Love, when it arrives, rarely appears in a neat package or abides by a Hollywood script. Love can frustrate us with its demands, and surprise us at other times with how natural and easy it feels.
It can be complicated, and can hurt and stupefy as readily as it heartens and heals. Yet love remains one of life's great journeys and, according to relationships counsellor Hailee Walker, its arrival is hard to anticipate. "Love tends to wait for us in unlikely places," says Walker. "In order to find it we need to be open to it, we must be willing to take a chance. When we are open, though, we can be rewarded with an incredible love story."
TV presenter Osher Günsberg and make-up artist Audrey Griffin. Photo: Justin Aaron
"I fell in love with my make-up artist"
TV presenter Osher Günsberg, 43, and make-up artist Audrey Griffin, 37, met in 2014 during filming of The Bachelor.
As the host of The Bachelor, Osher was surrounded by women looking for love – a yearning he could relate to. Having moved on following the end of his marriage to Israeli model Noa Tishby, he was ready to meet someone.
"I had been chatting to a make-up artist I'd worked with for years about my love-life, and I was complaining about how hard it was to meet someone," says Osher. "I remember saying that I can't go to bars because I don't drink, and the last time I was single there were Nokia phones, and what is this Tinder thing?
"She told me she was going off to another job but had a replacement to do my make-up, and said, 'She is lovely, she has a kid, and you're welcome.' "
As predicted, Osher was taken with Audrey from the beginning. "The day she started I turned up on the show and there was this beautiful vision of light," he recalls.
He invited her to a comedy gig, but Audrey recalls that Osher's attraction wasn't immediately apparent. "When I drove him home from the gig he couldn't get out of the car fast enough," she recalls, with a laugh.
"And when I first met him at work he seemed rather aloof. But then we started chatting and we had these amazing conversations."
Not until their second date did Audrey realise that Osher liked her. "There's a lot of bravado that's required in front of the camera, but he was quite shy and timid – a very self-deprecating and endearing side," she says.
The relationship has been a revelation for Audrey. "I think I realised I needed someone like Osher," she says. "He is such a nice, considerate guy and I had never had that before, and you need to allow yourself to be treated so nicely."
Osher has found being stepdad to Audrey's 13-year-old daughter Georgia extremely rewarding. "You have to not only respect their relationship, but make sure you're not damaging it while growing an entirely new one," he says, referring to his relationship with Georgia.
There is a certain irony, too, that it was crew, not the cast, who found love. "I think it's amazing that we are the only successful couple from the Blake [Garvey] season," Audrey says.
"It's pretty funny," agrees Osher. "But we're not the first people to meet at work, and we won't be the last."
"I fell for my friend of 32 years"
Susan Pierotti, 59, was a classical violinist working in London when she met her husband-to-be Peter Orr, 60.
Susan Pierotti and Peter Orr. Photo: Supplied
When Susan met Peter in London in 1979, she liked him immediately. "He was conservative and nice and not competitive or into one-upmanship," she recalls. Unfortunately for Susan, Peter liked her friend.
Susan and Peter both returned to Melbourne at about the same time, but lost touch. Ten years later, Susan ran into an acquaintance who told her that she had met this "great guy".
"She told me his name and I realised it was Peter," says Susan. "I was really happy for her, though, because I knew she wanted kids and to get married."
Susan saw Peter and his wife socially from time to time during their 17-year marriage. But far from pining for him, she got on with her life.
"There were times when we were all together that it seemed that Peter and I had a lot more in common than he and his wife, but I never worried about it," she says. "They were married so he was completely off-limits."
After Peter's marriage broke down, he moved to rural Victoria and Susan occasionally visited him. "I could see that he was trying to grow from the divorce, that he was turning his life around," she says. "I really admired him for that."
In 2008, more than 10 years after Peter's marriage ended, the pair got together. Peter was keen to get married, but Susan baulked.
"I was 53 and had never been married, and I guess I was comfortable in my life and I didn't want to change," she explains. "I took a bit of time to think about it. I realised that I was being given an opportunity, that it won't just be me making it work – it will be him, too."
Not long after the wedding, seven years ago, Susan's hunch was confirmed: she had indeed married the right guy. "I had some work stresses and changed careers, and Peter supported me 100 per cent. My parents also got sick and I had to put them into care and Peter was very supportive through that. I honestly don't think I could have got through the last six years without him. He's a wonderful companion."
Peter attributes the strength of their relationship to their long friendship. "It was clear that we each cared equally about the triumphs and tragedies of the other," he says.
Married life clearly suits Susan, something she attributes to waiting until she was older. "I honestly don't think I was marriage material until my 40s," she says. "It took me a while to realise that my Mr Right might not be Mr Perfect. And I wasn't going to marry just anyone."
"I fell in love with my dance instructor"
Arts worker Susan Doel, 35, met her dancer husband Julius Sackey, 35, at a class he was teaching in Ghana.
Susan Doel and Julius Sackey.
Susan was in her early 20s when she made a snap decision that changed her life. While studying contemporary dance at Melbourne's Deakin University, she chanced upon a campus poster for a five-week drumming and dance course in Ghana.
"I decided then and there that I would go," says Susan. "I am not a very superstitious person, but I just knew I would go."
And go she did, straight into the arms – literally – of Ghanaian dance teacher Julius Sackey. "I just remember thinking that he was an incredible dancer," Susan recalls.
A strong friendship grew between them which quickly developed into a romance. "I remember getting on a bus one day and hoping he would come and sit next to me and I couldn't stop smiling and I turned my face away so he wouldn't see me, but he took my face and turned it back towards him and, well, that was it."
Julius says dancing with Susan, and spending so much time with her, made falling in love easy. "I loved how authentic and transparent she was," he says. "I also loved the fact that she was so passionate about what she did."
Susan returned to Australia five weeks later, smitten and committed. The couple were intent on being together, but Julius was unable to secure an Australian visa.
After a while, they both started seeing other people. "A lot of people were saying that the cultural divide was too great, that he just wanted a passport and so on," says Susan. "I wanted to test my commitment, so I dated other people. But no one made me feel the way Julius did."
Three years after she met Julius, Susan returned to Ghana. "I emailed him and told him I wanted to come and see him," she says. "He was dating someone else at the time, so he called it off. He didn't want to mess anyone around. It is one of the reasons I love him – because he is such a good guy."
After living in Ghana for seven months, the couple moved to London. Eventually, Julius got an Australian visa and they relocated to Melbourne seven years ago.
But the adjustment was hard. "Going from this romance to life in Australia was a challenge and there were a fair few arguments in the first few years," Susan says. "There was a part of me that didn't want to give up on the fantasy aspect of meeting Julius, the years and years I spent romanticising this person."
Susan says the life she's created with Julius – they have a three-year-old daughter, Estelle Efua, and have been together for 12 years – has taught her that true love has nothing to do with grand romantic gestures or surprise bunches of flowers, but consists of the day-in, day-out commitment.
"It's not romantic, but it's steadfast and we're committed and we challenge each other because we are constantly changing and evolving," she says.
"Every relationship has its catastrophic failures, the things that you are working through. And there are days that you find yourself thinking, 'Wouldn't it be easier if he were more like me.' But he's a wonderful father, and falling in love with him was one of the best things to happen to me."
Originally published by The Sydney Morning Herald