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A second chance at first love

Getting married twice is not just for celebrity couples like Elon Musk and Talulah Riley. If you give love a chance, you will be richly awarded and may just end up marrying the same man or woman you have divorced. We chat to Charmaine and Gerhard Starbuck about their second chance at love.

Many people get back together again after breaking up. Some will be in an on-and-off relationship for years. However, it is less likely that you will rekindle your marriage after a divorce.

But that’s exactly what Charmaine and Gerhard from Alberton did.

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The couple has known each other for 27 years, got married and have been divorced for 22 years but reunited and got married for a second time on December 12, 2021.

How their story started

Gerhard was born in Gqeberha, previously known as Port Elizabeth, and grew up in Standerton in Mpumalanga, while Charmaine was born and bred in Germiston.

He works overseas while Charmaine was the principal of Kalossie Kleuterskool that now moved to Laerskool President Steyn.

Both of them were married and divorced before they met through a mutual friend in 1994.

‘He asked me to accompany him to a job function. I was sceptical because we were both fresh out of broken marriages. His defence was that he did not want to marry me but only needed a date. I accepted and accompanied him,’ she said.

‘The evening was cosy, and I remember he just stared at me all night.’

Their first wedding was at Home Affairs on April 2 in 1997 after their daughter, Chanté’s, birth.

‘Gerhard wanted to keep it private and I was happy with that,’ said Charmaine.

The couple has two children, Justin, from Gerhard’s previous marriage, and their daughter Chanté. They are also proud grandparents to their grandson, Aidan.

‘Justin, Christine and Aidan emigrated to London in 2019.’

Time apart

The couple got divorced on July 27 in 1998 due to external factors, such as the ghosts of the past of broken marriage, and emotional instability.

It had a negative impact on their marriage, and they felt it was going to hurt their daughter emotionally.

‘We did not want to raise her in that milieu and we decided to divorce. Both of us were in tears on the day the divorce was finalised, but the clumsiness that prevailed in both of us was too great,’ they said.

However, during their separation, they co-parented and lived under the same roof from time to time when Gerhard visited from overseas.

Charmaine said during their time apart, they learned their emotional and spiritual connection to commit will not stop them from being a unit.

Finding each other again

On December 25 in 2019, Charmaine became ill with Covid-19.

Things had been very tense between the two at that point, and they were like total strangers to each other.

Gerhard had been away from home for months on end, sometimes six months at a time with no communication between them and sometimes just a message two months apart.

Charmaine said she went through an extremely stressful period.

‘I collapsed emotionally and ended up in ICU. Gerhard came to me and said it was as if reality had struck him between the eyes. He had no access to me. It made us both realise what we meant to each other,’ Charmaine explained.

‘I was admitted to the hospital for eight weeks and received intensive therapy. Gerhard walked the path with me and it made our bond stronger. It was like a new beginning for us.’

At that point, Gerhard also got the offer to work in America and had to leave his family behind in South Africa.

‘He did not want to, but Chanté and I urged him not to let the opportunity pass. It was a huge decision for us, but it was the right one.’

This is when they learned that their love was patient.

They have always had a got-your-back type of relationship.

‘We gave each other 22 years. Years which gave us the chance to evolve to where we are now being happy and grateful for each other. It could have turned out completely sad, but it did not. It is certainly our sign that we were destined and are for one another,’ they said.

A second wedding

Their children have always wanted them to be reunited, but Chanté did not want to hear anything about a second Home Affairs wedding.

‘She put her wedding plans on hold to plan mine,’ said Charmaine.

On December 12 in 2021, Gerhard and Charmaine got married for a second time at B’Unique in Boksburg.

‘It was a small, intimate ceremony with family and friends. My mother-in-law, Petro Starbuck (85), could not honour us with her presence, but she attended a live recording of events in the privacy of her living room in Standerton Nursing Home. She has been waiting for this for 22 years,” she said.

Charmaine picked out a green colour scheme for her wedding, as it is not only her favourite colour but it also symbolises the overall growth she and Gerhard have undergone over the last nine months before the wedding.

‘We have just gone from strength to strength. I walked down the aisle with our Yorkshire terrier, Blue, Chanté and my future son-in-law to my future husband. It was a moment I longed for for 22 years,’ said Charmaine.

What the future holds

With Gerhard working in America, Charmaine will be focusing on her career and new journey as a Grade R teacher at Laerskool President Steyn.

‘The future is full of promising prospects. It’s our priority to make them a reality and it is not something we could take lightly or reject,’ the couple said.

They have been handling the long-distance relationship very well.

‘’With factors like Covid-19, distance apart with literally no supporting framework, we realised that personal support, dedication, sincerity and trust only draw us closer to each other daily.’

Emigration is one of their goals

Emigrating overseas is one of their goals, but it is a long process and can take anything from 18 to 24 months.

‘I would like to travel to America in July and have a honeymoon with Gerhard. We do need to save up for that, and I also want to go and pick out a new wedding ring for myself, as we used our old wedding bands again.’

Handling conflict

Charmaine and Gerhard said they were the king and queen of conflict.

‘Over the last months, Gerhard has taught me well, and all of my therapy sessions during my hospitalisation were invaluable.

‘I’ve learnt during my therapy sessions that you have to listen to what your partner is trying to tell you, exclude the negative and seek the positive out of any situation and build on that.’

Advice to others

‘I don’t believe at a young age or at the beginning of your relationship that anyone understands marriage, the commitment and the journey. It’s a deep, complex dance of giving and taking. Friendship is more valuable in the relationship than gold,’ said Charmaine.

‘We realised that the older you get, the more you understand the meaning of life, love, friendship and unconditional love. Make sure you find each other first on an emotional level, this is what ensures bite without biting through. It took us 27 years, and there are still miracles in our world,’ they said.

* Text: ELZAAN PIENAAR. Photo: ELZAAN PIENAAR

 

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