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

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 positive what to make of Tom together with his turquoise blue tennis shorts and matching white, turquoise and purple striped tennis prime however Tom was “blown away” by her.

He’d been invited to the tennis membership by a good friend, 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 method to discovering a brand new accomplice. Prime of his record of standards was somebody smarter than him.

Enter Suzanne. “You don’t must take heed to somebody lengthy to … make a analysis of their stage of verbal mind,” he says. With Suzanne it was “that preliminary impression of ‘Wow, that is one intelligent girl,’ 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 wedding ceremony day ‘We wouldn’t have waited, there was no level’ Tom syas. {Photograph}: Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

They performed a couple 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 had been able to quiet down, and knew what they needed from a partnership. Suzanne says: “On the Friday evening, we continued this dialog, and Tom began speaking about getting married, and I mentioned, ‘What are you making an attempt to say?’, and he mentioned, ‘Will you marry me?’” On the next Monday, Tom introduced her with an engagement ring once they had 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 might 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 based mostly on their potential to speak effectively – one thing that has stood them in good stead over time. Suzanne remembers asking herself: “Might I talk with this individual? Have been they in a position to focus on troublesome points? Have been they ready to undergo these troublesome points? And the way did they make choices? … How that transpires between folks was actually essential to me.” Tom felt the identical method, he needed somebody “you would downside clear up along with”.

Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee and family Muswellbrook 1997
‘I are likely to wish to soar in a bit and Tom will take a extra thought-about method,’ Suzanne says. ‘However that works effectively, 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 choice.’ {Photograph}: Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

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

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

The pair maintain a decent ship at residence. “We frequently say, we’re glad we discovered one another, as a result of nobody else may stay 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. Nevertheless the pregnancies took a toll on Suzanne, who had points along with her again. “A number of these early years had been centred round ache when the children had 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 mum or dad. If I needed to stand up in the course of the evening to breastfeed, effectively 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 stand 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 all the way down to who had the extra demanding job: “Generally our roles are centred round who’s earned probably the most,” Suzanne says. “Should you’re incomes rather a lot and also you’re working actually lengthy hours, effectively [we’d ask], ‘What can we do to assist one another?’”

Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee Storm game 1999
‘If I used to be going to hitch my wagon up, then I needed somebody with me going ahead, not solely that I can love and cherish, however you would downside clear up along with them,’ Tom says. {Photograph}: Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee

5 years after their second youngster was born, Suzanne needed to have vital 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 accomplice’s gone. And also you simply settle for, for that interval, regardless of the time interval is, that your position now isn’t as a lover, however as a carer. And whenever you’re in that position, you reside the position with integrity.”

Years later, Tom additionally wanted again surgical procedure so the roles had 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 performed. 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 take care of some powerful well being points. Suzanne suffered from extreme melancholy when the couple relocated to London for a interval. “I by no means, ever wish to return there once more, it was a extremely troublesome time, [but] we had assist, we had folks round us, and we had good healthcare over there.”

It was throughout that point that Tom acquired some priceless recommendation. Someday Suzanne’s therapist pulled him apart: “He mentioned, ‘It’s wonderful how usually in these conditions, the carer finally ends up getting ailing as effectively. In my expertise, the factor that stops the carer getting ailing is your being keen to purchase assist’. So he mentioned, ‘You’re in a superb paying job. Go and purchase some home assist, some backyard assist. It’s the affect of actions of every day life. Go and purchase assist.’” It’s recommendation he’d go on, including: “[If you can’t afford it] discover it one way or the other. Beg, borrow it off buddies. Get assist.”

After they had been again in Queensland, Suzanne acquired breast most cancers, she underwent a double mastectomy however in the course of the reconstruction course of, acquired a critical 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 change faculties. It was a troublesome time for the household, however their pragmatic method acquired 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.

“Generally there are troublesome choices 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 having the ability to have that dialogue, and we’ve all the time performed that.”

Suzanne Harris and Tom McAtee Pyramids 2012
‘Generally there are troublesome choices 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 go away 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 acquired to maneuver ahead and that you must discover the nice in issues.”

They aren’t scared of taking a leap into the unknown both – one thing they’ve performed 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 anxious 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 valuable 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 have to behave this fashion or this fashion’. I’m going, ‘No, you don’t. You simply acquired to speak together with your accomplice. What works for you guys.’ There isn’t a magic panacea. There isn’t a magic cookbook of relationships. It’s about what works for you and also you’ll solely discover that out by speaking to one another.”

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