The politics of love

September 13, 2012, 10:32 amnewideanz

The Labour leader celebrates 25 years of marriage to the one who almost got away

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When New Idea asks Labour leader David Shearer and his wife Anuschka Meyer what date their 25th wedding anniversary falls on, they both burst out laughing.

"Tell them, David," she says, with a teasing tone. He fires back, "No, you tell them!"

It turns out that the day – September 4 – has become a running joke between the couple to see who gets in first. "We have each other on about who can remember," David explains.

"I often have to hide the flowers around the back of the house so I can be first in."

The family celebrated the milestone early when David treated Anuschka, their son, Vetya, 15, and daughter Anastasia, 14, to a trip to Bali in July.

"I had a birthday there," Anuschka says. "We sat on the beach eating seafood, the kids played by the pool and Dave did a bit of surfing."

Back in New Zealand, David spends four to five days a week away from their Auckland home. But separation is nothing new for this well-travelled pair.

"We’ve probably had as many anniversaries apart as we’ve had together," he admits.

Before he became MP for Mt Albert in 2009, David’s humanitarian work took him to places as far-flung as Iraq, Africa and Jerusalem.

Anuschka, a lawyer, was often by his side, but the couple has also learned to cope with distance.

"In our lives, a lot has depended on compromise," Anuschka says.

Their partnership began in 1984 when David moved into Anuschka’s Auckland home.

"Nush was the landlady," he recalls. "I went around to be interviewed for the flat, and she wasn’t there."

He was annoyed by her lateness – but not for long.

"She arrived on a little light-blue motorbike. She said hello, and I thought, "Ooh, she’s nice!""


Anuschka’s first impression of David wasn’t quite so romantic. "I thought, "Here’s someone to mow the lawns!"" she jokes. But as they got to know each other it was obvious there was something special between them.

"There were two other people in the flat, and Nush and I’d sit up talking after they’d gone to bed. One minute you’re flatmates, then you’re cutting the lawns, then the next you’re something else!"

When he left for Christchurch to do his masters degree in resource management, he and Anuschka embarked on a long-distance romance. But after two years, she wanted to know if they had long-term potential.

"Being a typical male, I said I didn’t want to commit myself," David admits. "I can see women reading this and rolling their eyes!"

Anuschka says: "I thought, "Well, if he can’t make up his mind, I’m out of here!"" She set off for South-East Asia, but after a few months received a phone call from David.

"I realised I was going to miss out. I didn’t know what I had when I had it," he recalls. "I called Nush and said, "I’m coming over and I’d really like to talk about this again – and maybe we should get married.""

The couple tied the knot in a Thai registry office.

"I don’t think I expected Dave to come running after me," Anuschka says.

Laughing, David says: "I don’t know about "running after you" – that sounds slightly desperate!"

Now, 25 years on, they’ve only become closer.

"When relationships succeed, you become better and better friends," Anuschka explains. "We have similar views on raising the children, on community and on friendship. We don’t bear grudges – we resolve things immediately."

David says he and his wife are similar, although he’s more outgoing. "Nush is much more thoughtful and cerebral really – and much smarter! But we have the same tastes on most things – music, maybe not so much. I got told to turn the stereo down last night because I was blasting Linkin Park!"

They were married for 10 years before having kids, and David says parenthood made their relationship "bigger and better".

Before he decided to run for the Labour leadership in 2011, the couple considered the impact it would have on their family.

"Parliamentary life is quite disruptive," David says. "I phone home every night, and when I’m in Auckland I make a real effort to sit down to dinner and hear what’s going on in everyone’s lives."

So what advice do the couple have after 25 years of marriage?

Anuschka answers quickly: "I tell the kids to look for a good friend – somebody who takes them for what they are. I often talk about being true to what’s on the inside, caring and being loyal."

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