How we stay together: 'The sense of trust that we had in each other as friends'

How we stay together: 'The sense of trust that we had in each other as friends'

Yahoo Lifestyle - Life·715 views·2020-01-18 03:00

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Names: Simon and Naomi PerryYears together: 23Occupations: IT specialist and naturopath

Some relationships start in an instant. A chance encounter, a sudden recognition, then the realisation that this is your person. Others take a bit longer.

That was the case for Simon and Naomi Perry. For more than six years, the couple were close friends. They worked together for a time, they socialised together, but they were in other relationships. And while others quizzed them about whether there was anything more, they held firm. Just friends.

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Until they weren’t. When they both found themselves single, they finally – and nervously – took that leap. “You get to a point intimacy-wise that you stare into each other’s eyes often enough and you think, ‘OK, we’ve got to try’,” Naomi says. “You just feel the draw toward each other so strongly that you can’t stay in that spot.”

Both of them were at a stage in their lives where they wanted their next relationship to be serious. “It wasn’t, ‘Hey, is this going to work as a bit of a fling for six months?’” Simon says. “It was, ‘Can I imagine myself being with this person for a long time?’”

Things unfolded quickly after that. They moved in together and decided to become parents. Naomi says: “I wanted to see what kind of parent I could be and [to] try and bring children into the world that were aware and responsible. So we decided to have a child [and] in one of our drinking times after work, Simon said to me, ‘I’d like to do that with you.’ That was one of those pivotal things to say that makes you think, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting’.”

Although neither of them were fussed, once Naomi fell pregnant, they decided to get married in a very low-key way. “For us, it wasn’t about a big ceremony. It was something that we wanted to bear witness to each other at that point,” Simon says. They married in a registry office in Sydney, with only two hitherto unsuspecting friends as witnesses, followed by a casual picnic on Observatory Hill overlooking the city.

Although the whole thing was deliberately casual, Naomi remembers feeling overwhelmed with emotion during the ceremony. “It’s one side of a line and the other side of the line. It shouldn’t really matter which side of the line you’re on five minutes before or five minutes after, but heading right towards that line of being married, it is a nervous time. I definitely felt that [and] lots of love pouring out of me.”

Another reason the pair hadn’t wanted a big wedding was because of their families. Simon knew Naomi’s parents and had been warmly welcomed into the family but Naomi hadn’t received the same from Simon’s family, who mostly lived overseas. Sadly, when they announced the news of their surprise wedding and pregnancy, they got similar reactions. Warmth and happiness from one, hostility from the other. It strained Simon’s historically tense relationship with his family. “I’d lost one family but the day Naomi and I married I gained two more; her side of the family, and the one we’ve built together.”

Fortunately it had little impact on the couple’s relationship. “I don’t reckon it’s affected our relationship as much as what it could have,” Naomi says. “I think that part of that is because of the way Simon has dealt with it. At some points in time that it’s been a bit upsetting for Simon that he doesn’t have a relationship with his family but I always said that he could share mine.”

Like most couples, the arrival of their first child tested their relationship. “Finding that time with each other is the toughest part,” Simon says. “ But for us, it wasn’t about grand date nights once a month. It was finding the quiet, intimate moments.” They almost always managed to sit down to dinner together when the baby was asleep and tried to spend time just sitting and reading together.

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The family faced further challenges when they were transferred to the US for Simon’s software job.

The US was in turmoil as it dealt with the September 11 attacks, and the couple welcomed their second child far from friends and family. Naomi found it particularly tough. She was in a foreign country without her support network and frequently alone while Simon had to travel for work. Her innate independence helped: “I would have rather Simon be there but I’m reasonably good at going, ‘OK, this is not going to be like this forever. He’ll be home in a couple of days and then he can help me out then. I’ve just got to get through it.’”

There was a silver lining, Simon says. “It could’ve smashed us but I felt it brought us very close together. We had to really rely on each other more than we ever had before. But if I roll the clock back, the sense of trust that we had in each other as friends, which had always been there, came to the fore during those times. And without that bond of trust and friendship that brought us together to begin with, I’m not sure [we would have had] the same outcome.”

After a few years, the couple decided the US wasn’t for them. Fortunately they were then posted to the UK, which was more hospitable. They stayed for seven years. Simon says: “That shared experience of exploring these different parts of the world and seeing different people and growing together I think was great for us.”

During their 23 years together, the couple has got better at dealing with the inevitable conflicts that all partners face. Although they don’t argue much, they have learned to deal with the irritations of coupled life. “If you don’t have a way of dealing with those things, then they become grit, and that grit just builds up,” Simon says. “Then something happens and bang! It blows up. And I think what we’re very good at is avoiding the grit. [We] focus on recognising and being grateful to each other for the lot of little everyday things that we do, and demonstrating our thankfulness for doing that. And it takes a lot of that grit out.”

It’s one of their secrets for staying together, Simon says. “We each bring some practical things to the relationship and we do a lot of things each and every single day. Just tiny little things. Recognise that, be thankful of those things, and tell your partner.”

Related: How we stay together: 'Understanding the other person is trying to do their best is important'

In October, they renewed their vows in front of friends and family on their property in the Hawkesbury. “This time that we did want to demonstrate and do it in a public way,” Simon says. This time, instead of the customary wedding vows, they spoke freely expressing heartfelt emotions. It was very moving, Simon says. “To me, it was that incredibly intense emotional moment of verbalising something that you feel so deeply and so dearly.”

Naomi agrees, saying she found it “emotionally wrenching” and she cried through most of it. “For me, I definitely feel that the longer that we’ve been together, the more I love Simon and the more emotion I feel towards him. So doing it the second time, that all just came gushing out.”

So while they are still the same people, they have evolved as partners. “We still have this really loving relationship that has a very good physical sexual aspect to it, and is really strongly based upon the friendship that we have,” Simon says. “And my dearest friend is Naomi, so that’s not changed [ but] I think that I have more confidence in us as a couple. And we’re happier.”

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