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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 guide

When the going will get difficult, Suzanne and Tom get into the lawn. “Within the instances the place we’ve no longer 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 running in combination, making plans and being ingenious.” Tom nods: “Gardening allowed us to be in combination, so to proportion that demanding length in combination in a joint bodily task.”

It used to be a joint bodily task that introduced them in combination to start with. The Brisbane couple met at a Townsville tennis membership in October 1986. Suzanne wasn’t rather positive what to make of Tom along with his turquoise blue tennis shorts and matching white, turquoise and pink striped tennis best however Tom used to be “blown away” by means of her.

He’d been invited to the tennis membership by means of a pal, who deliberate to set him up with any person else. He’d pop out of an unsatisfied first marriage and he used to be decided to take a extra regarded as strategy to discovering a brand new spouse. Best of his listing of standards used to be any person smarter than him.

Input Suzanne. “You don’t wish to concentrate to any person lengthy to … make a prognosis in their degree of verbal mind,” he says. With Suzanne it used to be “that preliminary affect of ‘Wow, that is one artful 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 used to be 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 briefly from there. They spent the following week having “lovely intense conversations and really past due nights”. Each have been able to relax, and knew what they sought after from a partnership. Suzanne says: “At the Friday night time, we persisted 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 offered 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 bureaucracy. As soon as the order got here thru, the pair wed – simply over 4 months since they’d first met. It will were sooner in the event that they hadn’t needed to finalise Tom’s divorce, they are saying. “We wouldn’t have waited, there used to be no level,” Tom says.

Their bond used to be in response to 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 I keep up a correspondence with this particular person? Have been they in a position to speak about tricky problems? Have been they ready to move thru the ones tricky problems? And the way did they make selections? … How that transpires between other people used to be in reality necessary to me.” Tom felt the similar method, he sought after any person “it’s essential downside remedy along with”.

Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee and family Muswellbrook 1997



‘I generally tend to need to bounce in a bit of and Tom will take a extra regarded as manner,’ Suzanne says. ‘However that works neatly, as it makes me cling off and have a look at the rational a part of placing issues in combination and you decide.’ : Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

They’re rather other in a few of their perspectives – as an example they by no means speak about politics and faith, despite the fact that they appreciate the opposite’s proper to carry their very own reviews. And so they don’t at all times agree on tips on how to spend cash, despite the fact that their foundations are the similar. “We’ve each pop out of running elegance households the place they have been going to fight to place meals at the desk each and every week. So we’re each very conscious of the price of cash,” Tom says.

Alternatively they praise each and every different in the way in which they make selections: “I generally tend to need to bounce in a bit of and Tom will take a extra regarded as manner,” Suzanne says. “However that works neatly, as it makes me cling off and have a look at the rational a part of placing issues in combination.”

The pair stay a decent send at house. “We steadily say, we’re satisfied we discovered each and every different, as a result of no person else may are living with the opposite,” laughs Tom. They’re each very organised and tidy: “We’re no longer OCD. We’re no longer that a long way down the spectrum however we’re each very fascinated about issues have a spot and issues [should be] of their position.”

The couple have two youngsters, each now of their twenties. Alternatively the pregnancies took a toll on Suzanne, who had problems together with her again. “Numerous the ones early years have been centred round ache when the children have been born,” she says.

It intended Tom needed to step up – thankfully so. Suzanne knew she may depend on him: “Tom used to be an excessively hands-on dad or mum. If I needed to rise up in the course of the night time to breastfeed, neatly Tom used to be going to get up too. Simply because he used to be going to paintings doesn’t imply … he wasn’t going to get up. So he would rise up and he would lend a hand and be there.”

All over their marriage, they’ve at all times shared the home load. Incessantly it has come right down to who had the extra hard task: “Occasionally our roles are centred round who’s earned probably the most,” Suzanne says. “If you happen to’re incomes so much and also you’re running in reality lengthy hours, neatly [we’d ask], ‘What are we able to do to improve each and every different?’”

Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee Storm game 1999



‘If I used to be going to join my wagon up, then I sought after any person with me going ahead, no longer handiest that I will love and cherish, however it’s essential downside remedy along with them,’ Tom says. : Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

5 years after their 2nd kid used to be born, Suzanne needed to have vital spinal surgical operation. Tom changed into her carer all the way through her rehabilitation. “I needed to nurse her and lend a hand her bathe, and bathroom, and shower, and such things as that. So your sexual spouse’s long gone. And also you simply settle for, for that length, regardless of the period of time is, that your function now isn’t as a lover, however as a carer. And whilst you’re in that function, you are living the function with integrity.”

Years later, Tom additionally wanted again surgical operation so the jobs have been reversed. Suzanne used to be 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 carried out. 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 serious despair when the couple relocated to London for a length. “I by no means, ever need to return there once more, it used to be a in reality tricky time, [but] we had improve, we had other people round us, and we had just right healthcare over there.”

It used to be all the way through that point that Tom were given some precious recommendation. Someday Suzanne’s therapist pulled him apart: “He stated, ‘It’s wonderful how steadily in those eventualities, the carer finally ends up getting in poor health as neatly. In my enjoy, the article that forestalls the carer getting in poor health is your being keen to shop for lend a hand’. So he stated, ‘You’re in a just right paying task. Cross and purchase some home lend a hand, some lawn lend a hand. It’s the affect of actions of day by day lifestyles. Cross and purchase improve.’” It’s recommendation he’d go on, including: “[If you can’t afford it] to find it by some means. Beg, borrow it off pals. Get lend a hand.”

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 trade jobs and their son, who used to be in 12 months 11, needed to transfer faculties. It used to be a troublesome time for the circle of relatives, however their pragmatic manner were given them thru it – having a look on the naked unvarnished information of the topic, working out what to do after which having the conviction that they’d get thru it.

“Occasionally there are tricky selections that you’re making that both people would possibly have opposing perspectives on, however we’ve at all times been in a position to take a seat down [and talk],” Suzanne says. “It’s possible you’ll squiggle and squirm for your seat since you’re in reality 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 pleased with. “It’s with the ability to have that dialogue, and we’ve at all times carried out that.”

Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee Pyramids 2012



‘Occasionally there are tricky selections that you’re making that both people would possibly have opposing perspectives on, however we’ve at all times been in a position to take a seat down [and talk],’ Suzanne says. : Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

The couple have additionally learnt to depart 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 needless … Being worried is the worst power waster. You simply were given to transport ahead and you want to search out the great in issues.”

They aren’t afraid of taking a soar into the unknown both – one thing they’ve carried out numerous instances once they’ve moved around the nation or the sector: “To not take a soar of religion or to take a possibility 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.”

After all it doesn’t lend a hand to be valuable about issues, Tom says. He rails in opposition to gender stereotypes and the way destructive they may be able to be to a courting. “It’s really easy to get sucked into those buildings and construction drives behaviour … [People] they permit themselves to be pushed by means of those buildings that say, ‘I will have to behave this manner or this manner’. I’m going, ‘No, you don’t. You simply were given to keep up a correspondence together with your spouse. What works for you guys.’ There’s no magic panacea. There’s no magic cookbook of relationships. It’s about what works for you and also you’ll handiest to find that out by means of speaking to one another.”

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