it’s nice that on Valen­tine’s Day we set time aside and ac­tu­ally cel­e­brate the day and the ro­mance around it,” says Vis­agie.

“This year’s Valen­tine’s Day will def­i­nitely be cen­tred on our ren­o­va­tions.

“We’ve been ren­o­vat­ing the house for two years and we’re busy with the bed­room, so some­thing very spe­cial will come out of that this year,” Coetzee says.

His best Valen­tine’s Day gift, Coetzee says, was a paint­ing by his favourite artist, Bel­gian­born painter Frans Claer­hout.

Af­ter 13 years of mar­riage, Con­nie Fer­gu­son, who plays Karabo in Gen­er­a­tions, and her hus­band, Shona, still buy each other gifts. It helps to keep the spark alive, she says.

“We’re a cou­ple that re­ally doesn’t cel­e­brate Valen­tine’s Day. But be­tween the busy sched­ule that we have, we are prob­a­bly go­ing to do a spur-of-the­mo­ment thing. “I haven’t re­ally given it a thought,” says Con­nie. She adds that since they work all week, they spend most of their week­ends to­gether. “We spend our qual­ity time to­gether with no work in­volved. That’s when we can catch up.”

Al­though Valen­tine’s Day isn’t that sig­nif­i­cant for them, birth­days are very im­por­tant. They also buy each other lit­tle gifts through­out the year.

“When­ever he goes shop­ping or when I go shop­ping, since I know what he would like, I’d prob­a­bly get him some­thing. We al­ways tell each other daily that we love each other.” They love the same things too. And the se­cret to their long and happy mar­riage is “the deep-rooted love we have for each other”.

“Mar­riage is also about re­spect. That’s what has car­ried Shona and I,” she says.

Con­nie be­lieves that Valen­tine’s Day is not about spend­ing a lot of money on your sig­nif­i­cant other. “It is also about un­der­stand­ing what they love. “Valen­tine’s Day is about do­ing some­thing mean­ing­ful with the one you love, rather than ex­pen­sive gifts, es­pe­cially with kids in­volved and other ex­penses. “Shona buys me gifts all the time. “I can’t re­ally pin­point which one is specif­i­cally for Valen­tine’s Day or birth­days.”

Jabu and Th­wana Mahlangu

Con­nie and Shona Fer­gu­son

Vicky Vis­agie and Gert-Jo­han Coetzee

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