We’re together twenty-four seven, every day of the week, have been for nearly fourteen years’ says Ron Reid of his relationship with his partner Michael Edwards. The two run their own successful business, Hair Boss, a popular hairdressing salon in Lake Street. Later this month will celebrate their relationship by travelling to Bali and partaking in traditional Hindu ceremony.
Ron recalls when he first met Michael, ‘Seventeen years ago at the sauna, I’d come back from Sydney after a pretty rugged relationship, I didn’t want a relationship. I thought relationships were bullshit.’
‘We were both forty when we met’, says Michael continuing the couples story, ‘I was living Margaret River at the time with someone else, we were in a relationship of sorts, but it was platonic. We had an agreement, and when I met Ron of course I communicated with him what I thought was going on. I’m not the kind of guy who just does things without communicating, and we came to more agreements and when it came down to the crunch we just wanted to be together.
Both Michael and Ron have very clear thoughts on what has made their relationship a long lasting union. ‘I’ve realised that there are a few important ingredients in a relationship’, says Michael listing ‘communication, love and respect, sex and a sense of responsibility to your relationship’ as the essential items.
Michael notes though that the order you put the items into is important though, explaining that he deliberately puts sex in the third spot, ‘in other relationships sex has been prioritised in a different space, and it could be used as a weapon and as a way of fixing things, I dis-empower it by putting it third.’
Ron shares that as the years go by their relationship has gotten easier, ‘You don’t have to think about it as much, for me I had three things i needed to learn…sex was not going to be the thing that keeps the relationship together, don’t expect your relationship to be anything like your parents because you come in there with this expectation and thirdly always be true to yourself, before you can be true to your partner.
‘Our first thing that we really geared in our conversation was our integrity, who we said who we were, and our integrity I don’t believe has never changed since the day we met.’
Michael adds, ‘we also gave each other permission to be listening to each other’s integrity, I’ve got permission to say, “That’s not really what you said – that’s what you said reinterpreted.” You can’t change the person you’re with, I love him just the way he is.’
Ron looks at across at Michael and says, ‘He hasn’t changed since the day we met… he’s improved and he’s mellowed and it’s never changed the way I like him… People ask if you’re more in love now and I say, no I was smitten when I met him and I’m still smitten.
‘There’s been definite growth factors as you get older, you stop struggling to change the other person – and once that struggle stops, you think to yourself “what was that struggle about?” I’ve got everything I need in my life with him, I don’t need anything else. There may be things I desire and things that make life really comfortable, but I don’t need them.’
The couple note that when they talk to younger gay men they can see why younger people’s desire for a relationship does not succeed.
‘A lot of younger people out there, they don’t have an ethos at all.’, says Ron,’ ‘There are a lot of them out there wanting a relationship but they have this other view of what it looks like. Rather than saying, this is what it does look like and this is how you get it and create it. You think it looks like this because it’s what your Mum and Dad had or your split parents did, it doesn’t work like that. There’s no example of it. They approach it with a list of essential requirements, a list that needs to be checked off.’
Michael comments. ‘When we were very young, particularly my generation what we did was to covet, so we when we went out, to express ourselves and find affection we had to sneak about. Which hence produced beats and gay guys sneaking around…
‘All of our mates at school were practicing relationships, fucking up left right and centre; and we’d think this is great I’m not involved in this. When we finally come out…when we get to 18 to 20 we’re dealing with very immature emotions; lack of life skills when it comes to dealing with relationships.
‘The first thing we want is intimacy and of course we want sex, because we’ve been deprived, but we also have this habit of sneaking about and it creeps its way in to our relationships. I’ve watched many times as guys who are apparently in very solid relationships but one of them is out there sneaking about – because that’s the only way he can get what he wants, but all he’s really doing is avoiding a conversation. He’s not delivering a communication that ultimately might make it OK, with just giving up the sneaking, it’s a childish tool.
‘Our community hasn’t really evolved that much because we had this crisis, the AIDS crisis which just smashed us to smithereens when the community was just evolving into something extraordinary, we got compassion but we didn’t really progress as human beings.
‘But it’s evolving again, I’ve noticed that gay men aren’t fearful, they’ve recovered from that period. We talk to a lot of young gay guys and that’s what they want, they want love and a relationship but they’ve got no idea of what it is and how it happens.’
For more grand love see Jillian and Kacie’s story