this (un­mar­ried) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Rachel An­drew

I WAS mar­ried once. In front of my fam­ily and friends I pub­licly de­clared a love I wasn’t sure I felt. It was a re­la­tion­ship that was all right and it seemed the next step. Per­haps I didn’t think I could do any bet­ter. I can’t re­ally ex­plain it, but one day I woke up and it was my wed­ding day.

The mar­riage made a bad re­la­tion­ship ter­ri­ble. We seemed to sink into the worse stereo­types of hus­band and wife. We didn’t make each other stronger, we co-ex­isted and made each other worse ver­sions of our­selves.

Even­tu­ally I left, think­ing I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than con­tinue like this. It was hard. There was fam­ily dis­ap­point­ment, sad­ness and anger.

I had ther­apy, I watched videos, knit­ted, changed my hair­style and ex­er­cised. I went out with my fab­u­lous friends. I quizzed them about their re­la­tion­ships and part­ners (all of whom I love and ad­mire). I be­came healthy, I felt strong, and my par­ents com­mented on the changes and how happy I looked.

I started to be­lieve in my­self again and think about what I ac­tu­ally wanted and needed in a re­la­tion­ship. I had never thought about this be­fore, just drift­ing from one un­sat­is­fy­ing per­son to another, un­think­ing, un­know­ing.

When I was ready, I tried in­ter­net dat­ing. I was courageous and al­ways went if asked to meet up. This gave me lots of hi­lar­i­ous es­capades to tell at my own and friends’ din­ner ta­bles, but no con­nec­tion. I soon burned out and gave the key­board and cof­fee shops a rest.

A year or so later, I met some­one un­ex­pect­edly, a friend of a friend. Some­one who would never have met my dat­ing search cri­te­ria. I flirted shame­lessly. We spent five amaz­ing, laugh­ter-filled days to­gether. Then, sep­a­rated by sea, we wrote let­ters. We spoke and texted in­tensely. Af­ter a month, I vis­ited for a long weekend. Later, I vis­ited for a longer weekend.

It is ef­fort­less. There is sen­su­al­ity, re­spect, cu­rios­ity, ad­ven­ture, pride and ten­der­ness. We choose to spend time to­gether. There is grat­i­tude, recog­ni­tion that what we have found is spe­cial and de­serves to be nur­tured. We have blos­somed into love, strength and un­ques­tion­ing sup­port.

My friends and fam­ily opened their arms to this new re­la­tion­ship, wel­com­ing and in­clud­ing my part­ner. They ex­pressed joy that I was happy, had found some­one, al­beit not my usual type. They had all wel­comed pre­vi­ous boyfriends, but only now spoke about their dif­fi­culty com­mu­ni­cat­ing with them, that they were hard to get on with. Or, as my dad elo­quently put it one Christ­mas, ‘‘the oth­ers were all wankers’’.

We have been to­gether five years now. We sup­port each other at home and at work, with dif­fer­ing pro­fes­sional skills that en­hance each other’s prac­tice. We have lived to­gether, vol­un­teered over­seas to­gether, sur­vived a lifethreat­en­ing ill­ness and trav­elled across Aus­tralia. We talk about our am­bi­tions, our fears, our joys. We have merged our fi­nances and plan for our fu­ture.

We dis­cuss chil­dren and, yes, we dis­cuss mar­riage and what it re­ally means. Will we do it? I don’t know. Do I shy away be­cause of my pre­vi­ous bad ex­pe­ri­ence? No, I can see how dif­fer­ent that was, how des­tined to fail.

Un­for­tu­nately, we don’t get a choice. This time a love I am sure I feel can­not be cel­e­brated in mar­riage. Co­lette, my part­ner, my love, is a woman.

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