Monday, September 27

How we stick together: ‘We are the middle-aged couple walking down the street hand in hand’ | Life and Style


Names: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey
Years together: 36
Activities: public servant and laboratory technician

“If they can travel together successfully, that is a sign of a strong relationship,” says Don Jarmey. “If they can sit for 41 hours on a bus from Istanbul to Budapest with about 2 meters of snow outside, where the bus stops three times in those 41 hours and they still love each other at the end, then yes.”

By the latest count, he and his wife Angela have traveled to nearly 50 countries in their years together. They have had many good and bad experiences, and they certainly still love each other.

The Brisbane couple met as teenagers at Toowong High School in the early 80’s. Don was the new kid in Year 12 and Angela noticed because he looked more mature than his peers. “I can vividly remember [thinking], ‘Who is this boy? It’s really cute. ‘ Don noticed her too: “I thought she had great legs,” he laughs.

They were friendly, but grew closer after graduation. So close that Angela had to convince the others that they were just friends. That is, until Don made his move. The couple had been in Fortitude Valley watching a band, when “[he] He kissed me and I said, ‘What the hell was that?’ ”. Don shrugs: “I just thought, ‘I really like this woman, I’ll give it a try, see how it goes'”

Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey on Angela's 19th birthday, 1985
I just thought, ‘I really like this woman, I’ll give it a try, see how it goes.’ Angela and Don on their 19th birthday in 1985. Photography: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey

Their relationship quickly turned into a romantic one. “All of our friends said, ‘It’s about time!’ I say, ‘What are you talking about?’ Angela laughs.

They came together easily, he says, because they had so much in common. “When you are 18 and 19 years old, you have no pressure in relationships… We liked to laugh, we liked to go out, we liked music, we had mutual friends. I was attracted to him, he was attracted to me. When people talk about working on their marriages, I say, ‘I don’t know what this job you’re talking about is.’ Don agrees: “We just do it.”

They moved to Townsville together a few years later. It was a happy time, playing music together and with his friends. “We found our Townsville family … mostly through music, and that’s what we really found together,” says Don. They were good at coexistence and divided the tasks equally. “We never fought but we had commitments,” Angela says.

His only goals in life were to travel the world. “I feel like we go from one fun thing to another,” says Angela. “Maybe that’s the secret? No goals “.

After 10 years and a stint together in London, they decided it was time to get married. Nothing outwardly changed, but there was a change in their connection. “It was just a feeling,” Don says. “If they have been together for 10 years, then they decide to get married, well, that is something important. If you join a marriage, you are still trying to find your way through it. We didn’t have to find our way through it, we knew we were in love, ”he says.

Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey Wedding part 1 Brisbane 1995
“When people talk about working on their marriages, I say, ‘I don’t know what this job you’re talking about is,” Angela says. Photography: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey

After that, they returned to Brisbane and began trying to have a baby. When things weren’t happening, they tried a few rounds of IVF. It was a heartbreaking moment – expensive, an emotional roller coaster, and ultimately unsuccessful. “[Don was] I’m really doing it for myself, I think, ”Angela says. “[Eventually] I said, ‘I don’t want to waste my 30 years constantly spending money and feeling miserable.’

It brought them closer: “We knew how everyone else was feeling,” says Angela “He was so willing to go through this … So I just said, ‘I can’t, that’s all.’ Don agrees: “I was never going to pressure Ange to go any further. That would be stupid. “

When they stopped, they knew they had to seek a different kind of life for themselves. “[I said] if we are not going to do this, we have to do something to completely distract us. So I don’t think every month, oh, it’s this time. So we packed up our whole house and headed back to London. “

They spent the following year traveling through Europe and the Middle East and then returned home. Now, along with their busy jobs, they hold the annual Neurum Creek folk music festival. They work well together – she comes up with great ideas as he brings them to life. Angela admits that she can be bossy at times, but Don doesn’t care. “I used to argue with Ange sometimes and then I realized, ‘No’, because generally speaking, nine times out of ten he’s right.”

“We are the middle-aged couple who walk down the street holding hands,” laughs Angela.  The couple on their 20th wedding anniversary in 2005.
The couple on their 20th wedding anniversary in 2005. Photography: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey

Angela says that sometimes she feels like she has to protect Don, from himself. “Someone once said, ‘What makes you fall in love with a person is often what drives you crazy.’ And I keep it in my head because there have been times when Don is a giver of himself. Say yes to people and take care of people. And it does a lot. And sometimes there have been times when I’ve gone, ‘You must stop. You have to calm down with that. ‘ And I guess that’s the way I say it. Because I know how much people love him and how he cares for people. And I try to remember that, because I say, ‘You can’t do all of that for everyone.’ They have to take care of themselves. ‘

They are still very loving to each other. “We are the middle-aged couple who walk down the street hand in hand,” says Angela, laughing. “We always say ‘I love you’ when we leave each other, we always kiss each other goodbye [and] we talk to each other on the phone at least once a day, ”says Don.

In the early days, they did almost everything together, but now they have their own interests. “I think it’s something really important,” Don says. However, some things have remained the same: “Our sense of fun and our sense of this is challenging, and the search for new experiences, I think is still there,” says Angela. “And how much we enjoy each other’s company.”

And they agree that while they both enjoy their careers, it’s about having fun together. “My identity is not my job. My identity is so much more than that, ”Angela says,“ and when we retire, I’d hate to have to say, ‘Well, what do I do now?’ ”.

Don compares them to their parents, who spent the last 20 years of their lives traveling together. “We are not even close to retiring yet, but we are living life now, we are not just working towards retirement. In fact, we are living life. “

For Angela, her commitment to Don means always putting him first. “Even though I have the big ideas… You will be absolutely number one in my thoughts,” she says looking at her husband. “I will take care of you … if someone comes to you … come to me first.”

It is more difficult for Don to express his feelings in words: “It’s not that they get used to each other, it’s just that they are part of each other. As much as we have our independent ways of being, we are intertwined … It’s so natural. “

“Our sense of fun and our sense of this is challenging, and looking for new experiences, I think it's still there.  And how much we enjoy each other's company
The couple in Venice in 2017. ‘Our sense of fun, and our sense of this is challenging, and looking for new experiences, I think it’s still there. And how much we enjoy each other’s company. ‘ Photography: Angela Kitzelman and Don Jarmey

So what kept them together through it all? “Always respecting each other,” Don says, adding, “Don’t fight [but] If you have fights, solve it. I think some people who do fight don’t solve it and that gets complicated. “

Angela says her love for Don has never changed: “I love him. And I married you because I love you and why would I change that?

  • We want to hear your stories about staying together. Tell us about yourself, your partner and your relationship by filling out the form here


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