Lubabalo Mxalisa + Keneilwe Motha on discovering layers of their love, travelling + more

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Words: Refiloe Legoale | Images: Supplied

It’s that special time of the year again when we remember love and it’s importance in our lives, and kick off the month of love with the Between Us series.

Most of the time, we are presented with opportunities for reconnecting with a loved one. Much like in Lu and Nei’s case, drifting apart is neither random nor inevitable. However, it’s the small choices we make that can help nudge us along the path to reconnection and love. With that comes a chance for experiencing a series of firsts and discovering the many layers to your relationship.

In part two of our series, we step into Lu and Nei’s story as they talk about love, traveling, family and everything in between.

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“Are we late!,” shouts Lubabalo. He and Keneilwe are scuffling about trying to find the best angle for their camera. They finally settle down into our video call, seated side by side at their home in Johannesburg, Nei in a bucket hat and Lu in a relaxed T-shirt.

Nei insists on telling their story, which began back in high school because, apparently, her version is the truth. “I remember the story so I’m going to tell it.” The couple went to the same high school. They didn’t talk much back then, although they did notice each other. It was only after they left high school that they connected.

“Three years later, we reconnected on Facebook. Lu inboxed me asking for styling tips, which I thought was very random. I ended up styling him and that’s when he asked me out on our first lunch date and, as they say, the rest is history.” Lu on the other hand is adamant that he was only reaching out to her for styling tips. “I didn’t know I was going to be trapped, I found myself in this relationship!,” he says jokingly.

They say first impressions are lasting and for Nei that couldn’t be more true. She vividly remembers what Lu was wearing. “He was wearing a flat cap, the large old-school type and I hated it! He paired it with an off-red shirt, nude chinos and a nude checkered jacket. According to Nei, she saved Lu’s fashion sense. “Do you see why he needed styling tips?,” she asks and laughs out loud.

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Their love for each other is undeniable but how do they define it?. “Love for me is caring and respecting your partner’s beliefs and their way of love,” says Nei.

“Love has become a tangible feeling; you can almost see it but at the same time you feel it. It is not something you give but one that receives you. And when something receives you, it has no conditions. I’ve come to understand that you don’t go out looking for love, it will find its way to you,”[8] says Lu, his response eliciting a smitten expression on Nei’s face.“You never say this to me,” she laughs, to which Lu replies: “I was waiting for the right time, I can’t be this deep while we’re watching tv.”

The couple thrives on being present in the moment. Lu mentions that they’re big on communicating their feelings and knowing each other’s love language, which constantly changes for them. “Previously, Nei loved my cooking but that’s changed, she’s into foot rubs now and that’s something she never had to tell me, I discovered it myself.”

For the couple, the moments when they feel the most connected and in love is when they’re exploring the world. “Being in different parts of the world together and having first-time experiences together - it’s as if we feel the same thing whenever we get the chance to travel. It has come to a point where we don’t enjoy traveling with anyone outside of our relationship”, says Lu.

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They recall how two of their favourite traveling experiences include a trip to Hong Kong and The Kruger National Park. “That was my first safari experience and on that trip, we connected on a deeper level, it was a beautiful oasis,” says Nei. Hong Kong on the other hand revealed a side of Nei that Lu didn’t know existed.

“On our first night there, we left the hotel at 10 in the evening to explore the city.We didn’t know where we were going and the night ended with us finding the best restaurants and indulging in good food. I’ll always remember this because Nei never goes to a restaurant she hasn’t extensively researched, but on that trip, she was willing to get lost, try new food and make everlasting memories.” Lu adds.

Family is everything to the couple. Over the years they’ve been able to intertwine both their families into a close-knit unit. “We are in love with each other’s families”, says Nei. A moment Lu will forever cherish is their first Christmas together in 2018. “For the first time in a while I felt the spirit of a family on that day and the fact that Keneilwe was there will forever be special to me. My family has now put her on dessert duty for every Christmas going forward.”

For Nei, her fondest memory is when Lu drove her, her grandmother, and her mother to their homestead in Mpumalanga. “I love how my granny loved him from the get-go and accepted him in her home. My grandmother is my heart, and for her to embrace Lu and accept him for who he is means the world to me.”

The conversation ends with the reading of love notes they’ve written to each other:

I appreciate you a lot, I thank you for being my pillar of strength and I love you,” Love Nei.

Many are on the quest to change their lives but I didn’t know meeting you would change my life.” Love Lu.

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