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From matric dance to marriage – soulmates look back

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High school sweethearts may not always stay together, but when they do, having a shared history can add a different dimension to their relationship. Three couples whose teen love stories took them to the chuppah share their stories.

Just 14 and 13 respectively, Jonathan and Michal Zinman started dating in October 1997 during their first year of high school. “We met on the first day of Form One [Grade 8] at King David Linksfield,” Jonathan recalls. Part of the same social circle, the two were initially very good friends and that evolved into a relationship.

“We used to speak a lot on the phone on those old landlines,” Jonathan recalls. Laughing, Michal says, “where you had to speak awkwardly to the parents before you could speak to each other”. It was on one of those phone calls that Jonathan told her he liked her. From school tours to the matric dance to the general day-to-day challenges of growing up, they stayed by each other’s side. Ulpan was a definite high school highlight, they say. “To be in Israel together for three months was amazing,” says Jonathan.

“We both knew instantly that we’d get married,” says Michal. “We always used to say that we knew this was going to end up in a marriage – we were too young to feel so in love with one another.” Both 29 when they got married, Jonathan jokes that he doesn’t know why it took so long.

Having been together for so long eased any anxiety about fitting into one another’s families, says Michal. “We grew up in one another’s homes, we were a part of each other’s families from such a young age.” The enduring shared friendships that they established in high school are also a benefit of having such an extensive history together, they say.

Though the two had breaks when Jonathan studied in Cape Town and Michal temporarily lived in Israel, they always knew their future lay with one another. Speaking of how their relationship has grown, Jonathan says what began as infatuation has grown into a mature, pure love where they support one another completely. “We have three beautiful kids, and it’s amazing how it’s evolved to really knowing what we want. We’ve both become religious, and it has enhanced our relationship and family life.”

“We’re on the same path,” Michal says. “We’re behind one another, supporting each other and growing together all the time. We have the same goals, not only for ourselves as individuals but also for our kids and our family.” Their relationship has stood the test of time, says Jonathan because of their deep love for one another and desire to make each other happy every day.

“We can be very vulnerable, open and honest with one another,” says Michal. “There’s a lot of love and kindness. We put each other before ourselves.”

When Lisa Sher* moved from a government school to King David Victory Park in Grade 11, she jokes that she had never seen so many Jewish boys in one place. But it was matric pupil Daniel Sher* that quickly stood out. Lisa’s friend, who knew Daniel from camp, helped facilitate their first date, and the rest is history.

Together, they’ve marked countless milestones, including being one another’s matric dance partners. “That was sweet because we were able to do his one year and mine the following year,” says Lisa. They were also a big support for one another during the socially fraught years of high school.

“Once, when I was on holiday in Umhlanga, my friends were awful to me, and I just left Umhlanga with Daniel and his friends,” Lisa recalls. “There were also cute things like the fact that he taught me to drive. I had a car and no license, and he had his license and no car. So, we would go out, I would be the learner driver, and he would be the licensed driver next to me.”

In spite of one brief breakup – they reunited after Lisa’s mother told her she was making a big mistake – the couple dated for several years before getting married. Now they’re approaching 30 years of marriage. “We’ve literally been together more than we’ve been apart,” says Lisa. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Though Lisa acknowledges that no marriage is easy in the face of life’s challenges, she says their relationship has always just worked. “We’ve got three kids, and there are stressful points but that’s the case in any marriage. We’re different, but we complement each other, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We also think very similarly, and we’ve been fortunate that we’ve grown in the same way. It was just bashert.” Not only did Lisa find true love at high school, her younger sister also married her high school sweetheart whom she met when she moved to King David alongside her sister.

Marli Goldberg was in Grade 10 when she met her future husband, Jonathan Goldberg, who was in matric at the time. They had similar friends, one of whom introduced them. “We were really good friends for about six months until he was adamant that he wanted to be my boyfriend,” she recalls. “Although he made the first move, I thought he had the sweetest smile, beautiful eyes, and an amazing personality.”

Jonathan encouraged Marli to concentrate on her studies at school and provided emotional support during the challenges. Though Marli’s school didn’t have a co-ed matric dance, Jonathan still took her out for dinner and dancing the weekend of the dance so they could have fun together. “He knew he was going to marry me from the second date,” Marli recalls. “He even told my parents that at the first Shabbos we had as a family. I knew that I wanted a man like him – someone compassionate, entrepreneurial, who would make an incredible dad and an even better life partner.”

Speaking of marrying her best friend at 20, Marli says that being together so long has helped them grow as a couple. “I always say that arguing or disagreeing is vital in a relationship as it shows that you have something to fight for. But, when we do argue, we work it out quicker than most other couples.

“We’ve been through a ton, and I feel that which would have broken us has really brought us together. We’re a stronger and closer force to be reckoned with. We just complement each other. Marriage is never 50/50 – someone is always going to give or take more, and you need to learn to compromise by giving or taking what’s needed at that moment.”

*Names have been changed.

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