How we stay together: ‘We’re on each other’s team’ | Life and style

Names: Rikki Hodge-Smith and Ben Smith
Years collectively: 11
Occupations: Author and defence

Rikki Hodge-Smith thought she was taking part in it cool when, on her first date together with her now husband, she trotted out that well-worn line: “If it doesn’t work out as a relationship, then we’ll be pals.”

His response stunned and delighted her. “I keep in mind him saying: ‘I’ve received pals so I don’t really want any extra. I’m truly right here for a relationship.’ From day one, he has been extraordinarily clear about his emotions, which was probably the most refreshing factor of all, as a result of there was zero gameplay,” she says.

The couple met in Brisbane in 2009 within the early days of on-line relationship.


Their first assembly was a low-key late afternoon date on the Espresso Membership and they clicked. Ben remembers her making him chuckle whereas Rikki remembers him being simple to speak to. After espresso and a sausage roll, they went on to the pub to play trivia.

Just a few days later, Ben was deployed to Townsville for 4 weeks as a part of his work with the defence power however they saved speaking by cellphone. When he received again to Brisbane, he advised Rikki that in about six months he could be deployed to East Timor for a lot of the following 12 months.

Rikki Hodge-Smith and Ben Smith first photo together
‘I recall the sensation of having fun with somebody at house, somebody ready for me, somebody caring about the truth that I used to be over there,’ says Ben. {Photograph}: Rikki Hodge-Smith and Ben Smith

It was an early take a look at. Ben wasn’t eager to maintain relationship in the event that they have been more likely to break up when he left. As a substitute he wished them each to provide it a go. Rikki agreed: “That has been a working theme in the entire relationship. It simply doesn’t happen to me that it [was] a foul thought and it by no means did.”

They’d realised they valued related issues. As an illustration, Rikki might see how shut he was to his household, simply as she was to hers. “He had a pleasant respect for his mum. [I’d] began to surprise if it was regular for folks to yell at their mums, which stemmed from coming from a household the place that’s not one thing – my dad and mom by no means swore at each different,” says Rikki.

When he left for East Timor, they stayed in contact with lengthy conversations on Skype. Ben was busy with work and whereas he doesn’t keep in mind lacking her, her lengthy distance presence felt particular to him: “I recall the sensation of having fun with somebody at house, somebody ready for me, somebody caring about the truth that I used to be over there.”

When he returned, they moved to Sydney collectively. That first 12 months was their hardest as they adjusted to residing collectively. Though Rikki admits she’s untidy, Ben is “navy tidy”. He was additionally extra self-sufficient and so did – and continues to do – a lot of the house responsibilities. Ben laughs as Rikki tries to defend herself, earlier than wryly including: “I wouldn’t thoughts somewhat extra assist.”

They’ve received higher at coping with battle since then. “We have been so mismatched for battle initially, which is why I believe that first 12 months was so powerful,” Rikki says. Whereas she would withdraw when there have been issues, he would reply by being overly cheery, which infuriated her. Ultimately they determined they needed to break the sample – and did.

“We’re actually good at speaking. If there’s a difficulty, we’re superb at speaking it by means of, discovering the core factor,” she says. “[And] we’re extraordinarily trustworthy with each different too.”

Additionally they agreed to maintain their very own counsel, by no means criticising each different to pals or household. “I by no means thought it was cute or good when {couples} would argue, particularly in entrance of different folks, or put each different down or discuss each different to different folks,” says Rikki.

Rikki Hodge-Smith and Ben Smith Wedding
‘We’re actually good at speaking. If there’s a difficulty, we’re superb at speaking it by means of, discovering the core factor,’ says Rikki. The couple on their marriage ceremony day. {Photograph}: Rikki Hodge-Smith and Ben Smith

As a result of they’ve had such certainty about each different and their relationship, they’re fairly relaxed about main life selections. So it was with minimal hoopla that they determined to get married just a few years later. “That’s the one technique to get by means of massive stuff. If you consider the loopy issues that folks determine to do for the remainder of their life, you’d by no means do it,” says Rikki.

The most important shift of their relationship got here after they had their first baby. It took time for Rikki to fall pregnant, she was unwell all through the time period and then went by means of 50 hours of intense labour.

Ben was at her aspect all through, caring for her notably throughout her most susceptible moments as she recovered from the accidents of labour. “That was an enormous turning level for me”, she says. “[He was] caring for me in actually embarrassing issues. That’s in all probability the place you suppose you like someone and then they present you one thing else. I believe that’s when folks say that they love the particular person greater than they did the day earlier than. It’s in all probability due to embarrassing issues which have occurred. It’s not the getting your flowers – it’s the opposite stuff.”


The early days of elevating their new child son have been powerful, as Rikki struggled with the dearth of sleep. “I keep in mind pondering he didn’t perceive how little sleep I used to be getting as a result of I used to be so jealous. You turn out to be so irrational. However I used to be so jealous that he received to be in a automotive by himself to get to work. He didn’t essentially need to go to work. And he had this actually lengthy commute that I used to be so jealous of. And I keep in mind him leaving within the morning and I believed, ‘Oh my god, I’ve received one other day.’ And I’d simply bawl my eyes out as a result of Griff awakened each two hours and then wouldn’t sleep that a lot by means of the day.”

Ben drew on his navy coaching to compartmentalise and push by means of the tough days. “It sounds terrible, I simply considered it as a time frame to get by means of,” he says.

Their second baby arrived extra simply and today their lives are “chaos administration” as they wrangle two young children. Though their total parenting method is comparable, they’ve completely different kinds. “My go-to may be very stern navy dad voice,” says Ben, whereas Rikki is softer: “We aren’t these dad and mom that had perfection in thoughts, when it comes to our youngsters. I believe we’re in all probability a bit extra relaxed.”

They’re good at listening to each different and working collectively. Each will get up for the opposite, even in the case of their children. “If Griff’s being impolite to me, [Ben will say] ‘Don’t discuss to your mum like that.’ I believe we’re on each different’s aspect on a regular basis. And that’s been the identical by means of pals and household.”

Rikki Hodge-Smith and Ben Smith birth of second child
‘We’re on each different’s aspect on a regular basis and that’s been the identical by means of pals and household.’ Rikki and Ben with their two kids. {Photograph}: Rikki Hodge-Smith and Ben Smith

Teamwork is a part of their secret to staying collectively. “We’re on each different’s group and I believe that’s saved us collectively. We simply don’t let anybody actually get in between that,” says Rikki. “However then, it’s not onerous to stay on [the team] both. It’s not like we’re gripping on to each different. There’s an actual ease to it.”

Ben explains that theirs is a gradual partnership, the place each know they’re in it for the lengthy haul. Rikki agrees, saying whereas they’ve had the massive grand romantic gestures, she finds the ordinariness of their life collectively extra spectacular. “The gushiness of it’s the simple half. Nevertheless it’s just a bit bit completely different to that, daily. We’ve had the marriage, we’ve had the romance. However the different half is simply [the more interesting].”

And there’s one thing else too. Whereas their values and lifestyle are aligned, in addition they nonetheless actually fancy each different. “There’s a highschool crush-like attraction that simply by no means went away,” says Rikki. “With out it, we’d solely be nice housemates and co-parents. Even [all] these years later, we nonetheless pinch each different’s bum [and] I nonetheless suppose he’s the perfect wanting dad on the seashore.”

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