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The boundaries of love are challenged when COVID holds Cupid at arm's length

Opinion

With Australia’s international travel ban potentially continuing for another year, it’s not only tourism that hurts, it’s hearts that break, writes Rebecca Levingston

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You can’t help who you fall in love with … or where.

He was in New York. She was in London. He was Australian. She was Canadian. Work colleagues. They’d never met face to face. When he flew across the Atlantic Ocean to meet her for the first time, he had a diamond ring in his pocket. She said yes. They married … in Queensland.

I’ve been thinking about how many transnational marriages there are in Australia. That word “transnational” sounds too corporate to describe a love affair that crisscrosses countries, but it seems to be the right romantic term.

In 2016, almost 32 per cent of registered marriages were between partners born in different countries according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Even in my own family, there are lots of love stories that connect cultures and countries.

That story about the work colleagues and the diamond dash is my cousin Tony. He and his wife Teresa now live in Seattle with three kids and two dogs.

My brother Ward was working in Tokyo when he became seriously ill. Yoshiko was his nurse. My mum said she knew he was getting better when one day he sat up in his hospital bed and said “Did you see that nurse?” Once recovered, he asked Yoshiko out for some green tea. Now they live in Brisbane with two kids and two guinea pigs.

On another continent, my cousin James fell in love with Paisley who’s from South Carolina, USA. They married in Italy but live in London. The year before last, they spent Christmas … in Queensland. Australians love to travel and they love to fall in love, it seems.

But for every international love story, there’s a family spread across continents who are longing to see each other. Grandparents and growing grandchildren who are hopefully not growing apart.

I remember speaking to a French woman in Brisbane last year as lockdowns rolled out across the country. She was distraught because her parents couldn’t come to Australia. They Zoomed daily, sometimes having video birthday parties together, often shedding tears. I can’t help but wonder if they ever reunited.

So as news of Australia’s international travel ban potentially continuing for another year ricocheted around the world, it’s not only tourism that hurts, it’s hearts that break. Health Department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy says he thinks border restrictions will be in place throughout most of this year, even with the vaccine.

2021 is looking like a tough year for international family reunions.

2020 was a tough year for marriage full stop. Tens of thousands of weddings were postponed, cancelled or called off.

The provisional data from the ABS shows there was a 62 per cent drop in the number of marriages between April and June 2020 compared with the same three month period in the past five years. 

“I do” became “I don’t”. The stats for the second half of the year are due out soon.

With so many Australians now not travelling, it’ll be years before we know how this time of grounding will impact the international reach of Cupid’s arrows.

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