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The Peculiar Parallels Between Public Politics And Private Relationships

Back stabbing, power struggles and a bit of strong leadership.

08/08/2017 3:56 PM AEST | Updated 08/08/2017 3:56 PM AEST
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"Sometimes the balance of power is held by one of us, sometimes the other. On the best of days, we share it."

I've got an admission to make -- on a purely apolitical level, I miss having John Howard around. It might be a bit to do with his daily potter around the block, which reminded me fondly of the time Harold Bishop took up speed walking. Perhaps, I miss his reassuringly grandfatherly appearance.

But most of all, it's almost 11 years of knowing who was in charge, and that they weren't going anywhere, anytime soon. Because lately, it's occurred to me that in our personal relationships, just as in politics, we need strong leadership.

Traditionally, leadership has been seen as a male trait. But I grew up in 'Thatcherite' Britain. Despite being a sometime despot, Maggie certainly showed small me that ladies could lead.

My extended family is matriarchal -- led by a little, grey, welsh-dwelling legend who rules fairly but firmly. I studied Anthropology and learned that throughout the world, successful societies have women at the helm. But, for the first few years of what turned into the story of my adult life, the thought that our relationship needed leadership never occurred to me.

We survive and thrive -- both leading, both following. Because you know the good part about having leadership? It means you're part of a team. And our team is always aiming for happiness.

My fella and I have been together all our adult lives. Over those 16 odd years, our relationship has been subjected to a fair bit; leaving our nearest and dearest to travel around Australia, deciding to stay here, earning significantly more or less than each other, our fledgling Aussie lives being dependent on one of us being on the other's visa. Seven years of chronic illness and misdiagnoses. Planning, saving for and organising a wedding, and a blessing, on opposite sides of the world. Starting a business, changing careers, 10 years trying to buy a house in Sydney, creating, growing and giving birth to two children, and negotiating the associated returns to work.

You know what, I'm pretty confident that not so many of those things mark us out as unusual. Change and upheaval are the distance markers of many long-term relationships. But, at some point it occurred to me that to negotiate them successfully, we need at least one of us to know where we're going. And, at the beginning, it certainly wasn't me.

We seemed to spend a lot of our early relationship scoring points, and shouting the most offensive things we could think at each other during rows. Much of this time coincided with us living in small spaces in close proximity to the neighbours. On the upside, as they were treated to the very finest of our linguistic jousting, they will, no doubt be using some of our choicest insults in their own relationship sagas, so -- you're welcome.

And, at some point, the fella and I came out of the other side, stronger and with a better understanding of each other. For a long time, I had no idea how. But it became increasingly clear that he knew all along exactly where we were going. And he had the epic patience, foresight and strength to lead us through.

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Around that time, a good friend of ours said that our relationship works because my fella 'allows me to believe I wear the trousers'. Perhaps at the time, they were right. But over the years, it's come to be because we work as a team.

Maybe it was that I worked out he'd been leading us, and that he could do with some support. Maybe because I cannot stand the thought of being a sheep in my own life. Maybe because everything went to shit when we faced the frustration, desperation and weakness of long term chronic illness, and along with it, the pain and loss of trying for babies.

Because finding the strength to be our emotional barometer; and realising I could do that, and still write, and bake, and wear nice skirts, made me a better human, and a better partner.

Nowadays, we navigate the joy, confusion and hilarity of growing and raising our small people, and the love, repetitive humour and flatulence of long-term love.

We survive and thrive -- both leading, both following. Because you know the good part about having leadership? It means you're part of a team. And our team is always aiming for happiness.

So, without any of the back knifery visible in public politics, sometimes the balance of power is held by one of us, sometimes the other. On the best of days, we share it.

And as for our current politicians? Hopefully they'll come through the bickering and emerge happily into some form of stable leadership too.

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