Romantic relationships can be extremely fulfilling and satisfying – when they’re happy and healthy. But sometimes life can get in the way of this, putting some strain on the dynamic between you and your loved one. No matter the scenario though, certain relationship principles always hold, and if done right, can take your love affair to new heights.

Keep the lines of communication open

Tonderai Nyamadzawo and Alice Ncube were high school sweethearts growing up in Zimbabwe. Even though they were young, their feelings were too strong to ignore. When Alice was awarded a scholarship to study at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, the real test of their love began. They had never been apart and now found themselves in separate countries.

‘It was torturous on my side, I won’t lie,’ says Tonderai. ‘I had never been to South Africa and one would hear stories about how girls from Zimbabwe would get up to all sorts of mischievous things there. At times you would also see young ladies returning home with children. I thought I was doomed.’ While he knew Alice was in South Africa studying, his mind played tricks on him. Was there another man taking care of her needs? Was his disadvantaged rural background going to work against him?

Tonderai decided he was going to fight for her. He had no intention of relocating to South Africa, but something had to give. ‘I started communicating with my uncles in Johannesburg then scrambled for transport money to move there.’

He lived with his uncles while doing menial jobs, and his breakthrough came when he started working for an electrician. The electrician taught him well, and on weekends Tonderai began building up his own client base as a side hustle. He was eventually able to start his own electrical services company.

Before Alice completed her university degree, Tonderai had paid her bridal price. But Alice had her own insecurities. She thought her partner would be forced into marriage because of his age. ‘I was really afraid that the long distance relationship would not work,’ she says. ‘But I had to accept the scholarship – I come from a poor family and that was my only ticket.’

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In her first year in varsity, communication was restricted. ‘This was way before WhatsApp so we could only SMS once a month and I found that very challenging,’ says Alice. Things began to look up when she got a waitressing job. ‘I was then able to phone him.’

She adds that during her semester holidays, she would travel to Johannesburg where she stayed with a friend and got to see Tonderai. During the December holidays they travelled back home together.

Tonderai’s determination paid off. Today, they are happily married and blessed with three beautiful children. Their secret to staying together? ‘People
often underestimate the power of communication. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it had not been for good communication.’

Their advice to other couples is to talk as much as possible. ‘I remember I had to write a snail mail letter because I had no money to send an SMS,’ recalls Tonderai. ‘It gave me the freedom to fully express myself.’

Be there for each other
SABC 1 recently broadcast a heart-wrenching story on the popular show, NGO Musa, which highlights the plights people face in their lives. This particular story was that of Pastor Jerry Zwane and his wife Karabo, and how their lives changed when they discovered that they were battling infertility.

After eight years and six miscarriages, Karabo was told that she was completely infertile and she had no chance of conceiving. ‘You can’t talk to your father about it because your father has another plan, which is to get another wife. You feel isolated, you feel lonely,’ says Pastor Zwane.

‘Infertility is still regarded as a taboo subject in South Africa, and a lot of couples still experience terrible shame around it,’ he adds. With little to no hope, they tried artificial insemination twice and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), but
to no avail.

Like any other woman going through infertility, Karabo’s world was crumbling around her. She had become the laughing stock of her community and there were whispers about her husband taking another wife who could give him a child. ‘The pillar of strength in our personal journey was that we were friends. I am naturally a prayerful person and I prayed hard day and night,’ she recalls.

‘When we were facing the challenge of miscarriage and not conceiving, we knew we had each other as a big support structure. It was difficult for me because when we got married he already had a son. It put the spotlight on me.’ Visiting family and attending gatherings became an emotional task for them.

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After eight painful years of struggling, they still had hope and faith, and against all odds, Karabo gave birth to a healthy baby.

The couple are now pioneers in raising awareness around infertility. In March last year, they staged Africa’s first ever Fertility Show.

Their advice to couples who are experiencing infertility: ‘There is always hope. The most important thing is knowledge. If you know what your diagnosis is, your treatment specialist can help you with treatment options.’ They stress that support is everything.

Karabo adds,‘We had family and friends who were there for us, who would pray for us. Support is vital.’

Ride or die for each other
What’s the worst that could happen to a couple before their big wedding day? A horrific accident. Former tennis player, Zanele Ngwenya, fell victim to a near-fatal accident just five days before her wedding.

Zanele had been canoeing in Victoria Falls with her partner, Jamie Fox, when a blood-thirsty African crocodile clamped onto her right arm, ripping it to pieces. It latched onto her other arm but Jamie responded quickly enough to save her from further threat. Zanele was rushed to hospital and the doctors managed to save her life, but she lost her arm.

‘The pain was excruciating,’ says Zanele, ‘But with Jamie by my side, I summoned the strength to fight through it.’ The accident proved too little to halt their plans and they insisted on proceeding with the wedding – at the hospital chapel.

In a YouTube video, Jamie explains how, before the accident, Zanele had been running around making sure the decor and their wedding venue at Vic Falls was up to par. Little did they know they would end up getting married in a hospital chapel.

He added that the accident had given new meaning to their vows. ‘In one week we went from shock and agony to a truly amazing experience. This incident actually made me feel the deep meaning in our vows. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, that’s just how our love is going to be,’ says Jamie.

It’s been two years since that horrific accident and they have since relocated to the United Kingdom. Zanele now has a prosthetic arm and believes that any couple can overcome whatever obstacles life throws at them if they work together.

‘When you fall in love, it’s no longer about you, it’s about us. My husband supported me incredibly during my transition of having to live with one hand,’ says Zanele. ‘Love is a simple word, defining that love requires action.

We are in this together.’

True love is beautiful and no matter what gets thrown at it, it will always win.

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