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Johannesburg - We all remember our teenage crushes – the awkwardness, the agony, the heady emotions. We all remember our first dates – the rapid heartbeats, the overwhelming excitement, and the minute dissection of every gesture, every word and every touch…
But what is it like when we are dating at a more mature age? And when things start to get serious, what is going through our heads?
Experience changes us. We no longer take life or love for granted and many of us also have far more responsibilities, including children. For these and other reasons we tend to approach relationships a little more cautiously, but it doesn’t deter us from getting involved.
The beauty and dumbfounding craziness of love is that no matter how many times we’ve been in love or been hurt or caused hurt, love gets the better of us every time, irrespective of age.
Love keeps us on our toes. Around the very next corner is the possibility of that person who will dispel our cynicism and make us feel all the trappings of romance once more. Three couples share their stories of finding love after 40 or the second time around. All three couples got married last year.
Chevon, 45, and Mike, 55, Wadge
Mike and Chevon, who live in Johannesburg, had known each other from work for some time before they got together eight years ago.
“We worked in separate divisions of a financial services group and although we didn’t know each other well, we always had a good interaction when we dealt with each other on a business level and when we socialised at work functions,” Mike explains.
Chevon was the building manager for the group; Mike was the managing director of the group’s insurance broking division. Mike knew that Chevon had been divorced for many years, but Chevon was unaware that Mike was going through a divorce until a colleague told her. He later asked her to join him for a drink.
“We were both driving home after an office function in 2006 when he pulled up alongside my car at a traffic light,” Chevon recalls. “I jokingly asked him if he was following me, and that’s when he asked me if I would like to go for a drink. Our friendship grew from there and we started meeting more regularly.”
A relationship was not on the cards at first.
“I was trying to sort out my life and my divorce was in process, but I really enjoyed Chevon’s company and we chatted easily,” Mike explains.
“We spoke about relationships and the difficulty of divorce, especially when there are children involved. Chevon’s two children were very young when she got divorced; my two boys were in their early twenties.
“She helped me to deal with my divorce as she had been through it all, and she encouraged me to concentrate on the good things – like my two boys – and to know they would cope and that life does continue.
“We also discovered we shared a love of music,” says Mike, who started making CD compilations for Chevon. Any woman knows when a man does this he is interested in far more than friendship.
Mike met Chevon’s children first – they were then teenagers.
“Chevon’s kids lived with her, while mine were living with their mom, so I got to meet hers first,” Mike continues. “They were very positive towards me. Their mom had been single for some time and they wanted her to find happiness. Their dad had long since remarried.”
Chevon says: “It was wonderful getting to know Mike. I’d always liked him and even though he was in a senior position at work he was down to earth and easy to get on with.
“I never for one moment thought anything would happen with us, though, as all the girls liked him!” she laughs.
“What was so special is that nothing was forced. We took our time and really got to know each other as friends. When you are younger, you push for everything to happen fast, but when you are older you have responsibilities and you don’t want to hurt your children.”
Mike’s situation was emotional as his divorce took some time to go through. Mike realised that he was getting seriously involved again at a delicate time in his life.
“I knew this, but I also knew I wanted to commit to Chevon. All the feelings of desiring to be with her were there. It was exciting and it gave me hope for the future.”
Mike and Chevon moved in together and for some time had to deal with the tensions of “yours, mine and ours”.
“Living under one roof you have to deal with all the dynamics and emotions, but I think we did quite well,” says Mike.
Chevon adds: “We had some tough times, but whatever we were going through we didn’t doubt our relationship.” They lived together for several years before deciding to get married in September.
“It was important to see how we lived together, which is, I suppose, a reflection of being a bit older. After my divorce I had got involved with someone and tried living with him, but he really didn’t know how to share and he was very hard on my children. Mike is the opposite,” she says.
On top of all the emotional change, they changed jobs. Mike now heads the service delivery division for a large insurance company and Chevon has her own cakes-to-order business.
“Our wedding was beautiful and simple and it took a bit of adjustment to say ‘my husband’,” Chevon smiles.
“I really could not wish for anything more than I have with Mike. It’s not easy to find someone when you’re older and it can get lonely. I think Mike and I were really lucky to meet each other and I know I can speak for both of us when I say that after eight years we could not love each other more.”
Carol, 46, and Nic, 49, Stier
Four years ago Carol and Nic Stier found each other again on Facebook. Neither had married and nor could they have foreseen that Facebook would be their matchmaker. But, as that Facebook friend request came through to Carol from Nic, the past came rolling back for her, starting with her girlhood crush on him.
“I fell in love with Nic at a swimming gala in primary school. I was 7, he was 10 and he looked tanned and gorgeous in his black Speedo,” recalls Carol, a copy editor with the news agency, Sapa. Nick is a metal artist and they live in Melville, Joburg.
“Out of the blue at that gala he came up to me, put his hands on my shoulders and gave me a pep talk about my race. That day I swam as if my life depended on it.”
Her crush on Nic continued into high school, when they finally “held hands and got a bit steamy at a house party”. Carol was love-struck, but after the party Nic never called.
“We grew up in the 1980s and we would have a bit of a scene with this person and that person, but we didn’t think too much about it,” says Nic. He didn’t, but Carol did.
Come varsity, Nic was “the man” and Carol explains that all the girls adored him. She and Nic kept up their contact and even shared a commune, but Carol wasn’t giving him a second chance to hurt her, and kept her distance.
“I immersed myself in my work and embarked on a series of long-term, terribly inappropriate relationships, which left me in a soggy pile of mush every time,” she says.
“The years and hours passed and one day I woke up and realised that I hadn’t settled down, had no family of my own, no romance and no prospect of any either. I was not about to start clubbing or pubbing, and could not even imagine anything blossoming in the aisles of a shopping centre or bookshop. The gym was out of the question and internet dating was simply soul-destroying.”
Then she received the Facebook friend request from Nic.
“I hadn’t thought about him in years, other than to ponder whether he was dead or alive.”
He was working on a construction job in the Northern Cape and he asked whether she would like to meet up for lunch when he returned to Joburg for a long weekend in five weeks.
“I wasn’t thinking romantically, I had been in a long-term relationship that had ended quite badly,” he explains. “I had just joined Facebook and when Carol’s name came up I thought it would be good to get back in touch.” Five weeks later they went to lunch.
“What struck me immediately was that she was looking as lovely as she always had. And we spoke so easily, it felt like we had seen each other the day before. It was a very long lunch that continued until the next morning, and we have been together ever since,” he smiles.
Not quite, he had to return to the Northern Cape to complete the contract, and for a while they saw each other only every couple of weeks. Nic also needed to get used to Carol’s unusual hours as she often worked night shifts. But these were small issues. What struck them both was how much they enjoyed each other’s company. Four years later, in August, they got married.
“I think the big difference about getting married later on in life is that you are more open with each other,” says Carol. “When you are young you tend to be more insecure and self-conscious and hidden about yourself. You’re a bit more afraid of what to say or how to say it and how not to upset the apple cart. Now that we’re older, if we have something to say, we say it, and we are more honest with each other emotionally. If I’m upset I don’t try to hide it.”
Both comment how wonderful it is to have a partner with whom you can do things spontaneously and plan holidays, instead of having to do this alone or make arrangements with friends.
“Being single can be lonely. When you are 20 you don’t think about being lonely; you have your whole life ahead of you and you are far more arrogant about what you expect,” Carol says. “Now that we are in our forties we are older, wiser and content with enjoying a happy life together with our two Yorkies and our cat.”
Violet, 36, and Victor, 40, Mothiba
In December Victor and Violet got married twice in Polokwane: once at Violet’s home village, and again at Victor’s.
They had more than 7 000 guests at their combined wedding. “Everyone wanted to see who we’re marrying!” laughs Violet, a gospel singer and businesswoman. Victor is an audit manager in the insurance industry.
They met in Polokwane in 2007 when Victor was working as a teller for FNB.
Violet was a client and he asked her to go to lunch with him.
“I turned down the offer, but we chatted and I liked the way he spoke to me – he was interesting and respectful – and so when he asked for my cellphone number, I gave it to him,” says Violet, who had got divorced in 2006.
Victor’s first wife had died, leaving him with three children, who are now 14, eight and six.
Violet also had three children – now 14, eight and six – from her first marriage and was not looking for another relationship.
“I had decided never to marry again as I had been deeply hurt by my first husband who broke my trust,” says Violet.
The identical ages of their children must have been a sign of good things to come.
“What struck me about Victor was how much he wanted to help develop me as a person, which I hadn’t experienced before. He showed me where I could record my first album, which I did in 2009, and have since released three albums,” Violet continues.
“He also spoke about his first wife with such love that it touched me.”
Victor, who had married at 25, said: “It was heartbreaking when my first wife died in 2004 while giving birth to our third-born. My heart shut from the pain and I thought it would never open again until I met Violet.
“From the moment I met Violet in the bank I knew she was an amazing woman.
“She was my customer and she was so warm, with a magical smile and plenty of charisma. I wanted to get to know her better.
“The difference this time around is that I am more mature and I know more about life. I also know how to treat women far better than when I was 25.
“I understand now that women are strong, but they are also fragile and you need to be patient and tolerant.”
His patience paid off as Violet eventually agreed to have dinner with him and their relationship grew.
“I gave a lot of thought to getting married again,” says Violet.
“I didn’t want to make another mistake, but I also knew how lonely life can be as a single person. And here was this handsome, charming, respectful man wanting to be with me. I decided to say ‘Yes’.”
Violet adds that it was the right decision as they are happy together and their children like each other.
“The only thing I don’t like is that Victor works in Pretoria, where he stays during the week, and comes home to Polokwane at weekends,” Violet says.
“It would be wonderful to be able to move to Pretoria to be together, but we can do that only when our children are a bit older.”
Victor adds: “What is wonderful is that what we most want from each other is love and friendship. We accept each other as we are, with all of the characteristics we have, and we have a stable, happy home in which to bring up our six children and to share the love we have found with each other.”