For Marlon Jimenez-Compton (he jokingly pronounces the ‘double barrel’ as he says his second names) the love of a good dance almost got in the way of the love of a good man.
15 years ago in 2004, on a night out with friends, Marlon spotted John Compton across the dance floor of Dublin’s The George nightclub. There were immediate sparks. Not shy in the slightest, Marlon made a beeline for John and the pair got to chatting. Proving to be no shrinking violet himself, John asked if Marlon would like to leave with him. “And said ‘no’ because wanted to dance,” Marlon smiles. “So went back to my friends and my friends asked me ‘What happened?! Why did you walk away from him!?’ and said, ‘He’s going home. And want to dance.’”
That was almost that, but about a month later, the pair spotted each other on the online dating site Gaydar. They continued chatting, until, as Marlon shared, “On July 15, he invited me to his house for dinner.” Marlon remembers the date clearly, as “the next day was my birthday, July 16.” Clearly it went well, as Marlon followed, “So now we celebrate both my birthday and our wedding anniversary on that date.”
Anyone who ever meets Marlon will learn two things very quickly – firstly how much he absolutely adores his husband John, and secondly, he really really believes being married is the best thing ever. Suffice to say, it was no shock when Marlon revealed it was him who had popped the question.
They were in a restaurant called The Angler’s Rest in Strawberry Beds. It had just been refurbished and John commented it would be a great spot for a wedding. Marlon quickly replied, “So why don’t we get married?”
This was in November, 2010. When civil partnership became available in January the following year, the couple where quick to take advantage, celebrating their ceremony that July. That wasn’t the end of their commitment though. When the equal marriage referendum made grá the law, the couple once again made their vows to each other.
So why is marriage so important to them?
Being practical for a moment, Marlon lists all the important legal rights that come with being married, but follows, “When we actually got married, felt that there was a rebirth of the love. felt a sense that we actually belonged to each other now.”
Marlon stresses something he believes is necessary before someone considers marriage - “You have to love yourself first. know it’s a cliché, but if you are unable to love yourself, you will not be able to love anybody else. Also, maintain your independence – not in a selfish way, but in the way that you have to be self aware – you are your own person, your partner is their own person. If you have that in mind you will be able to separate yourself from the silly situations that you need to separate yourself from.”
So, is there one universal secret to a successful marriage? “Every marriage is different. Whatever is working in our marriage won’t necessarily work in somebody else’s marriage. Trust is important. Love. Respect. Communication is huge, not just in a marriage but in any relationship.”
Marlon also offers the wise advice: “Do not compare your union with somebody else’s. Your union is yours. Enjoy how special it is. Enjoy how unique it is.”
15 years together obviously means 15 anniversaries. Is there any one in particular that stood out? “I think the fifth year was important. remember going out to dinner and it struck me ‘Wow, we made it this far.’ “We married twice. And here we are. 15 years later, we have a house, a dog and 11 fish.”
The couple share a terrific sense of humour, and to anyone who sees them it’s immediately clear they truly enjoy each other’s company. Best of all, Marlon didn’t make have to make a choice - after all these years together, there’s still a lot of dancing, although most of it takes place in the kitchen rather than The George.
Helen and Philippa Ryder
For Helen and Philippa Ryder, fate was written in the stars. Well, sort of. The pair are huge Star Trek fans and met at a convention in Leeds 39 years ago. While Helen, being a Leeds native, was only a skip and a jump from the convention centre, Philippa had to travel over from Dublin, thankfully not in Trekkie attire.
It initially started as a friendship, bonding over all things sci-fi, but as they continued meeting year after year at the convention, something else blossomed.
It was the terrible night of the Stardust tragedy, Philippa received a phone call from Helen in the UK. She had heard about the disaster on the news, and, knowing Helen was in Dublin, wanted to check she was unharmed. “I knew then she was a genuine friend,” said Philippa.
The relationship grew over the next six months until one day, after seeing a terrible fantasy film in the cinema, Philippa popped the question. “She got down on one knee on the wet street in Leeds,” Helen shared.
The wedding came four years later.
Those days before the big day were tough at first. By necessity, the relationship was long distance. Helen was training as a radiographer in Leeds while Philippa had her civil service job in Dublin. Many a trip was made on the dreaded ferry in those days before Ryanair made flying affordable. But love makes you determined.
The couple married in a church ceremony in 1986, and, trust two science fiction fans to come up with something imaginative, the reception was held on a Leeds to Liverpool barge. The couple shared how lovely it was making their way down the river as passersby on the bank shouted across their well wishes.
In 1995, the couple welcomed their beautiful daughter, Jenny, into the world. It is plain to see how devoted they are to Jenny, their faces lighting up with pride as they share her successes. Philippa heaps praise, before quickly adding a little joke - “I genuinely think we got the perfect child...if you’re reading this, Jenny!”
Helen continued, “We had nine years together as a couple before Jenny came along, and things started to change really quickly after that.”
It was after this that Philippa began the process of transitioning. She shared, “I started to seriously consider myself and identify who was to myself.”
While the couple admit to being very laid back in general, Philippa’s transition was a difficult hurdle at first. Helen explains, “I’m not going to gloss over the transition because there were a lot of tears and a lot of heartache and a lot of ‘are we going to make it’ but we had a child to think about, we had a home. You can either pack it all in or you can say -‘let’s go for it’. That’s the way we are.”
Philippa continued, ”My transition - almost said ours, because in a way it was our transition - was from a place of privilege, we both had jobs, an amazing house, a kid. Other people don’t have that. In our heads we knew if we split up all of that was gone. know people who transitioned who had to leave the house, go and live in a flat. They can be themselves, but they’ve lost what they had. We both realised - hang on a second, this is a huge event, but even bigger could be a split. Do we want to put ourselves through that? But underlying all that was the love and the friendship. That’s why every single year mark the day of the start of our friendship, not just our relationship.”
So what advice could the couple offer others who are considering marriage?
Helen suggests, “Get to know each other - and make sure you’re on the same page about what you want from life. Don’t think things are going to be perfect. We had a lot of strain on us because of the transition, there are so many marriages that fall apart when a person transitions, some can be acrimonious. had to swing my mindset of being a wife to a husband to being a wife to someone who loved. It’s the person you fall in love with, no matter the gender, it’s the person. We do have arguments but you can’t let that take over.” Philippa agrees. “I support her, she supports me. You have to talk things through.”
They agree that common interests are important, but don’t be afraid to have interests of your own, and to give the other person space for themselves. While Helen has a huge interest in genealogy, Philippa enjoys cycling and sports. The pair do share an interest in activism, however – promoting equality and equal rights – a passion they have passed on to their daughter. This family activism was originally inspired by Philippa’s journey. “When needed help, found an online community and eventually started meeting people. It was immensely beneficial to me, it helped me through my transition. Then when an opportunity arose to help others, felt it was almost my duty to do it. We all owe a debt to those who came before and those who will come after us.”
When the pair are asked to try and encapsulate the success of their relationship in one word, they pause for a moment.
“Trust,” Helen offers.
“Belief,” follows Philippa. “Because believe in her.”
“That’s a great one,” agrees Helen, “because it includes trust.”
As the conversation comes to a close, Helen and Philippa share they are going straight out to dinner. Because, as timing would have it, it was on the very day we were speaking, 39 years before, they had met at that fateful Star Trek convention.
So with that in mind, in the words of a very famous Vulcan, here’s to our long term couples. May they live long and prosper.