this (unmarried) life
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.