I like to watch. In fact, I find it inspirational
Truth be told, I’m a shocking couple watcher. Appalling. If the couples I stare at weren’t so lovingly locked onto each other – usually by lips or limb – they’d have me arrested for invasion of privacy.
Public displays of affection have always fascinated me. Not so much the attention-seeking, get-a-room-style groping – although I did take great delight in literally blowing the whistle on randy teens when I worked as a pool lifeguard during uni (far more fun than scanning for floaters in the days before aqua nappies).
Rather, it’s the tender touches between couples: the secret smiles; the quiet look of admiration as they watch the person they love tell a story. Whether it’s a fragment of their past or the daft thing they did last week, I’ve always thought you learn more observing the partner listening than the one speaking.
Of course, for every couple turning inwards, blossoming in the joy and intimacy of their togetherness, there’s a couple turning out. You’ve seen them in restaurants, barely speaking, bristling over something that started in the car but is bubbling over to the dining room, scenting the air with toxicity.
I used to watch those ones, wondering who’d stomp out first and pitying the poor waiter tasked with interrupting their squabble. Or worse, their endless silence. But then, for a while, I became that couple. Many of us have. Now I don’t look, because the only thing more painful than your relationship imploding in public is being watched as your relationship implodes in public.
Recently, though, I’ve been awestruck by a couple of couples. The first, I’ve only met a few times. They’re warm, sunshiney people. Yet when we caught up a few weeks back, their life was in free-fall.
He’d lost his job and their daughter was suffering from a rare illness. But they were holding on. You could see it in the way they looked at each other; the stolen flicker of fingertips over a forearm; the openness with which they shared the truth of what was really going on with them.
I’ve known the other couple since my 20s. We used to ski together. They were an action pair – dangerous, determined, living their life off piste. Now she has cancer. I’ve never seen him cry or bemoan their fate, but as he reminisced about one wild mountain day recently, I heard his voice catch in his throat. Looking up, I saw him gazing at his wife – recalling her vitality before illness sucked away all that was her. All that was them.
Some couples don’t just make you wish you were a better person, they make you want to be a better couple. Sure, every relationship has baggage, but there’s something universally life-enhancing about people who delight in being together. Whether they’re genetically blessed hotties à la Rafters’ Jessica Marais and James Stewart, or long-time lovers such as Dr Kerryn Phelps and Jackie Stricker, inviting detractors to witness the ordinariness of a lesbian romance, I love people being proud of their partnerships.
It’s 15 years since Bridget Jones prefaced ‘marrieds’ with ‘smug’, and I’ll no doubt have several singles pinging me emails about the socio-supremacy of the ‘couplearchy’. Granted, relationships are nice places to be. But they can also be lonely as hell and sustaining one – even a good one – is damn hard work. What’s so wrong with celebrating that you love, and love well?
Catch Angela Mollard on Weekend Today, Sundays at 7am on the Nine Network.
Email email@example.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/angelamollard.
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