Welcome to love in Newcastle. Read about failures, triumphs, the awkward and obscene. It's certainly not an advice column, rather these pieces highlight the romance, good or bad or absurd.
You'll read stories of how people met and where things went wrong. You might find stories with dramatic breakups, sexy scandals and some good old-fashioned long-term love.
As a growing and changing city by the sea, Newcastle makes an interesting place to have relationships.
It's big enough to look for love, but not big enough to avoid someone forever.
It can be invigorating, and it can be incestuous.
These stories are told anonymously and have been edited to read in first person. The stories are illustrated by Newcastle artist Ben Mitchell
Torn by emotions
I came to Newcastle with an ex-partner. The first serious boyfriend I'd ever had. I met him in Melbourne, at a time when I was financially unstable and mentally unsure what I wanted from life.
After many years in Newcastle, I am more financially stable, but probably as equally uncertain about my future. I like not knowing. I like not owning a pet or a house or anything that ties me to one place, but I also like the stability this city has provided me.
I am now no longer with the man I moved to Newcastle with. This is because cheated on him. With the man who is my current partner.
One drunk night was all it took to bring four years crashing down. After the night, and a few more weeks of turmoil as it all fell apart, my security was shattered.
After it happened, I was shocked at how good I'd been at lying to myself for probably years.
I had rushed into a relationship in my early 20s. Slowly I'd started to realise that his dominating behavior and rigid lifestyle expectations were very different from my own.
We thought about money very differently. He didn't like a lot of my friends or my highly social lifestyle. He wasn't a bad person; we were just two noticeably different people.
I remember being outside the Terrace Bar on my birthday, several months before we split, telling him, sadly, guiltily that I was afraid I didn't love him anymore. I wanted to be single, to date other people, to imagine a future as more of an individual.
Of course I couldn't articulate all these things in my emotional state, and it didn't really matter. He flew into a rage. We walked home in silence and my mind raced.
The next day I tried to convince him I didn't mean it. I vowed that I would be better. I would make myself love him. And things did get better. I tried.
But my mind kept wandering. I couldn't stop thinking about other men, particularly the one I eventually left him for.
I didn't want to hurt anyone. Before the breakup, both our families seemed so happy with us.
After my betrayal I experienced guilt in a form I'd never knew existed before.
Because this happened in Newcastle, I still have moments. I see his old colleagues and my stomach drops. I smell the perfume his mother used to wear on the train, and I want to throw myself onto the tracks.
The next day I tried to convince him I didn't mean it. I vowed that I would be better. I would make myself love him. And things did get better. I tried.
It ended badly. My parents were devastated and disappointed. Everyone close to him questioned my integrity as a human being, and some of them hate me. Fair enough. I hate me too sometimes.
My ex could not have loved me more. We had plans to get married and travel the world. And I think I did want that, but maybe not with him.
Yet I found I didn't even know if I wanted to leave; I was finally starting to make a life for myself here. I was working in my field. I was making real friends with like-minded people.
Years later I'm still here. Still not completely sure what I want.
My new partner understands my indecisive nature. He knows what I'm capable of and loves me regardless.
Since we've been together, I've struggled with temptations. I know I don't deserve him, and I have regrets.
Part of me thinks everything is fair in love and war, but part of me is a pacifist.
The Newcastle harbour makes me think of passion and betrayal. The back streets of this town bring me mixed emotions, especially at night. But I also have moments every day when I'm overpowered by my love for this city. Maybe I'm riding my bike, looking at the ocean or having coffee with a friend, but I regularly experience joy and gratitude here. I hope that's ok.
Careful what you wish for
The rules of dating can be as murky as the water in the Newcastle Baths the day before they're cleaned. Enter the story of a 30-something divorcee. An expat who first arrived in Australia with a man who had red flags all over him (clearly visible with hindsight), she was so blinded by love she couldn't tell.
It all came to a grinding halt several years ago, and she's been a single mum since, doing her best to balance a job, kids and dating life. She's found the dating world both euphoric and disappointing. But, she still has hope.
Before my husband, my last experience of dating was in 2002, so skip forward to 2015 when I found myself unwillingly single with two young children. I found it was a new dating world, which I quickly had to learn. The online dating scene itself was new to me, and it occurred at a furious pace. Guys I matched with in Sydney didn't want to leave their Sydney bubble to come to meet me, but were happy if I made the effort to go and see them. If I wasn't available to meet with a guy on the first opportunity they had, it seemed I would miss the boat and they would move on to the next available girl. I experienced being "ghosted", "catfished" and felt ultimately let down by something that I felt had so much promise and excitement at the beginning of my experience.
Just when I was about to give up (about two years ago), I met a man on Tinder. I wasn't particularly attracted to his photos, but I liked that he described himself as affectionate and an optimist. He said he was six-foot-three and had a job ... good start. He lived on the Central Coast and offered to drive to meet me in Newcastle. This act of chivalry won my attention and I first met him at Eurobar patisserie on Beaumont Street, and I knew immediately from his smile that there was a spark for me.
Our second date was on the Central Coast, and to be honest was a little lacklustre. It was the kiss goodbye that was perfect. His lips were like these cushiony pillows, and I could have kissed them forever! At this stage, I didn't know if he really liked me or he just wanted to get laid, so I politely left it with the kiss (that was the confirmation to lock in date number three) and drove myself home.
He was going through a separation and it wasn't going well, but after that date he started to come stay with me in Newcastle. Things just got better and better. He made me feel amazing all the time. He was such an honourable man; from the country, good morals and a great father to his kids. Everything about him was what I wanted for me, but also my girls; he could demonstrate how a woman should be treated.
About three months later, I was on my way to the UK for my sister's wedding. He drove me to the airport and told me he loved me. I was glowing on the plane and for the whole time that I was in the UK. After I came back to Australia, we stayed in Shoal Bay for the weekend. He told me "I'm so much more in love with you every time I see you." I was so in love ... something I hadn't thought was ever possible again after the breakdown of my marriage.
Another three amazing months passed and then, out of what seemed like nowhere, he said he was feeling something he couldn't explain, he thought maybe it was pressure. He told me he needed some time to think about it. I gave him space, but I was a bit confused; it wasn't like I'd asked him to look after my kids.
The online dating scene itself was new to me, and it occurred at a fast and furious pace.
We ended up having a week of no contact, and he decided it was best to continue things that way, to be easier for us both. I was so confused. And absolutely devastated.
To this day I feel like he wasn't completely honest with me. I'm glad I met him because we had such an amazing time, but it's almost cruel. He often pops into my mind. I messaged him on his birthday in 2019. He messaged back saying "thanks hope you're having a good Easter". I wrote back and said I'd love to have a birthday drink, but he didn't respond. I've realised I never fully got closure, and I'd put him on a pedestal.
Around six months after that heartbreak (having decided to keep well-clear of the dating sites), I was set up on a blind date with a local teacher. In so many ways, he was Mr Perfect. This man was gorgeous, caring, considerate, and he had a son. He was a genuinely a lovely guy. We started seeing each other, but he was still hung up on his ex. It was complicated. After three months I called an end to it as he just wasn't able to give me any inkling of his feelings towards me.
I then took another trip to the UK (for another wedding). He was messaging me whilst I was away, with so many emotions (something that had been non-existent before!) and said he was missing me. He asked if he could go round to my house to mow my lawn and trim my hedge so that it looked nice for when I returned from my trip. I got home and not only had he mowed the lawn and trimmed the hedges, but he'd also created me a herb garden and fixed all the broken things on the outside of the house.
That night I invited him to dinner to say thank you and immediately noticed that he'd shaved his beard off (he said he knew I never liked it). Then, out of what seemed like nowhere, he told me he loved me, but it felt disconnected physically. I told him that I couldn't say the same to him because I didn't feel the same at that moment.
I actually found it really unsettling, how he'd gone from giving me nothing emotionally, to everything in the blink of an eye.
We continued to see each other for the next six months, but I found it really difficult.
What was wrong with me? I was hating myself for not feeling something more.
I eventually came to the conclusion that I was the one feeling pressure. His "enthusiasm" for me was something I had never experienced before, and I found it overwhelming. It was difficult for me to balance work, kids and his expectations of what I had left over to give to myself and him. The pressure was making me back off a lot, and in the end I made the really difficult decision to call things off.
I think what these two men have taught me, is that as much shite as there is out there on the dating apps (guys with little-to-no-morals, loyalty, intelligence, personality, chivalry or staying power), there are the odd ones out there who are brilliant and restore our faith.
As much as neither of these guys were sadly right for me for whatever reason, I do believe it is possible to fall in love again - it's just a challenge to get there and a challenge I am willing to take!
A year later ... I'm back on Tinder, although I can only do it a couple of weeks at a time before it becomes too much and I need to take a break. The fish pond in Newy seems to be pretty small and not all that fruitful for what I'm hoping to find, but I'm excited at the prospect of finding someone to eventually share my life with, whether it be through a dating app or another way entirely!
Love we can be open about
Our next story of love in Newcastle is about a gay man in his early 30s who's been very lucky in love over the last decade. He and his partner have worked out the secrets to a successful relationship and his story is told in first person. Read it to get an idea of how they got together in a city that is not exactly Australia's queer capital.
We started dating when I was 22; we met at the Cambridge. I was hanging out with my best friend at the time and went to the pub and he was a friend of a friend's. I thought he was really cute, and we started talking and flirting. When the night was ending I chased him out of the Cambridge and asked if I could have a kiss. He turned me down. But then he said, "but I'll take you home."
He drove me home and dropped me off. We just stayed friends for a couple of years; we were very friendly and went for coffee. We were both working at Marketown for a while and nothing was happening, but I still had a crush on him.
And then one night we both ended up at what was once The Gateway, and then we sat on the top of the stairs. I was freaking out because some random guy came up and pashed me. I was like "Oh my god, I just pashed this guy in front of someone I really liked". I apologised to my friend and he was confused that I apologised, and I said 'it's because I like you!' And then we suddenly were all kissy kissy mushy mushy.
The Gateway will be sorely missed. It could be cliquey at times, but it was such an important place for a young queer person to get to know themselves.
My partner and I have been together since then. We moved in together two years ago, and I'd say one of the most important things to making our relationship work is being our own fully-formed, independent person.
I have my own circle of friends that are 100 per cent separate from him and he has his own friends and life as well. When he lived in Maryville, we might see each other once or twice a week, and we were so excited for the nights that we'd dedicated to each other.
Last year we celebrated our 10-year anniversary in Europe and it was amazing. It did make me think a bit about the differences in cities we visited. For example in Berlin we'd hold hands and make out in the street, but prior to that we'd never make out in the streets of Newcastle.
Last year we celebrated our 10-year anniversary in Europe and it was amazing. It did make me think a bit about the differences in cities we visited. In Berlin we'd hold hands and make out in the street, but prior to that we'd never make out in the streets of Newcastle. If we're out in Newcastle we don't show any affection unless we're at someone's house or a safe space. If we went out to a regular bar we probably wouldn't even sit next to each other. We're not hugely into PDA anyway, but you do notice the cultural differences.
Since we've returned, my partner has told me that after seeing that behaviour so normalised in Berlin, he's happy to hold my hand in public. We're noticing same sex affection happen more here as well. I recently saw two gay men in Mayfield holding hands!
A lack of communication
Does a perfect break up exist? Plenty of people have breakup horror stories, but it doesn't always have to be this way, as you'll see in this story from a few years ago.
It would have been 2016 when we met on Tinder, and our first date was just a stroll around The Foreshore. We had a coffee at Moor and then walked from Newcastle Beach to Nobbys and back into town. It was really nice.
We had a couple of other dates, went to a gig at the Cambridge. He had an apartment with a view and we had some gin and tonics. We had four to six weeks casually seeing each other.
He had a great record collection, and we shared our books. Without knowing that we were planning it, we got each other a small Christmas gift. I saw a book I thought he would like in a second-hand bookshop, and he got me cat earrings. I didn't expect anything and he didn't either.
We enjoyed each other's company, but things started to fade. Christmas was the last time I actually saw him. Over New Year's our communication was text and it became longer and longer between texts. I was starting to spend more time with a person I'd just met.
One night I was sitting at home in my share house with some housemates, and I was like "I need to cut this relationship off because it's kinda of trickling, and someone else I'm caring for has stepped in."
I painstakingly drafted a text and wrote and rewrote it. Read it aloud to the housemates. It was basically saying it was great to know him, it was a great experience in my life, but the timing is not right and thank you and goodbye. I tried to just be not patronising, because he really was a nice guy.
I got back this text, it was like, "ok I thought the same thing. That's why I left you this that note." I was confused. What note?
I painstakingly drafted a text and wrote and rewrote it. Read it aloud to the housemates. It was basically saying it was great to know him, it was a great experience in my life, but the timing is not right and thank you and goodbye. I tried to just be not patronising, be genuine, because he really was a nice guy.
My housemates and I investigated our surroundings, and we realised he'd returned my scarf in a bag by the door. Someone had seen it and put it in the lounge room. It'd probably been there a week and I hadn't noticed it. Along with the scarf was a letter saying it was lovely to meet you, all the best ... Basically I had broken up with him, but he'd already broken up with me. I literally missed the memo.
The only tears that were shed were tears of laughter from my housemates as I read his text out loud and started looking for the bag.
But that's the reality of dating on Tinder; you don't know what else is happening in people's lives. We'd both tried to communicate, we both wanted to do the right thing, but communication is difficult. Sometimes it's hard for people to get the message.