Even for the most devoted couples, Valentine’s Day can be eye-roll inducing.
So in a city of millions, how do you find “the one”?
Here, five Sydney couples open their hearts and share their secrets of staying together.
Eme Talastas-Dela Rosa and Jenelyn Cuenco — seven years together
Eme and Jen are polyamorous, which means they are committed to each other but can have intimate relationships with multiple people.
“We didn’t just wake up one day and say ‘Oh yeah let’s be open’,” says Jen.
“We got to that through six years of communication and then last year we opened it.”
Eme and Jen met on an online forum.
“We’d both migrated from the Philippines, we were into the same obscure films,” says Eme.
“I would just like how she wrote and what she wrote about.”
When people from their online forum decided to meet-up, the duo quickly singled off.
“We were like everyone else is a bit boring, let’s go outside and have a cigarette on Glebe Point Road and talk.”
Years later, it’s the same thing they did to talk about Eme transitioning to gender non-binary.
“Just talk. We call it table talk — we’re in the bathroom having a cigarette, we’ll do it for hours and hours of unpacking … just to be able to communicate on that level makes it work,” Jen says.
“The trust to give each other freedom has been a highlight, just to be able to be at this stage in our relationship that we’re still growing — that’s what I love.”
Vicky and John Wooden — 48 years together
Vicky and John met at Burwood Ice Skating Rink in 1969 as teenagers.
“I thought she was rather lovely,” John says.
“I told one of my friend’s I’d like to get to know her so I asked them to persuade her to come along to a party that night.”
“I thought John was gay,” Vicky says.
“He was wearing a pink satin shirt so when he offered me a lift home afterwards I felt sure he was gay.
“But then when John hugged me it felt like home.”
The hardest point of their relationship was when they were given custody of their grandchildren a year ago.
“Sitting in a court room watching my youngest daughter having her children taken off her, that was about as low as it got,” Vicky says.
Vicky starts to cry as John reaches for her hand — they now raise three of their grandchildren.
“We just hold each other when it’s too much.”
When John’s father died, he didn’t cry for a long time.
Then one day he saw some miniature bonsai trees his father had given him as a Christmas joke and started howling.
“I just walked over and put my arms around him and held him until he stopped crying,” Vicky says.
“And that’s how we deal with everything. Together.”
Oscar Carter and Emily Miles — 18 months together
Oscar met Emily when travelling South Africa on a group tour in 2017.
They didn’t notice each other for the first couple of days, until the group played a game in which Emily was dared to answer who she was attracted to — she said Oscar.
“We laughed it off but we became closer.”
A few nights later, Oscar told Emily he was a transgender man.
“I just remember not completely taking it in, not knowing what to say,” Emily says.
“He’s educated me a lot since.”
“She was just so supportive, it was just relaxed,” Oscar says.
The tour was coming to an end with Emily going back to the UK and Oscar back to Sydney.
“We kept it low pressure, let’s just see how it goes sort of thing.”
They caught 13 flights back and forth to each other until Emily moved to Sydney a few months ago.
“We were both so broke, we’re still so broke”, Oscar laughs.
“But when we did travel together it was quality time — that’s what made it work.”
“We can have perspective on each other because we have been apart,” says Emily.
Soni and Ilankovan Frank — 34 years together
“Marriage is not always fun, it’s like a rollercoaster but we’ve survived it very well.”
Soni and Illankovan were neighbours in a small town in Tamil Nadu, India.
Illankovan’s Hindu family gave an ultimatum when he wanted to marry Soni, a Christian.
“His dad said if you want to marry that girl you need to leave the house and you need to sign off all inheritance,” Soni says.
“So, he chose love over family and money, and we started from scratch.”
Three years ago, Frank had a stroke while working, leaving him disabled and speech-impaired.
“Our love is deeper now because it’s been tested in a different scenario, a different time and you realise that commitment you made and you give it priority,” Soni says.
“I remember after his stroke, he wasn’t mobile but it was my birthday and I got all these parcels.”
She later found out her husband had been online shopping.
“None of it was anything I really liked, candles and scarves, but I cherished that moment.”
Cheryl and Rob Koenig — 44 years together
They met at a movie theatre in the 70s.
Cheryl was 15 and in school at the time, she still remembers what Rob was wearing — a velvet jumper and flared jeans.
“I can’t really remember what you were wearing, but you looked lovely,” Rob laughs.
“Cheryl was always dressed lovely.”
Cheryl also remembers the first time her eyes met Rob’s.
“It was electrifying,” she said.
“He came over and introduced himself and sat down next to me.
“Then not too long after he held my hand … that very first hand hold, he did it just right.”
The couple’s life was turned upside down when their son Johnathan was hit by a car aged 12, leaving him with a lifelong disability.
“We were putting our 12-year-old child in nappies, teaching him to eat again,” Cheryl says.
“I knew we had to keep the family together and find a way out of this mess, it was such a dark place we were in, we each had turns falling apart and picking each other up.
“Some people have unrealistic expectations that marriage is a fairy tale, but it’s not.
“I don’t have to look to the stratosphere, I just need to look to the hand that’s been holding mine the last 44 years.”
Topics: arts-and-entertainment, nsw, sydney-2000, concord-2137, petersham-2049, menai-2234, voyager-point-2171
Lawn Mowing Service