‘I got married at 19, divorced at 21 – then my ex married my best friend, here’s what I learnt’

Ikhona Hlezuphondo learnt some valuable life lessons when her marriage fell apart. Photo supplied by Ikhona Hlezuphondo

Ikhona Hlezuphondo (23) never thought she would be a divorced mother of two at the age of 21.

But her mother, it seemed, saw the eventual demise of her marriage right from the beginning. Ikhona says she her mother disapproved of the union because she believed her daughter needed to finish school before getting married.

In love, Ikhona eventually got her mother’s approval to go ahead with the marriage. Believing that she was doing what’s best for her children as her ex-husband had promised to be a father to them, Ikhona thought her life would finally fall into place. Her husband even went as far as asking her to cut ties with the children’s fathers.

“When I decided to get married, I was not sure at first. But because my ex-husband was a well-known God-fearing man, most people at church and other family members approved of him, so I went on and married him,” says Ikhona.

The marriage took place in 2015, while Ikhona was in Grade 10 and 19 years old. Her husband was given a church to pastor, and she became Mam’ Mfundisi (a pastor’s wife). Ikhona admits she loved people and the Lord but was not prepared for such a role.

However, she shared all her problems with her best friends, who would advise on how to approach some of her challenges, making things a bit easier for her.

marriage, love, betrayal, divorce, depression
Ikhona decided to reclaim her peace of mind and prioritise her children when her marriage failed. Photo supplied.

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After a year of marriage, there were signs of infidelity, but Ikhona decided to ignore them all. Ikhona then noticed that her husband didn’t seem to have an ounce of love for her children who didn’t live with them.

“It was hard for me to take care of my kids or even see them because my ex-husband believed that children from outside wedlock are what breaks most marriages,” says Ikhona.”Also, the duties of being Mam’Fundisi, a wife and being at school were overwhelming, so I decided to quit school.”

Her marriage continued to go downhill as there was no longer love and the arguments increased, so the couple decided to divorce.

“I had to choose whether to stay in an unhappy marriage with a husband who does not love my kids and not knowing when he would accept them or leave. I could no longer do it, so I chose an education and my kids,” she says.

After the divorce was finalised, her ex-husband told her he was getting married to her best friend, who had been her confidant throughout their marriage. Ikhona also lost a lot of friends and acquaintances during her divorce.

“I felt broken, betrayed and ashamed. I was confused and not sure where I belonged in church. I used to cry every day. Sometimes I wished I could go back to my ex-husband. I was lonely. It was hard for me to ever listen to any pastor preaching because of my experience. But I eventually shared my pain with my pastor’s wife, who counselled me,” says Ikhona.

Ikhona says she learnt to be independent and that her children and well-being are more important than a failed marriage and lost friendships.

Moving from King William’s Town, where she lived with her ex, to Mpumalanga to pursue her studies, changed Ikhona’s life. She started to build friendships and start her makeup and beauty business as she grew through the pain.

She also went back to school, met a new partner and is in a happier place.

“Now I am in love with my partner and looking forward to getting married when the time is right. But for now, it’s me, God, my kids, and uplifting other women who are going through pain,” says Ikhona. – W24