When the Universe Brings You Together

30 Years Married, 38 Years Together

Sean and Siobhan

London, England

As is often the case, Sean’s version of the first time they met is somewhat different than Siobhan’s. Sean says they met two years earlier at the May Ball in Oxford where one of the standout bands they heard was Play Dead with lead vocals by Rob Hickson. Siobhan says she was there with her boyfriend of two years and has no recollection of meeting Sean.  However, she does concede that they must have been in close proximity because their recollection of events was similar—most notably a blond woman singing jazz next to them. 

Siobhan’s version is quite different. When Siobhan left for university she was in a relationship and had vowed to stay true.  A week before she was about to return home for Christmas and see the “love of her life”, she went to a bar in Cambridge with a girlfriend and across the room spotted Sean. Sean at the time had long, black curly hair and his look immediately attracted Siobhan and she made an instant decision that he would be her next boyfriend.  Sean says it was his shoulder length, bad boy, mafioso looking curls that attracted Siobhan. Siobhan introduced herself and he duly ignored her.  Sean said he was just playing hard to get.  It worked.

Siobhan, not be deterred by Sean’s initial hard to get response, found a photograph of Sean with some of his friends and from the photograph she was able to figure out where he lived on campus.  She went to visit him in the middle of the night.  He very kindly allowed her into his room. A few days later Siobhan returned to Yorkshire.  He had provided Siobhan with the number of the house where he would be staying with his mother and her new boyfriend. Sean’s, now stepfather didn’t like the idea of having Sean around and so when Sean’s friend called he would tell her “This is a business line and I won’t be getting Sean,” and then hang up.   

They returned to university and Siobhan and her friend were in a pub again and returned to their dorm room and her friend passed out in the shower. Siobhan threw on her coat and nothing else and ran across the campus to get Sean to help her with her roommate. That was the second night they spent together. Soon afterward, Siobhan’s boyfriend decided to visit for the weekend from Oxford with the intent of winning Siobhan back. Unfortunately, when he arrived they were all out at a pub. Siobhan was sitting beside a very tall, handsome, post graduate Australian. When her boyfriend entered the bar and saw Siobhan, he made a beeline for the Australian and started a fight with him. In the meantime, Sean sat across the table and did nothing knowing full well he was the guy who should have been fighting. That was the end of that long term relationship. Siobhan became more determined than ever that she was going to be with Sean.

The following year, a group of their friends had decided that they would all rent a house together. However, when they showed up in the fall, Sean and Siobhan were the only people still interested in living in the house. By default they ended up living together–without planning to or being asked if that was okay with Siobhan. They rented one bedroom on the main floor of the house. Siobhan did not tell her parents of her living arrangement and when they came to visit, she had to move all Sean’s clothes out. In her third year of studies, Siobhan, who was studying languages, chose to spend a year in France. Sean said he would take a year off as well and got permission to have a leave of absence. Siobhan thought he would come to France with her but instead he went to China. He explored Manilla and then went to Hong Kong until he ran out of money. It was cheaper for him to live in China so he went there while waiting for money from his parents so he could get a ticket home. While in China, he got involved in the movie Shogun. The casting director was looking for an assistant to help with casting. His job was to go to the hostels and look for people interested in being extras. His career in casting ended abruptly when his ticket arrived from his father and he had to go home. Sean wrote love letters to Siobhan over the year but she didn’t read them because she couldn’t read his handwriitng–she didn’t even keep them. Sean flew to France to visit Siobhan twice over the course of the year.

In year 4, they had agreed to live together again in a house. At the last minute Sean changed his mind and went back to live in the College so he could focus and make sure he got good grades. At the end of the year, because they didn’t have any plans and weren’t sure what they were going to do, they lived with his mother and her new boyfriend in London. Sean’s mother’s boyfriend wasn’t happy about this, and they lasted about a month living there and then moved in with Siobhan’s sister. She wasn’t keen on having them live with her either so they moved on and lived in various spots for about a year. At which time, they decided to live in the Philippines because it was cheaper there. There were three or four years where they moved from the Philippines to Australia and back again earning money here and there before returning to London and getting proper jobs.

Sean says he knew right away when he saw her at the May Ball in Oxford. Siobhan said she knew Sean was the one right away when she saw him in the bar. She hung around because she knew he was the one even though he was never going to commit to anything–he didn’t believe in marriage and he didn’t want children at the time they met. When they returned to London, Sean got hepatitis quite badly and Siobhan nursed him for several months and her caring added to Sean’s realization that Siobhan was the one. When he was better, they decided to get serious about their careers–Sean became an accountant and Siobhan went into publishing and then went back to law school at night.

Siobhan was expecting a proposal every New Years’ Eve and it never happened. Finally one morning in February 1991, they were lying in bed and Sean turned to Siobhan and said let’s get married.

The plan was to get married at the registry office. However, when they went down to fill in the forms the waiting room was so depressing with its orange bucket seats, Sean looked at Siobhan and said, “We can’t get married here it reminds me of my grade school.” Siobhan was thrilled to get married in a church and because they lived in the neighbourhood and she had a connection with the church through the publisher where she worked, they got married in beautiful St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street designed by Christopher Wren. They had to get permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In their initial interview, I failed to ask them about their wisdom. However, in a follow up conversation with Siobhan, she had this to say about what makes them work, “Compromise is King” in any relationship. She said you have to learn to “let it go” rather than holding a grudge. It’s important to be supportive and see things from your partner’s point of view. Siobhan says the most important thing is to be honest with your partner about your wants and needs.

Siobhan and Sean are back living in England after several years in Australia.

Broadcast Love wishes Sean and Siobhan many more decades of adventures together.

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