My story – Tshepo Mabe
TSHEPO MABE, 28, opens up about why she signed up for short-lived wedded bliss on DStv’s Married at First Sight SA.
The second season of Married at First Sight (MAFS) South Africa begins this October. The local version of the international hit TV show, broadcast for the first time earlier this year on DStv channel 131. The series is about six people who agree to marry a complete stranger. After a set period, each couple can decide whether they want to stay together or separate. Tshepo Mabe was one of the first participants and she tells us how the show changed her life. “My take on love is that you’re likely to find it when you least expect to. When it comes, go with the flow. I know that this is easier said than done because we often get excited when we find love and overthink how it should be, and that can easily mess up a relationship. I met my first love while I was at varsity, but for a long time, it was unreciprocated and he turned out to be my first heartbreak. The day I called it quits, I promised myself I will not be foolish to stay in a one-sided relationship ever again. I decided to enter Married at First
Sight with an open mind and heart. I wanted to give the sincerity, honesty and commitment demanded of a long-term relationship a go. I’m the type of person who gets into a relationship for the long haul because I love stability. But sadly, breakups are inevitable when two people are not on the same wavelength.
You don’t prepare for a breakup when entering into a new relationship, otherwise that would be insincere. That is why getting on the series was exciting for me. I felt positive about what could happen. I also felt a lot of responsibility because you’re marrying a complete stranger and you have to get to know each other and work hard to make the union work.
Being part of the series was not all rosy for me. I often had to protect my feelings of disappointment from a young man (Pfarelo Nemavhada, the man she was paired with) who, I believe, was not ready for marriage financially and emotionally. I often felt he entered as a contestant out of curiosity.
But I couldn’t just quit without even trying. I feel strongly that marriage comes with commitment. You’re making an important choice to do this, and you have to be accountable regarding the
“THE BIGGEST LESSONS I LEARNT ARE THAT I’M STRONGER THAN I THOUGHT AND I HAVE TO LOVE MYSELF.”
outcomes. One minute I was single; the next, married, and then it was all gone. Marriage came with lots of changes and felt like a major transition for us both.
The transition to becoming Mrs Nemavhada, however, wasn’t hard because I had dreamt of being a great wife and it was something I was preparing for anyway, so I was motivated to try to make it work.
I’m a very driven and outgoing person in my work and my life. Pfarelo is more of a conservative person. I felt that he wouldn’t allow me to be myself. It was like I was boxed in when I was with him. After weeks of trying, I knew I couldn’t stay in such a situation long term. I would’ve ended up resenting Pfarelo and blaming him for me being unable to spread my wings and let my spirit shine as brightly.
Some people feel that the marriage wouldn’t have worked because we didn’t follow cultural processes first. But I tell them that had the marriage worked out, the processes would have taken place, because Pfarelo and I are both from very traditional families. I’m from a close-knit family and it was hard keeping the secret of my upcoming nuptials from them. In the days leading up to the wedding I only told my mother and younger sister, and this was while driving to a fitting for the wedding dress.
Everyone was surprised on the day. My guests thought they were coming for a thanksgiving lunch. They were shocked to see cameras, flowers and what seemed like preparations for a televised wedding.
Regarding the shocking way I got married and the split, I’m often asked if I’d do it again. I always answer that I wouldn’t, but neither do I regret having done it. I still want my dream wedding. I haven’t given up on love. I’m a Motswana girl and would love to wear the white blanket over my shoulders and have the size 24 pots on my big day, just like I’ve always dreamt.
With Married at First Sight I learnt to cherish the character-building experiences. I realised during the time it was happening that I’m more remarkable than I thought I was. I’m patient and selfless, and I helped along Pfarelo’s idea of the role of a wife. I may not have loved him, but at no point during the experience did I make him feel unloved. He felt loved.
You have to remember that the show deals with real lives and whatever the outcome, I could not leave a person broken. I had to, from the moment I realised this was not going to work out, make sure I did not end up wrecked from the disappointment of the failed relationship. I also had to spare Pfarelo’s feelings and not be spiteful about it.
Getting to know Pfarelo had to come with making him comfortable and enabling safe communication lines. I’m a free-spirited person who’s easy to talk to. I had to make Pfarelo understand that in order to develop a good relationship we had to learn to understand each other, but he interpreted that as me being controlling.
I know that he tried his best too, because when we clashed we also tried to be accommodating and meet each other halfway. Throughout the six weeks we had our obstacles, and in the end I chose to walk away. He wanted us to keep trying but I just couldn’t. So we got a divorce.
The biggest lessons I learnt from the show are that I’ m stronger than I thought and that I have to always love myself. Only I know what I need and deserve in my life. What you say to someone will be viewed from their perspective and you can never guarantee that they will fulfil your needs.
I’m currently not dating anyone, but I’m open to it, and I’d consider marriage again in the future. Being on Married at First Sight has allowed me to one day tell my kids exciting stories of the unconventional things I did to find true love. Next time it will be conventional, just to bring back sanity in my life.
My focus now is on becoming the best woman I can be. During varsity I was a mentor and logistics co-ordinator for an organisation, called WomEng, that encourages high school girls to study engineering. Since then, every year I take four young ladies under my wings. I mentor them through high school and in preparation for tertiary. I also tutor maths and physics to high school learners.
I believe that there’s so much we can do to build strong, brave women who one day will become great leaders. I feel it’s my duty to play my part in developing positive outcomes in society.
I was also raised by strong women, who valued the importance of family, good principles and support. I grew up with my brothers and sister in a village called Mabeskraal, situated outside Rustenburg, where we were raised by my grandmother.
Later, I moved to Rustenburg with my older brother so we could be with our mom. I had a happy childhood, and growing up around my brothers, who were daring and courageous boys, made me a bit of a tomboy and I became a brave person too.
My mother was a strong believer that travel broadens one’s horizons, which is why we ended up visiting almost all of our nine provinces, as well as Lesotho and Swaziland, as kids. I’m thankful that she instilled in me the ambition to suceed, which made me study metallurgy after matric. I chose it because it was a unique career path and a scarce skill and occupation at the time. But now, given the global and local recession that has occurred over the past decade, along with industry protests, and the high intake of university students, the field has become saturated.
I was drawn to it because I was inquisitive about how different metals work and how they affected the economy. I also did a postgraduate study in Risk Management because my strong skills lie in empowerment, development, project and policy planning and implementation.
My next move now is to go into management consulting. I’m also focussing on building myself and appreciating the love and support from my family and friends.”