The moment I knew: we were ‘just friends’. Then we watched Sharknado with our elbows touching

Throughout her 20s, Eloise Snape was a chronic relationship-phobe. When she met Sam, she had to double down on self-denial

There’s a photo of Sam and me, taken on the night we first met. It was 2012 at the Sydney theatre awards; he had been nominated for best actor and I was someone’s plus one. We must have met at the drinks afterwards because we’re both there in this group shot. I didn’t even remember it.

A few months later we ended up working on a development week for a play. Sam and I became quite close because he would give me lifts to and from the job.

Eloise and Sam, with a friend, on the night they met (an introduction Eloise doesn’t remember).
Eloise and Sam, with a friend, on the night they met (an introduction Eloise doesn’t remember). Photograph: Eloise Snape

Throughout my twenties, I was a chronic relationship-phobe. I always assumed I would be that person who never got married or had kids. I just wasn’t interested. But one day while we were in the car together this rogue thought came out of nowhere: “You will marry this person.”

Then I thought: “Yuck, who are you?”

Obviously Sam’s looks caught my attention, but I was also intrigued by his brain, and the differences between us. He challenged the way I thought about some things, and he made me laugh. What caught me most off guard was the instant feeling of trust – I had struggled in that department, but I felt it deeply and naturally with him.

There was no way I was ready to admit that to myself or anyone else though. I doubled down on denial.

My flatmate at the time, who was also part of the development, wasn’t having it. She could see we were paying each other just a little too much attention – finding each other far more interesting and amusing than anyone else. She would have to endure our weird platonic courtship charade for the next year.

Not long after that week, Sam headed off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with his dad. At some point during his trip he got reception and sent me updates.

Eloise and Sam at work together.
Eloise and Sam at work together. Photograph: Eloise Snape

As soon as he got back he invited me over and gave me a souvenir Hakuna Matata T-shirt. We talked all day long and I called in sick to my gig hosting trivia that night. We ordered Thai, drank wine, and left the friendzone for the first time. But the next day we switched right back to denial.

A few months later he came over; we were still doing the “just friends” routine. We watched Sharknado, on my iPad, with just our elbows touching.

It was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and best nights I’ve ever had.

When my flatmate walked in on us in front of When Harry Met Sally a few nights later, she rolled her eyes and walked out. It was getting ridiculous.

He was back at my front door 48 hours later, under the pretence of another casual movie night. He arrived really pumped up and jittery. I thought maybe he was going to tell me he was seeing someone. By this point I knew I was completely in love.

He said: “I think we’ve already been dating for about eight months, and now I think we should really start.” And that was it.

The amazing thing about kicking off a relationship with someone who is a friend first is that a lot of the groundwork has already been done. Then you get to know them in a different way.

It was the year I turned 30. Two weeks later my mum was diagnosed with cancer and I got my first main stage theatre gig touring with Bell Shakespeare. I’ve never felt so high and so low. I couldn’t have gotten through that year without him.

No matter what life throws at us, there has always been a feeling that we will help each other to keep growing in the right direction. He does that for me, and I hope I do that for him. It was there at the beginning, and became the foundation of what we are now.

When we married five years later, I walked down the aisle to Hakuna Matata.

Sam and Eloise attending the theatre in 2023.
Sam and Eloise attending the theatre in 2023. Photograph: Eloise Snape


As told toDoosie Morris

The GuardianTramp

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