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How we stay together: ‘There is no magic cookbook of relationships’ | Life and style


Names: Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee
Years collectively: 34
Occupations: social employee and HR advisor

When the going will get powerful, Suzanne and Tom get into the backyard. “Within the instances the place we’ve not had a lot cash, or there’ve been difficulties with work or jobs altering, we’ve gardened,” Suzanne says. “It’s a great way of releasing rigidity, of working collectively, planning and being artistic.” Tom nods: “Gardening allowed us to be collectively, to have the ability to share that tense interval collectively in a joint bodily exercise.”

It was a joint bodily exercise that introduced them collectively initially. The Brisbane couple met at a Townsville tennis membership in October 1986. Suzanne wasn’t fairly certain what to make of Tom together with his turquoise blue tennis shorts and matching white, turquoise and purple striped tennis high however Tom was “blown away” by her.

He’d been invited to the tennis membership by a pal, who deliberate to set him up with another person. He’d come out of an sad first marriage and he was decided to take a extra thought-about strategy to discovering a brand new associate. Prime of his listing of standards was somebody smarter than him.

Enter Suzanne. “You don’t have to take heed to somebody lengthy to … make a prognosis of their stage of verbal mind,” he says. With Suzanne it was “that preliminary impression of ‘Wow, that is one intelligent woman,’ and ‘that meets my first standards’”. This “in a short time … blossomed” into Tom being “smitten”.





Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee on their wedding day ‘We wouldn’t have waited, there was no point’ Tom syas.



Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee on their marriage ceremony day ‘We wouldn’t have waited, there was no level’ Tom syas. {Photograph}: Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

They performed a number of extra rounds of tennis over the subsequent fortnight, and Tom requested her out to see the film Room with a View. Issues escalated rapidly from there. They spent the subsequent week having “fairly intense conversations and really late nights”. Each have been able to quiet down, and knew what they wished from a partnership. Suzanne says: “On the Friday evening, we continued this dialog, and Tom began speaking about getting married, and I stated, ‘What are you making an attempt to say?’, and he stated, ‘Will you marry me?’” On the next Monday, Tom offered her with an engagement ring once they have been out at dinner.

This expedited romance had only one delay – Tom needed to wrap up his divorce paperwork. As soon as the order got here by means of, the pair wed – simply over 4 months since they’d first met. It will have been faster in the event that they hadn’t needed to finalise Tom’s divorce, they are saying. “We wouldn’t have waited, there was no level,” Tom says.

Their bond was primarily based on their capacity to speak nicely – one thing that has stood them in good stead through the years. Suzanne remembers asking herself: “Might I talk with this individual? Had been they in a position to focus on tough points? Had been they ready to undergo these tough points? And the way did they make selections? … How that transpires between individuals was actually necessary to me.” Tom felt the identical method, he wished somebody “you would downside remedy along with”.





Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee and family Muswellbrook 1997



‘I are likely to need to leap in a bit and Tom will take a extra thought-about strategy,’ Suzanne says. ‘However that works nicely, as a result of it makes me maintain off and take a look at the rational a part of placing issues collectively and making a call.’ {Photograph}: Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

They’re fairly completely different in a few of their views – for example they by no means speak about politics and faith, though they respect the opposite’s proper to carry their very own opinions. And so they don’t all the time agree on learn how to spend cash, regardless that their foundations are the identical. “Now we have each come out of working class households the place they have been going to battle to place meals on the desk every week. So we’re each very aware of the worth of cash,” Tom says.

Nonetheless they praise one another in the way in which they make selections: “I are likely to need to leap in a bit and Tom will take a extra thought-about strategy,” Suzanne says. “However that works nicely, as a result of it makes me maintain off and take a look at the rational a part of placing issues collectively.”

The pair preserve a decent ship at house. “We frequently say, we’re glad we discovered one another, as a result of nobody else may reside with the opposite,” laughs Tom. They’re each very organised and tidy: “We’re not OCD. We’re not that far down the spectrum however we’re each very centered on issues have a spot and issues [should be] of their place.”

The couple have two youngsters, each now of their twenties. Nonetheless the pregnancies took a toll on Suzanne, who had points along with her again. “Lots of these early years have been centred round ache when the children have been born,” she says.

It meant Tom needed to step up – fortunately so. Suzanne knew she may depend on him: “Tom was a really hands-on dad or mum. If I needed to rise up in the course of the evening to breastfeed, nicely Tom was going to get up too. Simply because he was going to work doesn’t imply … he wasn’t going to get up. So he would rise up and he would assist and be there.”

All through their marriage, they’ve all the time shared the home load. Typically it has come right down to who had the extra demanding job: “Typically our roles are centred round who’s earned essentially the most,” Suzanne says. “In case you’re incomes lots and also you’re working actually lengthy hours, nicely [we’d ask], ‘What can we do to help one another?’”





Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee Storm game 1999



‘If I used to be going to hitch my wagon up, then I wished somebody with me going ahead, not solely that I can love and cherish, however you would downside remedy along with them,’ Tom says. {Photograph}: Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

5 years after their second youngster was born, Suzanne needed to have important spinal surgical procedure. Tom grew to become her carer throughout her rehabilitation. “I needed to nurse her and assist her bathe, and bathroom, and bathe, and issues like that. So your sexual associate’s gone. And also you simply settle for, for that interval, regardless of the time interval is, that your position now just isn’t as a lover, however as a carer. And once you’re in that position, you reside the position with integrity.”

Years later, Tom additionally wanted again surgical procedure so the roles have been reversed. Suzanne was in a position to take the lead in that story, whereas I’m a bloody quivering mess within the nook. And [she went], ‘It’’s all accomplished. You’re booked. You’re organised. We’re getting on with it.’”

There have been many highs throughout their marriage however they’ve additionally needed to cope with some powerful well being points. Suzanne suffered from extreme despair when the couple relocated to London for a interval. “I by no means, ever need to return there once more, it was a extremely tough time, [but] we had help, we had individuals round us, and we had good healthcare over there.”

It was throughout that point that Tom received some helpful recommendation. Someday Suzanne’s therapist pulled him apart: “He stated, ‘It’s wonderful how usually in these conditions, the carer finally ends up getting unwell as nicely. In my expertise, the factor that stops the carer getting unwell is your being prepared to purchase assist’. So he stated, ‘You’re in a great paying job. Go and purchase some home assist, some backyard assist. It’s the affect of actions of day by day life. Go and purchase help.’” It’s recommendation he’d move on, including: “[If you can’t afford it] discover it in some way. Beg, borrow it off buddies. Get assist.”

After they have been again in Queensland, Suzanne received breast most cancers, she underwent a double mastectomy however in the course of the reconstruction course of, received a severe an infection. It meant the household needed to transfer from rural Queensland to Brisbane. Tom needed to change jobs and their son, who was in yr 11, needed to swap faculties. It was a tough time for the household, however their pragmatic strategy received them by means of it – trying on the naked unvarnished info of the matter, determining what to do after which having the conviction that they’d get by means of it.

“Typically there are tough selections that you just make that both of us may need opposing views on, however we’ve all the time been in a position to sit down [and talk],” Suzanne says. “You may squiggle and squirm in your seat since you’re actually don’t like speaking about these types of issues, however you simply put one foot in entrance of the opposite and do it.” It’s about discovering an answer each can really feel comfy with. “It’s with the ability to have that dialogue, and we’ve all the time accomplished that.”





Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee Pyramids 2012



‘Typically there are tough selections that you just make that both of us may need opposing views on, however we’ve all the time been in a position to sit down [and talk],’ Suzanne says. {Photograph}: Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

The couple have additionally learnt to depart the previous behind them. “Shit occurs, you simply can’t cease as a result of one thing horrible has occurred,” Suzanne says. “It’s completely pointless … Worrying is the worst power waster. You simply received to maneuver ahead and you should discover the nice in issues.”

They aren’t scared of taking a leap into the unknown both – one thing they’ve accomplished numerous instances once they’ve moved throughout the nation or the world: “To not take a leap of religion or to take a threat since you’re fearful about what may occur closes down so many alternatives for you,” Suzanne says. “We’re good at taking alternatives.”

Lastly it doesn’t assist to be treasured about issues, Tom says. He rails towards gender stereotypes and the way damaging they are often to a relationship. “It’s really easy to get sucked into these constructions and construction drives behaviour … [People] they permit themselves to be pushed by these constructions that say, ‘I need to behave this manner or this manner’. I’m going, ‘No, you don’t. You simply received to speak together with your associate. What works for you guys.’ There isn’t any magic panacea. There isn’t any magic cookbook of relationships. It’s about what works for you and also you’ll solely discover that out by speaking to one another.”

  • We need to hear your tales about staying collectively. Inform us about you, your associate and your relationship by filling in the form here



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