Two couples speak of their relationships with the world around them and with each other.
Nikolay and Andrey
In a relationship for four years. Living together for almost the whole of that time.
Andrey: I was uncomfortable with it all back then but I had nothing to do at work and decided to sign up on a dating website and look what would happen. I spent some time there, talked to people but quickly had enough of it: it was all dirty and crass. I was just about to press the “delete your profile” button when Kolya messaged me: “Hi, how are you”. And sent smilies. In the mornings, he’d wish me a nice day on a regular basis and send smilies with roses. It was nice: you come to work and get pleasant words. Then we decided to meet for coffee but two more months had passed before we actually did it. We met during the lunch break, had some tea, said goodbye, that was it. As we found out later, each of us thought: “Not my type.” As a gentleman, Kolya gave me a lift back to work and then we started exchanging phone calls: I don’t remember what we talked about but we talked a lot, then we started going out on dates. Nothing would happen, Kolya would just come over, bring me roses, and suggest we go for a walk, to a café or just around the city. He was truly chivalrous, I guess that was what won me over. And then everything came into motion, it sparked, and after a month we moved in together. It was a frenzied passion, a powerful drive and butterflies in the stomach when you can’t think of anything or anyone else.
Nikolay: And then we said we’d go for a boat tour on the Minsk Sea. And that was when the reason for my love turned up, it was definitely a poisoned wasp that Andrey secretly sent for me (laughs).
Andrey: It’s just that I hate wasps, bees, and bumblebees, I’m terrified of them, and then on our first date Kolya gets stung by a wasp.
Nikolay: We’re on the boat, Andrey is telling me all those stories about bees and bumblebees, and then a wasp stings me in the hand.
Andrey: It was a sign that you’d have a hard time with me!
Nikolay: After that meeting we talked more and wanted to spend more time together. Another moment was the nighttime walk at the Kalvaryja cemetery.
Andrey: That time Kolya sprained his ankleу.
Nikolay: Yeah, because someone wanted to jump over the fence! All in all, we were having a great time together (smiles).
Andrey: Wow, so he was having a “great time”. I had such butterflies in my stomach, I thought I was going crazy!
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Nikolay: It was I who suggested we move in together and even insisted on it. We had a great relationship, so why just visit each other. I didn’t want it all to turn into “coming to visit”, then stumbling upon something wrong and splitting up. To be able to stay together for a long time and withstand all problems, I thought it was best to move in right away. I came to Andrey and brought him here. He resisted and gave himself and me lots of reasons to change our minds. But I was firm and after a week we were living together.
Andrey: I was scared because my previous experience ended with me just gathering my stuff in the night and leaving for nowhere.
Nikolay: We’ve been living together for almost four years. We’ve learned to accept each other with all the good and bad stuff. True, sometimes we like to be angry but we don’t sulk. Each of us understands that we are two different people anyway, with our own hangups. We’ve learned to accept and understand, to let the other person be what he is without trying to change him. To acknowledge that the other can dislike what you like. Sometimes we accuse each other of not spending enough time together but ironically, we actually are together almost all the time. And I’m not tired of it, on the contrary, I’m totally happy it’s like that.
Andrey: I’ve learned to accept myself as I am. It’s a huge step in growing up, and it’s hard at first: you’re scared of everyone, you’re uncomfortable around people.
You’ve got ten masks in your closet instead of clothes: you wear one mask when you go to work, another for your parents, a third one for a friend, and so on. Sometimes you get so lost in what you say to whom that you catch yourself lying and it hurts awfully.
So then, I’ve learned to accept myself and be happy. I’ve learned to listen and hear, I’ve also learned to see my husband. And I’ve overcome my selfishness and narcissism. I notice homosexuals mostly have problems with that, we’re all sort of queens: how can I defer to anybody apart from myself? And that’s important in a relationship. I think I’ve become quite good at it.
Nikolay: It’s important to talk. We look at our friends and see that some never manage to hear or see each other.
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Andrey: We can also cook, clean, grow strawberries. Kolya is the one who takes the garbage out more often.
Nikolay: Andrey hates taking out the garbage…
Andrey: I can only drive you up the wall!1
Nikolay: … to clean the fridge, to make sure there is everything we need in the house. For Andrey, “we’ve got everything” means there is, say, nothing but apples.
Andrey: Well, yeah, I can already knock up a dinner with them.
Nikolay: Andrey cleans and cooks more.
Andrey: Say it like it is: what I cook tastes better and is more interesting!
Nikolay: No, you just cook more often, I think my cooking actually tastes better (laughs).
Andrey: You are also in charge of the budget and money. I cannot be trusted with money, I’d spend everything, and Kolya knows how to save. But on the whole, we never had big conflicts for household reasons. And we’ve never brawled, it has never come to manhandling. And we’ve never solved things like this: let’s sit down and drink vodka, talk “as men”. As to relationships with family, my relatives probably guess what my relationship with Kolya is but I don’t tell them openly. They know little about me anyway: where I work, how I live…
Nikolay: Despite that, I know Andrey’s mother and nephew.
Andrey: Yes, my godchildren who are also my nephews often come to visit. And after one such visit I realized my mom suspected something. And because she’s the best mother, she never asks too many questions, she just understands and accepts it. But I know Kolya’s family well, his mother sends me candles, bells, holy water, she knows everything, comes to visit, brings us his godson/nephew to stay over.
Nikolay: Mine are totally nuts about Andrey.
Andrey: We try to have different families around us and spend more time with same sex couples.
Nikolay: We’ve got all kinds of friends but it’s easier to talk to those we don’t have to hide our relationship from, from whom we can learn from or who can learn from us.
Andrey: We’re planning to get married in Denmark in the summer if we can get there. I’ve already researched everything.
Nikolay: You chatterbox! Now we won’t get married in the summer.
Andrey: Alright, we’ll do it in autumn (smiles).
Anna and Darya
In a relationship for almost ten years. Have been living together for six years.
Photo by Alexis Gerard
Anna: We met by a pure accident. My computer broke, I came to a friend to write my term paper, opened the door, and that was it, I saw Dasha. I came looking like hell, if I saw myself from the outside at that moment I’d say: “Oh God, can I leave now?” Dasha had just flown back from Paris, they were looking at their stylish photos, and here I came, hello, nice to meet you. When the tema met at the Panikovka2 the maximum you’d be offered when you were being hit on would be to have cheap beer together. But she took me to the theater on our first date, to see The Chameleon if I remember correctly, I was like: wow!
Dasha: It seemed to us back then that it would definitely be over, not soon but eventually. We weren’t even twenty back then.
Anna: Yeah, in the end it was somehow unexpected. We had no adaptation or learning each other phase. Shared preferences, interests, goals—I think nothing has changed since that time. If we could, we’d move in together much earlier. But first we had no money at all, let alone for an apartment. The decision to live together was mutual: you just want to be with that person, to spend as much time together as you can, you want to make them breakfast, and in the evening, ask them how their day was.
Dasha: There was a time when we lived separately and it was very hard. During the day there were work and studies, in the evening — the car or going out, get very tired from it all.
Anna: I love to cook, I like it immensely. And Dasha likes to load the dishwasher afterwards and then unload it (laughs). Dasha is more of an organizer: if we go on holidays, she researches everything online, does everything, makes the payments and the reservations.
Dasha: All inside the house is Anya’s territory. All that is outside is mine.
Anna: There are things neither of us likes but we’ve already come to realize we have to cover for and relieve each other of them. The starkest example is the dog. Neither of us likes to walk it, before it was like: “you go, it’s your dog”. But now it’s our dog already.
Also if we’ve had a row, we never go to sleep before we make up again. It was hard to follow that rule at first because I’ve got a nasty temper. But I’ve been getting better with time.
Dasha: Yeah, I guess I have eventually polished both Anya and myself round the edges.
Anna: It sounds kind of harsh but I guess it applies.
Dasha: I’m quite explosive, emotional, and if I get angry I get loud and harsh, I can easily break things and say really awful things, but I only need ten minutes, after that I’m ready to make up. And it was very hard for Anya because she needs to keep quiet, withdraw for a while. And I’m like: what’s the point? Either we’re together or we’re not. Now however heated the argument gets, it never lasts for more than an hour.
Anna: It’s important to know how to talk, we’ve come a long way. You need to not let it pile up if you don’t like something but say it. We’ve learned to respect each other in terms of choices, emotions, moods, everything.
Dasha: We’re just two self-sufficient, ambitious, strong personalities. That’s why one of us tries to have it her way from time to time. So we both had to learn how to maneuver. It’s important to respect the other’s opinion.
Ten years ago I thought: “Love!” But now it’s different. Now you sit on the couch, you turn your head and you see your whole life in that single person who’s sitting by your side. It wasn’t like that before. Now you realize she’s the air you breathe. If she’s taken away from you, you’ll have nothing left.
Anna: My Dad knows about our relationship, so does my sister. Both mothers suspect it but don’t bring it up. My parents simply adore Dasha.
Dasha: Well, my Mom adores you too. With my Dad it’s more complicated, he lives in another country altogether.
Anna: We don’t parade our relationship intentionally, if we have a personal conversation with people and the question arises then we say it how it is. I think nobody has run away from us because of that yet (laughs).
Dasha: If somebody asks me, I’ll tell them, I’ll never hide it.
Anna: In the nearest future we want to renovate our apartment. And our most important goal is babies. We’ve thought a lot, went through several options. At first we wanted them to have a Dad, then we didn’t.
Dasha: Recently the question has been particularly pointed. We’ve got morally ready for it, we really want it. All our close friends already have children, we want it very much.
Anna: One of the most reasonable options is a sperm bank, we’re just thinking where to go. We have nobody to get advice from: we don’t know anyone who’d done it.
And on the whole, we lack things that have to do with legal support. It would be good to be protected by the law.
As far as children are concerned: I can give birth but how to register the parentage? It’s very complicated with the legal aspects, if it’s ever regulated in our country it will be amazing.
Dasha: You do realize it will never happen here.
Anna: Yes, that’s why we hope we’ll leave soon, it’s down in our plans.
1. Andrey makes a joke based on wordplay: in Russian, to drive someone up the wall literally translates as “to take someone’s brain out”.—Translator’s note.
2. On the tema, see the article "ThemeVIDOS: This was not a hobby, but a lifetime". On the Panikovka, see the article "For the past five years, no one here is going to"
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