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What Nelson Mandela Can Teach Us About Love and Relationships

Bruce Muzik 12-17

Nelson Mandela Was A Hopeless Romantic Besides being a freedom fighter and visionary leader, Madiba (Nelson Mandela’s tribal name) was also a starry eyed Lover - with a capital L. Married 3 times, his love for his 2nd wife, Winnie, got him through 27 years in prison. From his prison cell on Robben Island he wrote regularly to Winnie. In one letter he wrote: “Your beautiful photo still stands about two feet above my left shoulder as I write this note. I dust it carefully every morning, for to do so gives me the pleasant feeling that I’m caressing you as in the old days. I even touch your nose with mine to recapture the electric current that used to flush through my blood whenever I did so.”

Nelson Mandela - April 15, 1976. Electric current flushing through his blood? These are the poetic words of a man deeply in love. Nelson and Winnie's Wedding Day In another letter to her he wrote, “Strength and supreme optimism runs through my blood because I know you love me.” Madiba thrived on the strength and support that his relationship with Winnie gave him. “Whenever I write you, I feel that inside physical warmth, that makes me forget all my problems. I become full of love.” It appears that Nelson Mandela’s ability to make a difference in the world was grounded in the solidarity of his unbreakable bond with his wife.

“During the two decades I spent on Robben Island she was an indispensable pillar of support and comfort…” Nelson Mandela speaking of his second wife, Winnie Mandela Nelson Mandela Helped Uncover Something Extraordinary – That Very Few People Know About Something else you may not know about Madiba is that he and Sir Richard Branson were remarkably close friends. The two of them brought together the greatest peace makers and social revolutionaries of our time to help solve global problems. They called this group The Elders. The Elders The Elders – including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Graca Michel My friend Jean Oelwang (CEO of Sir Richard global charity, Virgin Unite) told me a great story about a week she spent with Madiba and The Elders at Sir Richard’s private Caribbean retreat, Necker Island…

Sir Richard asked Jean to study this group of the greatest living leaders of our time and discover what they all had in common. At the end of the week, this group of world leaders could only find one thing that they all had in common. It’s not what you may think: They ALL had an extraordinary romantic relationship with their spouse. That’s it. The only thing they could find. Coincidence? I think not. So, what is it about relationships that can spark such greatness in us?

For me, it’s that feeling of being INVINCIBLE that comes when I feel loved and supported unconditionally by my partner – who knows me inside out and accepts me warts and all (I have many, so this quite an accomplishment). As a man, there is no feeling more intoxicating than feeling my lover gaze into my eyes, her heart radiating love for me. I feel invincible with her by my side. I take leaps of faith I otherwise might not have taken. It is these moments that inspire me to keep striving, keep facing my fears and giving my gift to the world. Have you ever noticed how inspired you feel after a closely connected or intimate moment with your spouse? I think Nelson Mandela instinctively knew this… …and at 80 years of age, he chose to marry again – this time to Graca Machel.

He spoke similarly of his relationship with her: “Late in life, I am blooming like a flower because of the love and support she has given me.” Nelson Mandela speaking of his third wife, Graca Machel Nelson Mandela’s Secret Super Power Does your relationship give you the sense of support, security and love that Madiba’s gave him? If not, perhaps it’s time to make some changes. Far from being perfect, Madiba’s last two marriages stand as a testimonial to the power that a loving romantic relationship has to support us being the best we can be… or the worst we can be. It’s up to you which you choose to express. Madiba chose to wield that power to unite a nation. But, every day I work with couples in troubled relationships that are choosing to wield that power to wage war against their partner. And every week I am moved to tears when one of those couples chooses Love instead of fear. Which will you choose? Love or fear? Nelson Mandela painting Nelson Mandela – by Android Jones

This is my brush stroke on the incredible canvas that is Nelson Mandela’s legacy. His legacy calls us to: love rather than fear forgive rather than hate reconcile rather than resent accept rather than make wrong share rather than hoard seek understanding rather than blindly judge. As overwhelming as it may seem to try to live a life as principled as Madiba’s, you can start small with this simple idea: You and I both have some of Madiba’s essence in us. Whenever you’re in a tight spot or don’t know which choice to make, ask yourself this: “What would Madiba do?” Try it. You’ll discover a profound wisdom inside you that you may not have know was there. To shining bright together.

Bruce Muzik Founder of Love At First Fight


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