So we said I do! What now?
My husband and I got married on the 21st and 22nd May 2016. The 21st was a Traditional Wedding where I was given a new family name and bridal attire as a sign of respect for my in laws as well as my new life from my family. The next day was a White Wedding, which incorporated our religious beliefs and marriage under the Christian church. To be honest it has been quite a life changing journey with many ups and downs but mostly ups. Since we often get asked ‘how is marriage life?’ And while we don’t want to give the cliche’d ‘it’s great’ answer, we would like to share our challenges and successes.
Given that February is the month of love, my husband and I have decided to share 5 lessons that we have learned after we said I do.
1. Keep God as the centre
I grew up without much of a relationship with God nor knowledge of the Bible. My family only attended (Roman Catholic) church on Good Friday and Christmas. I knew nothing about praying or who this God that my mom loved was. Tebogo by contrast came from an active Anglican Church background. He was a () and had somewhat of a deeper relationship and understanding of God. After high school I converted to Islam for 5 years and I began my spiritual path. Although I no longer identify as a Muslim, Islam gave me a close relationship and love for God. I left Islam in 2013 and without searching found myself back in Christianity after attending a church series on love. That series helped shape my understanding of love, what it is and how I should relate to others. When I met my husband 6 months later, I knew that I could not marry someone unless they were rooted in the church and had an active relationship with God. At that time Tebogo was not, but I prayed that he would come with me to church. He did not need much convincing and to date church and God have been the centre of both our lives and marriage. We pray together and individually. We read the Bible everyday and we seek our roles as husband and wives from scripture. One verse that has come in handy for us has been the command for husbands to love their wives and for wives to respect their husbands. It opened discussions on expectations and for us to understand the difference between men and women.
Another point has been acknowledging Tebogo as the head of the family, a point which my mom and best-friend Ziyanda had to drill in my head. I am a control freak and perfectionist which often creates conflict as I want to be in charge of everything. Ever since I made the commitment to allow him to be the head, I have had to trust his judgment and pray that God shows him the way. Seeing him defy me, adamant that God has not spoken to him about career options, where we should live etc, has been one of the greatest experiences. I am in awe at how much he prays, reads and trusts God. This has in turn made me feel loved, protected and cared for in a different way. I truly trust my husband with my life and I cannot wait for him to father our sons and daughters God willing.
2. Love is service
We have come to learn that for us, love is service. We serve each other emotionally, spiritually and physically. I used to think that marriage was all about me being served by my husband. Instead I realized that in order for Tebogo to serve me, I had to first understand and meet his needs. The more he felt that I was there for him, the more he reciprocated. This is still a tough one for us and we go back and forth. Two books have been instrumental in assisting us: Men are from Venus, Women are from Mars and The 5 Love Languages. These books have assisted us in finding closure from our past relationships as well as understanding how men and women are different. We have a long way to go on this point especially given our different backgrounds and personalities, but we review our relationship at all times and have honest conversations when one or both of us are unhappy or feeling unloved.
3. Have a marriage mentor
We began our path to marriage with 3 month pre-marital sessions held at the church. At the time, both our families thought we were joking. My mother and I missed out on pivotal time to discuss and have a woman-to-woman conversation on what it is that I was about to get myself into. My husband by contrast had no male figure to receive advice and guidance. However we were fortunate that the pastors at our church provided a deeper and more realistic understanding of what was to come. We learnt about sex, finances, vision and how to begin living together especially with our different personalities. However after Tebogo’s family sent a letter to begin lobola negotiations, I was excited to have the support of my mother, newly married best-friend Ziyanda, my older sister and friends.
I cannot begin to describe the amount of respect I now hold for my mother. I did not know that she had so much wisdom and her ability to reason has resulted in us getting closer as mother and daughter and her being my confidant. Tebogo and I are very private people so to have my mother, his aunt and trusted best-friends as our mentors has helped us walk the marriage journey with much ease. We are grateful to have people of our age who face similar challenges and share how they overcome them. Ziyanda and Malibongwe have shared how they balance being newly weds in a family as well as creating their own customs. Being 17 months older than us, we view them as our mentors and Ziyanda and I share videos and teachings on submission, keeping the romance alive and maintaining our identities as academics and independent women in a traditional space.
While my bridal team may have consisted of one married woman, I learn so much from my single besties. They keep me in check when I start acting crazy and remind me why I love my hubby whenever we face challenges. I also love their crazy ideas of marriage and how we hold each other accountable to our goals and serve as gentle reminders to the future and also not to forget who you are. Plus I need them around so that they can babysit when we do eventually have kids (lol).
4. Transform do not Reform
On the wedding day, we take an empty space and fill it with beautiful decor, love, laugher and lifetime of memories. As we add each piece of furniture, flowers, candles, stationery and finishing touch, we transform it to ‘The best day of our lives’. None of this is done by force but by careful placement of each item, some shiftings and a big reveal at the end. While this may be true for wedding venues, it is not necessarily true for marriages. As soon as we moved in together, all sorts of conflict ensued. We disagreed on fashion sense, music tastes including volume, waking up times over the weekend, food , how to chew, when to wash dishes and tidiness. I feel like the more I grow up, the more I become like my mother. I wake up at 6am every morning including weekends. I open all windows and have levels of OCD I never knew I had. Tebogo’s carefree, he wakes up much later and is an avid music lover. We struggled with this to the point that we both felt like the other had unrealistic expectations of who we are. There is nothing worse than feeling like you have to put on a persona for somebody you love whilst dying inside because you feel inadequate as who you are. We are working on meeting each other’s expectations and communicating in a kinder and loving way until we can both settle in well and understand each other better. I have had to realise that I cannot control some of Tebogo’s actions, that is what makes him unique. He on the other hand, has had to learn how to adapt to living with a female especially growing up in a household with 6 males.
5. Do the little things