How we stay together: 'Turns out we’re really stubborn'

Names: Bronwen Write and Emma Wilson
Years together: 11
Occupations: tender writer and retail

In year 12, Bronwen and Emma bonded over their shared dislike for their English literature teacher. Both admired the teacher they’d shared the previous year but despaired of this one. “She was obsessed with Jane Austen,” says Bronwen scornfully. Yet there was an upside. “It made us bond even more than the year before,” says Emma, “so I’ll take it as a good thing in the end.”

The couple met in 2000 when they were at primary school in regional Victoria. They were childhood friends, then drifted apart, until they reconnected in high school. Even though Emma was in the year above, they sometimes shared classes and, with their mutual love of rock and sci-fi, they gravitated towards each other. “We just kind of got each other in a way no one else did,” says Bronwen.

By 2009, they were best friends, chatting and texting every day. “I think the only reason we both went to school was to see each other,” says Emma. “I just couldn’t not talk to her, that was what I needed to do. I always talked to her because I didn’t know what was going on, I thought it was just really close friendship, but obviously it grew to more,” she says.

Later that year, when Bronwen broke up with her then-boyfriend, they got together. “That relationship was falling apart as I was also getting closer to Emma at the same time. So it was this perfect storm of teenage angst,” Bronwen remembers with a laugh.

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The following year, Emma went to a nearby university while Bronwen finished high school. But they were still very much together. “My house used to back on to the high school we went to,” says Emma. “She would bring her lunch [over]. We’d make sure to see each other every day after school.”

Then in 2011, when Bronwen was having family difficulties, she moved in with Emma and her parents. Although the family were welcoming, it wasn’t always easy. “They were still coming to terms with the fact that their daughter wasn’t straight,” says Bronwen.

Bronwen and Emma
‘Even though there were some really tough times, it’s never felt like it wasn’t worth it. I never thought, “This isn’t worth it. I’m just going to cut my losses.” It was always, “No, I’m fine for this,”’ says Bronwen Write (right).

Often when Bronwen wasn’t around, Emma’s parents would question her about how long things would last. Even though it caused tension between the couple, they remained steadfast. “We just did it one day at a time and had to keep [saying], ‘This is the person that I’m with and that’s the way it’s going to stay,’” says Emma. “It was a lot of tolerance, I think, from us, just putting up with it.”

Bronwen agrees: “Even though there were some really tough times, it’s never felt like it wasn’t worth it. I never thought … ‘I’m just going to cut my losses.’ It was always, ‘No, I’m fine for this.’”

If anything, it made them stronger. “It just reinforced how much I loved [Bronwen], and just kept going, ‘No, this is my best friend.’ Why would I want to not be with my best friend all the time?” says Emma.

“Turns out we’re really stubborn,” says Bronwen.

They’re grateful to have avoided some of the pitfalls of young love. “We’ve always been very much in step with each other, which I think is lucky,” says Bronwen. “Because you hear about other high school relationships, sometimes they grow apart because they grow at different stages, or they end up wanting different things.”

“We’re not the same but we’re very close,” says Emma. “Sometimes we can have little discussions of things that we’re not quite on the same page, but it’s very, very tiny.” Adds Bronwen: “It’s close enough that we don’t get into massive fights over it, but different enough that we’re not always just echoing each other’s opinion.”

Early last year, just before the pandemic set in, they bought a house together in regional Victoria. It was “starting the next part of our lives”, says Bronwen. “This is our space, this is our home … almost like a physical representation of our lives together.”

Having lived together for so long already, they had ironed out most of their differences. Though Emma is still not a fan of what Bronwen describes as the “organised chaos” she likes to live in. “We still have pet peeves, but we call each other out on it,” says Emma. Bronwen adds: “We’ve been together for so long, that we’re very aware that some things probably won’t ever change. But that’s OK because nobody’s perfect.”

Over the years, they’ve learned to deal with conflict, and they’re very forgiving of the stresses of daily life. “We usually tell each other if something’s bothering us … even if there’s a little conflict, it’s better to just have it out there than not,” says Bronwen. “I think part of the reason why we don’t have massive fights is because we don’t let it get to that stage.”

One of their favourite things to do is to go to drive-in movies. Says Emma: “The drive-in works because we can still watch something together, and we’re spending time together. And she can knit because she likes to knit while watching movies and you can’t do that in a cinema. So we enjoy our company together and we’re doing something.”

They aren’t ones for grand gestures, instead preferring to buy books and stationary for each other as small, impulsive demonstrations of love. “We tell each other we love each other every day. And it’s always those little things, I think, that are more important to us,” says Bronwen.

In September, pandemic permitting, they’re getting married. It’s something they have both wanted to do for a long time. “We wanted to do more marriage-related stuff once we were out of my parents’ house. To be more independent and able to actually plan things, and chase goals, having that bit more freedom,” says Emma.

They are planning a garden wedding, although they’re pretty flexible under the circumstances. “As long as we’ve got the people there, we’ve got the celebrant, the nice clothes, the location, we’re fine,” says Bronwen. Emma jumps in: “I also considered bowling. I think that would be fun.” Bronwen nods: “I could see myself bowling in my wedding dress. It could happen.”

Bronwen and Emma
‘The legal thing is also nice, but I just want to say, “I want to be with this person forever,”’ says Emma Wilson (right).

Making that commitment is important to them. When she was young, Bronwen imagined she would marry numerous times before she got it right. But now she’s changed her mind. “Being with Emma, I was like, no, I want to do this now.” Yet despite the romance of it all, the legal protections marriage provides for same-sex couples is more important to her. “Marriage offers a range of protections that are a lot harder to ignore than civil partnership does, especially in terms of things like next of kin. Because I would hate for something to happen to me and then Emma having to face an uphill battle.”

Emma just wants to demonstrate her lifelong commitment to her partner, like her parents did. “I just want the same thing that they did,” she says. “The legal thing is also nice, but I just want to say, ‘I want to be with this person forever.’”

Looking back, they still enjoy being together as much as they did when they were at high school. “We can be in each other’s company without really having to talk. We can read a book each or watch something together, but we’re still sitting next to each other. That’s what we used to do at lunchtime. We would be just together and that’s all we needed,” says Emma.

“There’s always been that level of comfort,” says Bronwen. “And I think some couples are afraid of getting comfortable. They feel like being comfortable means that the relationship’s stale, but it’s not like that at all.”

Being together has also helped them both to grow. “We’ve been a positive influence on each other,” says Bronwen. “We’ve helped each other socially … we were much more withdrawn in the early days, and we’ve probably come out of our shells a lot more,” says Emma.

Bronwen puts their relationship’s longevity down to the way they balance each other out. “We have a lot of things that we agree on but at the same time, she’s a lot more grounded than I am. So she keeps me from just floating off into the clouds. And it means that we do complement each other and bring out the best in each other.”

Says Emma: “I think a big factor is, I want to see her every day and I want to spend time with her. I’ve never not wanted to spend time with her.”

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