It is normal for a couple to have its share of ups and downs, whether the relationship is two years old or 20. When you’re first together, everything is exciting and passion becomes effortless. And that’s a beautiful thing. With time, keeping the romance and heat alive in a relationship becomes an effort. The passion fades because of various reasons such as arguing over small things or when you stop listening to each other. But bringing back the spark in any relationship is totally doable, if you and your partner are willing to work on it. There are couples who go through it and overcome, and there are those who grow strengthening their bond without any efforts.
Here are real-life couples based in Dar es Salaam who talk to Life&Style on their journey of togetherness, how to make it happen, reveal secrets to bring back the spark and set example in keeping the passion alive.
Bernard and Matilder
In July this year, Bernard Mukasa, 41, and Matilder Sendwa, 35, celebrated their 13th marriage anniversary but their love story dates back to 1995. Matilder, now a mother of four, laid eyes on Bernard at the church. Matilder, was part of the church choir back then. Bernard joined her gospel as a singer too and the first word they exchanged was a ‘shikamoo’.
“From the first day I saw her at the church I was attracted to her,” Bernard tells turning towards Matilder. As the couple exchange a smile, Matilder says, “I was so young – I think I was in standard five. But Bernard has always been attracted to me.” Bernard continues, “I used to walk four to five days in a week from Changombe to Makaburi just so that I get to see her at the church. Why do you think I joined her gospel group?” They both laugh.
When Bernard proposed, Matilder was two minds. She says, “During my school years, I used to stay with my sister and her husband. She was very strict. Despite telling Bernard to keep it low if we were to date, Bernard insisted and went on to be open about it to my sister and brother-in-law. Things didn’t go right and we broke up.” Bernard intrudes laughing, “Breakup lasted for three weeks and we officially started dating in 1999 and got married after we completed studies, that was in 2005.”
The couple have two girls and two boys, the eldest one being 11-years-old. On their journey after marriage, Matilder says, “We share a lot of things together; our interests, hobbies, dislikes, things we don’t agree with. We both like going to church after working hours and after that we stay at home with the children. We have decided to live a real life, we are open to each other. If one of us makes a mistake, we communicate that right away, we don’t wait until it has become a big problem.”
Bernard agreeing to his wife, he adds, “20 years of togetherness has taught us a lot. It’s a journey. You know I still send her text messages when I am at work and missing her. It doesn’t take effort to write to her ‘I miss you’ or ‘I love you’.”
On why passion fades, Matilder shares her thought, “A lot of marriages become dormant and boring because many couples think being together for a long time or being married is the end of everything. Love has to be taken care of.” She adds her own experience, “Doing things together has made us stronger and know each other better. Frequent communication like let know of our where-abouts reduces the doubt among us. It is very important to nurture that habit because if your partner knows where you are, there is peace and there are no ill thoughts.”
Bernard adds, “I think it is important to still be friends in a relationship. We watch football matches together, whether at home or at the stadium and we support the same team, ‘Yanga’.”
The couple agrees to one thing that people in a relationship shouldn’t ignore the small things, because they matter, for example saying the magic words like ‘I am sorry’, ‘I love you’ or ‘I see you’.
Bernard shows Life&Style his phone where he says, “I have saved her name as Sweety on my phone. It makes her happy. See it is the small things.” Bernard grabs Matilder’s hand and shares, “I love her more than ever before, because now she is not only important to me but also to my children. Our world revolves around her and I respect her. She is our happiness.”
Tips from Bernard and Matilder:
• Focus on emotional intimacy. Do not ignore when your partner says ‘I do not like this’. It might not matter for you but for your partner it is a big deal. Learn to understand that.
• Take up a new activity and do things together as much as possible. This gives you a break from your daily routine and can shake things up.
• Make relationship a priority. Mistakes are part of life, not just in a relationship. So if there’s a habit that annoys you, wait for the right time, sit with them and in a friendly tone explain why it is not right or doesn’t work for you.
• Get your texting game on. No harm to drop in a text saying ‘I love you’ that will make your partner go down the memory lane thinking ‘he used to do it’ and ‘he still does’.
Pastor Hezron and Estina
Pastor Hezron Baraka and Estina believe in destiny. They first met in 1989 through a common friend and parted ways. After five years, they met again at a local church. Pastor Hezron, 58, looks at Estina, 49, and teases her saying, “You didn’t remember me at all. I had to remind you who I was.” They both chuckle.
Estina adds on to it, “In 1994 when we met again, I was a gospel singer and he was a believer. After a year, he became an evangelist at the same church I used to go to and that’s when we started seeing each other more often.”
Estina looks at her husband and says, “Do you remember our first date when you sent your sister in law instead of yourself?” She continues, “He was very shy and still is. I requested his sister to tell him to come in person. And he did after two days and came straight to the point. He proposed.”
Pastor adds, “It took her a month just to say yes. She played it hard, made me wait.”
Estina and Pastor Hezron were married the following year and are blessed with four children, the oldest one being 20.
Despite the huge gap in terms of their educational background, the couple says, that did not stop them from loving and respecting one another’s opinion.
But not all love stories are a fairy-tale. The journey of togetherness came with a lot of challenges and hardships, but the couple never channelled it into making their relationship bitter – in fact their bond and passion grew even stronger.
“My wife stood by me through thick and thin,” Pastor adds a note.
On what keeps them going, the couple says, “Things that make our relationship exciting is that we make each and every decision together – small or big. Whether it is financial matters, children or anything – it is something we have built since our relationship started and that has helped us.”
Tips from Pastor Hezron and Estina:
• Bring back that respect. When arguments happen, don’t do that in front of the children. You lose respect for one another. Sit somewhere privately and discuss in a low tone.
• Trust your partner – sometimes we suffer more in imagination than reality
Why bonds weaken
Amani Mwaipaja, a social expert based in Dar es Salaam who is also a relationship counsellor tells Life&Style that there is no good or bad in a relationship, it depends on how each couple sees the purpose of the relationship from the beginning.
And that has to start with being honest to one another. He adds, “Relationship which is built on lies doesn’t last, if it happens to last for any reason, it becomes bitter, boring and frustrating due to frequent misunderstandings,”
Relationship is a feeling, as Mwaipaja defines. He explains, “If one of the partners feel betrayed then they start looking for other places where they will feel secured and this is one of the reasons most couples are still together but they don’t have feelings for each other. They stay together because they are used to each other or they have other responsibilities they should do together but not love.”
Mwaipaja advises; Habits that are not compatible to one another kills the spark in any relationship; a good relationship is the one that a couple understands one another’s background, tradition and customs, education level, upbringing and focus it try to work around it positively.
Tips from the expert
• Go on actual dates again: When was the last time the two of you planned a special occasion to just spend time together? I’m talking about actually putting some time on the calendar where the both of you get ready and go out and do something together. It’s easy to get comfortable in a relationship and forget to set aside time to just connect.
• Increase physical contact: When life is frantic, it’s easy to fall into a pattern where you barely look at each other once the other party comes home, but it pays to get up from whatever you’re doing and give each other a big hug. Studies show oxytocin, a feel-good hormone is released through physical contact (yep, massages helps too), helping you to naturally feel closer and better about yourself and your relationship.