Tuesday, May 17

How we stick together: ‘We dust ourselves off and get down to business, really’ | Life and Style

Names: Danie Tregonning and Mark Perkins
Years together: 18
Activities: Artist and Compliance Specialist

If there is one area of ​​their lives that Danie Tregonning and Mark Perkins have learned to compromise, it is in the Eurovision Song Contest.

They both belong to the official Australian fan club and are also co-hosts of a Eurovision podcast where they rate the songs. “We agree on most things in life in general, but it’s Eurovision where we are, ‘Okay, you can have that and I can have that,'” says Mark. Danie adds: “And Mark has some wives at Eurovision. Sometimes they take precedence. “

The Melbourne couple met in 2003 on an online sci-fi forum. It was the early days of the internet and they were both looking for people beyond their normal pockets of life. Danie had joined a few sci-fi forums but, like many women, she quickly “had enough of the whole male-dominated nerd thing.”

So she and a group of women set up their own space. The men were encouraged to join but remain respectable, so when Mark joined the group, they were delighted to welcome him. “We were all like, ‘Great, a nice guy has arrived.’ And I wasn’t being weird [or] Kinda creepy. “The two soon texted each other on MSN almost every day and opened up about their lives.” We told each other secrets and it was really comfortable from the start, “says Danie.

So she asked him to meet her for coffee. His friends were cautious. “Everybody was telling me, ‘Don’t know this guy, he could be a mess.’ Danie decided it would be worth it. “I thought … this guy looks really cool and it could just be a friendship or it could be something else.”

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Danie Tregonning and Mark Perkins

“We shared secrets and it was really comfortable from the beginning,” says Danie. Photography: Danie Tregonning and Mark Perkins

Then he was 45 minutes late, something Danie never lets him forget. It was Grand Prix weekend in Melbourne and Mark, driving from the field to meet her at a city cafe, struggled to find parking. Danie had her doubts: “Because I’d had such a terrible career with men that I thought, ‘Maybe he’s just going to undo me. That would be my luck. ‘ He finally arrived, apologizing, and the date went off like a charm. Coffee turned into lunch that turned into an early dinner. “I was getting a lot of text messages like, ‘Are you okay? Are you alive?’ I said, ‘Yes, I’m fine. He is incredible. Do not worry about that ‘”.

They had a lot to talk about: not just shared interests, but a shared sense of humor. “I remember Mark telling me very early in our relationship that he knew I was the one because I could summon the Ghostbusters,” says Danie, laughing.

They come from very different backgrounds: Mark had moved from England to Australia as a child and then grew up in the country of Victoria in a lower-middle-income family, while Danie was born and raised in Melbourne, an only child who went to school. privately and traveled the world with her parents.

Still, theirs was an instant connection. After their first date, all Mark could think about was Danie. They spent every weekend together for the next three years and then moved in together. After so long, living together was not a great transition, although Danie adds, with a smile: “I had to break [him] in a little bit. Socks on the floor, that was huge. “

But there was something else they had to deal with. About six months after they got together, they woke up one morning to find that Danie couldn’t feel her legs. They spent the day in the hospital as doctors struggled to diagnose the problem. It would be nearly 12 years and countless neurologists before Danie was diagnosed with debilitating functional neurological disorder (NDF).

Mark, who also had a sick father, has supported her throughout the process and eventually became her caregiver. Danie doesn’t like depending on him, especially when his symptoms are severe: “I feel a bit overwhelming. But we always make the joke … that he makes his $ 8 a day with Centrelink. “

Danie Tregonning and Mark Perkins

“He’s seen me at my worst and he’s still here,” says Danie. Photography: Danie Tregonning and Mark Perkins

But it rejects the perception that the relationship between a disabled person and a person without disabilities is problematic. “He’s seen me at my worst and he’s still here,” he says. “On days when I have a stutter or a tic or I fall, he is there to pick me up. And we dust ourselves off and get down to business, really. “

Mark agrees: “The whole situation is basically normal now,” he says. “I don’t even think about it. [She’ll] walk on crutches outside everywhere. That’s how it is … I don’t see it as difficult or an obstacle. “

But watching Danie suffer is difficult, he says. “It can be a bit depressing to see that. I try to detach myself and not get too excited, not only for my own well-being but also for Danie’s, so as not to give the impression that I am not capable of caring. [her]. “And he adds,” What I’ve found is that if I get stressed out about it, she will realize it and I will make it worse. “

Danie’s medical problems made them decide not to have children. They also decided that marriage was not necessary either. “I never really imagined getting married,” says Danie. “The way the law is here in Australia has never been a problem, we are married in the eyes of the law.” She adds, “I don’t hate weddings, I just don’t want my own.”

These days, they spend much of their time together, sharing friends, interests, and working on the podcast. “We work well together,” says Danie. “I write the scripts a lot and [Mark does] most of the edit. We share the workload. “

Danie Tregonning and Mark Perkins

“We share a lot, we do a lot of things together, but we don’t drown,” says Mark. Photography: Danie Tregonning and Mark Perkins

But they also try to give each other space. “We don’t drown each other,” says Mark. During the confinement, they often spent hours at opposite ends of their home. “He has his office and I work in the living room, or if I’m working on some art, I’ll be in my studio. And we’ll meet in the kitchen and go our separate ways again. “

During their 15 years of living together, they have only spent two separate nights. Danie says they try to keep it that way. “Those two nights he wasn’t here, I didn’t sleep well at all. I kept going around and around and saying, ‘This is weird,’ ”he says. “He had to go to the interstate a couple of times to work different jobs, and I got on planes with [him]. “

They have supported each other through difficult times, including the recent death of Mark’s parents. “If one of us is depressed, the other becomes a nurse and makes sure the other is okay,” says Mark. “Danie is the best nurse. If I’m sick, mentally or physically, she takes care of me like anything else. “

Their commitment to each other is unwavering. “It’s like an inherent security of being together and knowing that none of us are going to stray,” says Danie. They rarely disagree, but when they do, they are determined to talk things out. “We never go to bed angry,” he says. “If there’s a problem, we’ll stay up until 3 a.m. If that’s what it takes.”

There are many sweet gestures to remind each other of your love, including celebrating your anniversary each month. Says Danie: “It really is like living with your best friend because even though we have our little fights, we laugh a lot.”

Their secret to staying together is just that. “Being there for each other, regardless of what’s going on,” says Danie. “There is never anything that is too much.”

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