February is the month of love but, in today’s high-pressure world, not all of us are lucky in love. Rolling Inspiration asked two couples for their success secrets.
Understanding each other’s disabilities
This year is a big year for Lebogana Monyati (22) as she joins the ranks of thousands of first year students at university. She will be studying marketing at the Tshwane University of Technology.
She contracted polio when she was young but this has never stopped her from achieving academically, socially or on the sports field. She played basketball for Central Conference and the North West Province and hopes to play for Gauteng this year.
She has also been in relationship for the past five years. “Emmanuel and I met at school. He also has a physical disability, but he can walk. His one leg is shorter than the other.” Luckily Emmanuel will also be studying at Tshwane together with Lebogana this year. He is doing a public relations course. Lebogana says that the fact that both of them have a physical disability has meant that they understand each other. “For example he is very supportive of my sporting career. This understanding, together with a strong level of trust, has kept our relationship strong.”
“We love each other regardless of who we are or our disability and this has made our relationship very strong. I consider myself lucky to have him and can see us getting married in the future.”
Hailing from the Cape, Eulleen van Heyden (56) and her husband Ian (41) have been married for 17 years. Eulleen suffers from a rare bone disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease or “Lobstein syndrome”). A genetic bone disorder, people with OI either have less collagen than normal or the quality is poorer than normal. As collagen is an important protein in bone structure, this impairment causes those with the condition to have weak or fragile bones.
For the last few years she has been using a wheelchair. “Years ago I used callipers and crutches to get around. This is how I met Ian. I use to take the bus to work and back. I always took the same bus in the morning and the evening so the people on the bus and the bus drivers all knew me. This was useful because I am also very short and cannot manage the first step onto or off the bus as it is very high. So the people on the bus would assist me.”
“One Friday afternoon on my way home I was on the bus and chatting to a lady I knew. Unknown to me Ian was on the same bus and his mother was good friends with this same lady. When the bus came to my stop, she asked Ian to assist me. Afterwards he introduced himself and walked me home.”
A couple of weeks later Eulleen was shopping at the nearby store and bumped into Ian. “He was with his sister shopping. He took her home with her groceries and rushed back to help me. When we got to where I stayed I invited him in for coffee. He then visited again and a while later invited me for lunch at his parents’ house. So I met his family”
Seven months later they were engaged and within a year the two were married. “I have never regretted my decision to marry Ian, who is ablebodied. Before we were married he said to me that he sees me as the woman he loves. That love is not about the person’s body. He does not see my disability.”
This commitment and love has carried the couple through some rough times. In total Eulleen has had 49 fractures and undergone 18 operations. “In 1989 I was in hospital for six months (my legs were basically growing skew). During that time Ian came to see me every day. It was tiring for him and it was a strain on our relationship. So much so, that while I was still in hospital we went for counselling to work through this difficult patch.”
After she came out of hospital she was not able to walk for four to five months “But Ian stood by me. In the face of such adversity many people would not have shown such commitment, but Ian said to me: “I made a commitment to you and God and I will always be there for you”.
And he still is. Ian says their happiness is based on their love for each other. “We love each other and we have maintained and grown this love through the years because we have learnt to consider each other’s needs. All relationships have ups and downs, but we have learnt that the quicker you deal with the downs the better. Holding a grudge in a relationship is negative and leads to bigger problems. We forgive each other quickly.”
Eulleen was featured in the book, Look at Me, by Marlene le Roux. She tells her story in the book together with 22 other women who have faced and overcome adversity in their lives.