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really honest postcards from lyon: part two

Be sure to check Lip weekly for new instalments of Really Honest Postcards from Lyon, April Smallwood’s new six part series on life as a young Australian expatriate in France.

Image credit April Smallwood

Image credit: April Smallwood

Dear Laura,

So moving overseas with the one you love is chancy. It’s kind of like having your first baby in that you need to brace yourself for some ugly shit. The kind of stuff 9-to-5 living shields you from, though you weren’t to know it back then. East and I married in January. You know this, you were there. But there are moments here in France where, mid-argument, I wonder if we wouldn’t have married had we moved over here first, as a regular couple, sans rings.

How so? In this country, we are the other’s only friend. Our social circles are where we left them and there are very few bodily sounds and personal outbursts that the other doesn’t witness. Because of this, I cannot stress the importance of NEW FACES. You really have to make the effort to befriend the French and other expats. Otherwise, you’re looking at a future of divorce courts and paperwork.

This is extreme talk, I know, but there’s truth to it. Seeing the man you love every day, the adorable and the unbearable amplified, is something I hadn’t prepped for. I’ve always said I’m my best when alone, and rarely do I get that indulgence anymore. I remain one of those creatures who needs to reset occasionally in my own company.

Now that I’m here, I’ve been thinking back to my life pre-vows. When we were dating, I was so conscious of not seeing East more than a few times a week. And the result was delight every time I saw his goofball face. More than once, I’d remark, ‘I love you most when you’re not around’. Wrapped up in this insult-compliment is my method for relationship bliss: If you plan to love someone for any length of time, you need to not see their face every goddamn day. I spent two nights alone in Paris recently and remembered what it was like to really miss someone. If you ask me, it is perfectly reasonable to announce, ‘I want to continue loving you, so I’m going to ignore you for a few hours’.

This is particularly useful mid-tiff. During our six months in Europe, we have had some stinkers. His music was too loud, my emotions went unexpressed, the carbonara needed another yolk, why wasn’t my Airbnb review harsher? Not-so important fights that probably wouldn’t have registered had we spent a little more time apart. One of the best things about us, though, is that we fight really well. As in, respectfully. Certain lines are never crossed and I am supremely proud of this fact.

Also, living with another can be a shit of a thing for it holds a mirror to all the things I don’t like about myself; things that weren’t so apparent when I lived alone. In the last few months, I have become privy to a very critical side, discovered an inner voice that is bitch-faced and cruel, and a tendency to not be present when I ought to.

Fortunately, this week we are pictures of progress. For five hours a day, I head off to the Alliance Francaise to pretend I’m French; our apartment is big enough that I have my own workspace and he, his; and we occasionally head out on a respective walk or rendezvous with the few folks we do meet.

Catching up with classmates at Parc de la Tête d’Or last week, I got to talking romance with a Madrileño named Javier. I shared my newest theory for not hating your significant other. He seemed somewhat moved by it so I’ll repeat it here: Lately, I have come to approach my partner like he is the ocean. (Stay with me.) When I go to the beach, I never lament that the water isn’t perfect that day. I don’t come at it with the expectation that it please me. Whether it’s dark, angry, clear, warm or flat, I never berate it for not being what I wish. I just might not go in that day.

– April

Missed out on the first Postcard from April? Check out Postcard One here.

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