Ria Coetzee was addressing a high tea held at the Slipperfields wedding venue ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Although the latest survey published recently by the South African Institute of Race Relations in Johannesburg showed that the number of marriages registered every year is declining despite an increasing population, Coetzee is a strong advocate of married life.
She held up her wedding band to show how its shape echoed that of the letter "o”, which in both Afrikaans and in English is the first letter in the word "our” ("ons”). It was important to see married life as a shared journey.
"If you are married, you are over the stage of ‘you’ and ‘I’, you are now at the ‘us’ stage.”
However, that did not mean that marriage was easy.
"What happens to people’s smiles in a relationship? Bad things do happen, life is not always smooth sailing and sometimes he may not want to talk for days,” Coetzee said.
Her advice was "always be the first to forgive – not because you did anything wrong but because you value the relationship”.
"Love does not keep a record of wrongs,” she said, quoting from the New Testament’s Corinthians, a passage often used in wedding ceremonies.
"In relationships there is always one who will be quicker to say ‘sorry’ but don’t dredge up old fights. You can’t do anything, it is rotten, move forward. The five most important words in your relationship are: ‘I am sorry, forgive me’.”
She also said that remaining in love was a choice, not chance
"Nobody falls in love by choice, it is always by chance, but, nobody falls out of love by chance, it is always by choice.
"And you can choose. Attitude is also a choice and sometimes you need to visualise a positive picture.
"If you treat someone with respect, you will begin to feel respect for them,” she said, adding that although this may seem like she was "simplifying” the process, our feelings did often follow behaviour.
"You can’t pick up a table and put it in the corner by yourself, but you can do it with the help of a second person.”
It was the same with a relationship: one person alone could only do so much, but for it really to work, both needed to work together on the marriage.
"Love is about work. We feel the way we feel because we do the things we do.
"I have been married for 38 years and have been counselling for 38 years and I have never stopped learning.”
One thing she had learnt, was that love was "unbelievably powerful”.
"It hurts so much if you don’t have it: life is about relationships and love is the glue in the relationship. Remember, though, that it is best used as a verb, not as a noun.”