How we stay together: 'There is no magic cookbook of relationships'

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

When the going will get difficult, Suzanne and Tom get into the lawn. “Within the instances the place we’ve now not had a lot cash, or there’ve been difficulties with paintings or jobs converting, we’ve gardened,” Suzanne says. “It’s an effective way of liberating rigidity, of operating in combination, making plans and being ingenious.” Tom nods: “Gardening allowed us to be in combination, with the intention to proportion that irritating length in combination in a joint bodily task.”

It was once a joint bodily task that introduced them in combination to begin with. The Brisbane couple met at a Townsville tennis membership in October 1986. Suzanne wasn’t somewhat certain what to make of Tom along with his turquoise blue tennis shorts and matching white, turquoise and pink striped tennis most sensible however Tom was once “blown away” through her.

He’d been invited to the tennis membership through a pal, who deliberate to set him up with somebody else. He’d pop out of an unsatisfied first marriage and he was once made up our minds to take a extra thought to be way to discovering a brand new spouse. Best of his checklist of standards was once somebody smarter than him.

Input Suzanne. “You don’t want to concentrate to somebody lengthy to … make a prognosis in their degree of verbal mind,” he says. With Suzanne it was once “that preliminary affect of ‘Wow, that is one suave girl,’ and ‘that meets my first standards’”. This “in no 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 wedding ceremony day ‘We wouldn’t have waited, there was once no level’ Tom syas. : Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

They performed a couple of extra rounds of tennis over the following fortnight, and Tom requested her out to peer the film Room with a View. Issues escalated temporarily from there. They spent the following week having “lovely intense conversations and really overdue nights”. Each have been able to calm down, and knew what they sought after from a partnership. Suzanne says: “At the Friday evening, we endured this dialog, and Tom began speaking about getting married, and I stated, ‘What are you seeking to say?’, and he stated, ‘Will you marry me?’” At the following Monday, Tom introduced her with an engagement ring once they have been out at dinner.

This expedited romance had only one extend – Tom needed to wrap up his divorce forms. As soon as the order got here via, the pair wed – simply over 4 months since they’d first met. It might were sooner in the event that they hadn’t needed to finalise Tom’s divorce, they are saying. “We wouldn’t have waited, there was once no level,” Tom says.

Their bond was once in line with their talent to keep up a correspondence neatly – one thing that has stood them in just right stead through the years. Suzanne recollects asking herself: “May just I keep up a correspondence with this particular person? Have been they in a position to talk about tricky problems? Have been they ready to head via the ones tricky problems? And the way did they make choices? … How that transpires between folks was once actually vital to me.” Tom felt the similar approach, he sought after somebody “it’s essential to drawback remedy at the side of”.

Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee and family Muswellbrook 1997
‘I have a tendency to need to leap in a bit of and Tom will take a extra thought to be way,’ Suzanne says. ‘However that works neatly, as it makes me hang off and have a look at the rational a part of striking issues in combination and you decide.’ : Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

They’re somewhat other in a few of their perspectives – as an example they by no means discuss politics and faith, even supposing they admire the opposite’s proper to carry their very own evaluations. They usually don’t all the time agree on spend cash, despite the fact that their foundations are the similar. “Now we have each pop out of operating elegance households the place they have been going to combat to position meals at the desk each and every week. So we’re each very aware of the worth of cash,” Tom says.

On the other hand they praise each and every different in the best way they make choices: “I have a tendency to need to leap in a bit of and Tom will take a extra thought to be way,” Suzanne says. “However that works neatly, as it makes me hang off and have a look at the rational a part of striking issues in combination.”

The pair stay a good send at house. “We incessantly say, we’re happy we discovered each and every different, as a result of nobody else may reside with the opposite,” laughs Tom. They’re each very organised and tidy: “We’re now not OCD. We’re now not that a ways down the spectrum however we’re each very interested by issues have a spot and issues [should be] of their position.”

The couple have two youngsters, each now of their twenties. On the other hand the pregnancies took a toll on Suzanne, who had problems along with her again. “A large number of the ones early years have been centred round ache when the youngsters have been born,” she says.

It intended Tom needed to step up – fortuitously so. Suzanne knew she may depend on him: “Tom was once an overly hands-on mum or dad. If I needed to stand up in the course of the evening to breastfeed, neatly Tom was once going to get up too. Simply because he was once going to paintings doesn’t imply … he wasn’t going to get up. So he would stand up and he would assist and be there.”

All through their marriage, they’ve all the time shared the home load. Steadily it has come all the way down to who had the extra challenging task: “Every now and then our roles are centred round who’s earned essentially the most,” Suzanne says. “When you’re incomes so much and also you’re operating actually lengthy hours, neatly [we’d ask], ‘What are we able to do to beef up each and every different?’”

Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee Storm game 1999
‘If I used to be going to affix my wagon up, then I sought after somebody with me going ahead, now not most effective that I will be able to love and cherish, however it’s essential to drawback remedy at the side of them,’ Tom says. : Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

5 years after their 2d kid was once born, Suzanne needed to have vital spinal surgical procedure. Tom turned into her carer all the way through her rehabilitation. “I needed to nurse her and assist her bathe, and bathroom, and shower, and such things as that. So your sexual spouse’s long past. And also you simply settle for, for that length, regardless of the period of time is, that your position now isn’t as a lover, however as a carer. And while you’re in that position, you reside the position with integrity.”

Years later, Tom additionally wanted again surgical procedure so the jobs have been reversed. Suzanne was once in a position to take the lead in that tale, whilst 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 were many highs all the way through their marriage however they’ve additionally needed to maintain some difficult well being problems. Suzanne suffered from critical despair when the couple relocated to London for a length. “I by no means, ever need to return there once more, it was once a actually tricky time, [but] we had beef up, we had folks round us, and we had just right healthcare over there.”

It was once all the way through that point that Tom were given some treasured recommendation. In the future Suzanne’s therapist pulled him apart: “He stated, ‘It’s wonderful how incessantly in those scenarios, the carer finally ends up getting unwell as neatly. In my revel in, the article that prevents the carer getting unwell is your being keen to shop for assist’. So he stated, ‘You’re in a just right paying task. Move and purchase some home assist, some lawn assist. It’s the have an effect on of actions of day-to-day lifestyles. Move and purchase beef up.’” It’s recommendation he’d go on, including: “[If you can’t afford it] to find it by hook or by crook. Beg, borrow it off buddies. Get assist.”

Once they have been again in Queensland, Suzanne were given breast most cancers, she underwent a double mastectomy however all the way through the reconstruction procedure, were given a major an infection. It intended the circle of relatives needed to transfer from rural Queensland to Brisbane. Tom needed to exchange jobs and their son, who was once in yr 11, needed to transfer faculties. It was once a troublesome time for the circle of relatives, however their pragmatic way were given them via it – having a look on the naked unvarnished info of the topic, understanding what to do after which having the conviction that they’d get via it.

“Every now and then there are tricky choices that you are making that both folks may have opposing perspectives on, however we’ve all the time been in a position to sit down down [and talk],” Suzanne says. “It’s possible you’ll squiggle and squirm for your seat since you’re actually don’t like speaking about those kinds 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 happy 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
‘Every now and then there are tricky choices that you are making that both folks may have opposing perspectives on, however we’ve all the time been in a position to sit down down [and talk],’ Suzanne says. : Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

The couple have additionally learnt to go away the previous at the back of them. “Shit occurs, you simply can’t prevent as a result of one thing terrible has took place,” Suzanne says. “It’s completely unnecessary … Being worried is the worst power waster. You simply were given to transport ahead and you wish to have to seek out the nice in issues.”

They aren’t scared of taking a bounce into the unknown both – one thing they’ve accomplished numerous instances once they’ve moved around the nation or the sector: “To not take a bounce of religion or to take a chance since you’re fearful about what may occur closes down such a lot of alternatives for you,” Suzanne says. “We’re just right at taking alternatives.”

In spite of everything it doesn’t assist to be treasured about issues, Tom says. He rails towards gender stereotypes and the way harmful they may be able to be to a dating. “It’s really easy to get sucked into those buildings and construction drives behaviour … [People] they enable themselves to be pushed through those buildings that say, ‘I should behave this fashion or this fashion’. I’m going, ‘No, you don’t. You simply were given to keep up a correspondence along with your spouse. What works for you guys.’ There is not any magic panacea. There is not any magic cookbook of relationships. It’s about what works for you and also you’ll most effective to find that out through speaking to one another.”

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