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.

True Love - - Contents - By SISONKE LABASE

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


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.”

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