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Arna & Alex – Couple

Our people, their stories

A musical journey

Alex and Arna have been together for ten years and married for five – but if it wasn’t for their love for music, their paths might have never crossed. Neither came from musical families, so it’s a fluke of fate (and a testament to their drive) that they both pursued the same passion. In fact, it took a while before they even interacted. “We'd been playing in the Christchurch youth orchestra together for a couple of months, but I never really noticed [him] all the way over in the Horn section.” It wasn’t long before that all changed; they became inseparable. For Alex, music takes their relationship to another level. “Music is a creative endeavour, and as a shared passion it’s something that draws us closer together to the point where I couldn't imagine doing it with anyone else.”

Although they met in an orchestra, and still play together in that setting, he believes it’s important to play in a smaller setting. “It’s pretty amazing that we share such a great passion; the thing that we both most enjoy in life, we are able to do together… [Although] the orchestra isn’t very intimate, we do chamber music together and it’s just the two of us and the piano.” Arna agrees that it gives them a level of understanding with each other that many relationships lack. “Musicians are a special breed of people and I couldn’t imagine being in a romantic relationship with a non-musician! Because we are both so dedicated to our craft, we have compassion for one another in times of musical hardship, and an understanding when we must forgo dinner plans in lieu of practice for an upcoming concert. Music brought us together, and I feel like it holds us together as well. Our shared love of music radiates from our love for one another.”

Getting serious early

They married young, something that’s less common these days; Arna was only twenty-one when they wed. Although they’re both glad they married when they did, now with hindsight Arna would have done things differently. “[We were] such different people then… I think we'd have a much smaller wedding if we did it now.”

Teenage relationships don’t usually stand the test of time (as we all know) but theirs has beaten the odds. “Alex and I have been together for over ten years and married for five; the dynamics of our relationship have evolved as we’ve grown up. When you meet your soulmate at 15, you’re still a kid, so it was just pure puppy love that held us together at the beginning. But as we went off to Uni and had to start ‘adulting’ through life, you begin to change as individuals. For some couples, this change is what breaks them, but for Alex and I, the challenges and struggles we faced as we learned to navigate our evolving adult relationship were what strengthened our bond… As we’ve grown up, Alex and I have learned to depend more and more on each other emotionally, which consequentially has enabled us to develop into stronger individuals too.”

Taking the next step

Both wanted to study music at a higher level, but felt that New Zealand couldn’t offer what they needed. “There's not a great deal of musical opportunities in New Zealand for what we do.” Alex explains, so they decided to move to Melbourne. The move was hard, one of the hardest things they’ve been through; they knew barely anyone and struggled to get settled. Even getting to work for Alex was a mission. “We moved in to a motel for the first week. I got a job that was thirty kilometres away; there was no public transport and we couldn't afford a car, so I bought a bike and cycled sixty kilometres a day... On the first day I threw up on the way to work. I was going through hell. My manager didn't realize what I was doing – I used to sleep under my desk, on my lunch break because I was so exhausted.”

Arna credits Alex’s support for helping her cope. “Initially it was hard; we didn't have any friends there so we had to rely with each other. I think if I was there by myself it would been a lot much harder.” They eventually found their footing; moving into the centre of the city helped incredibly – they’re now immersed in music on the South Bank. Alex thinks the challenge was good for them and their relationship. “Three years on and we're definitely stronger together as a result.”

Differences and compromise

Although they share passion and talent for music, Arna says that’s where a lot of similarities end. “We're actually quite different people but I think that's what makes us work in a way; a lot of areas of life complement each other.” Their personalities differ considerably; Alex describes himself as cool, calm and collected. “Nothing really stresses me too much. I just take everything as it comes.” He explains how Arna is the complete opposite. “She's prepared for everything and stresses over every tiny little detail.” It’s these differences however that bring their relationship balance and strength. “I see his strengths that I don't have. His ability to just say yes to things and [his] lack of fear in life are inspiring because I'm kind of a fearful person – change and spiders… Some of our core personal attributes may differ, but learning to love what is different in your partner helps to create this beautiful, empathic synergy. Like they say, opposites attract.”

Arna admits marrying young has had its challenges. “Usually people get married when their careers are a little bit more settled.” Instead, their flourishing music careers have thrown plenty of hurdles into the mix. “When the opportunity comes up overseas or something, we have to be really flexible – give and take. At the moment we're settled in Melbourne, at least while I finish my PhD, and then it might be time then for [Alex] to pursue something up and I'll just have to follow. You have to be really flexible with the opportunities.” They also compromise their time, with Alex helping Arna with her YouTube beauty channel. “I'm an Instagram husband… Many awkward moment taking photos in the middle of the street.” At the end of the day though, he’ll do anything for her. “The YouTube thing I'm pretty proud of, just because it's such a self-driven project that’s going strength for strength.”

Finding balance

Both now pursue music full time, with Arna working towards a PhD. “This involves hours of practice a day, group rehearsals, attending lectures/performance classes, and squeezing in time to read and research for my dissertation.” It’s her dedication and work ethic that Alex is proud of. “The thing I admire most about Arna is her strong work ethic and motivation. This is most evident in her willingness to tackle (and stick with) huge challenges like doing a PhD and running her own YouTube channel.”

Meanwhile Alex is studying at the Australian National Academy of Music, and thrives on being busy as much as Arna does. “While it's nice to have down time, I really love being busy. Especially as performers it really is quite exciting going from thing to thing to thing. We stay afloat by being extremely organised.” Having time for each other amongst everything they do is a daily challenge. “Finding the space to spend quality time with Alex can be a struggle, as we often only have time to exist around one another.” At the end of the day, she knows their priority. “Our relationship has to come first; some opportunities you have to say no to, or compromise so you can do it together… Our most special moments are our most private moments.”

The power of teamwork

“Alex is definitely a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy, and his fun and warm nature can be such a beacon of hope for me when I’m struggling.” At the heart of their marriage, and their success, is teamwork. “My weaknesses are her strengths and vice versa. I'm the ideas man while Arna keeps me grounded in reality.” Playing music together and sharing this passion is a special part of their relationship for Alex. “We often perform chamber music together. This sort of small ensemble work requires a great deal of cooperation and compromise to ensure everyone is satisfied artistically. As a couple performing together we know each other intimately and this really shines through in concert.” Their teamwork even transcends their marriage and music careers; it’s what Arna loves about working together in our Melbourne store. “We make a pretty great team any time we are working the same shift at Merchant 1948. Some people might find the thought of working with their partner a horror, but we love it! Because our lives are so busy, it’s actually nice to occasionally work the same Sunday shift together, and we enjoy helping each other out on the sales floor! Often it can be a team effort between the two of us that helps a customer find some great new shoes they love!”

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