The moment I knew: the dancefloor parted and I found Merryn – we kissed all night

Neither Erin Riley nor Merryn considered themselves the type of people who get married, but as their love blossomed on nights out together, something changed

I knew of Merryn for years before we met. We floated on the peripheries of each other’s lives for over a decade, later finding ourselves in the same old party photograph, on different sides of a garden full of punks. We shared a best friend, each of us just names in his mouth. I’m off to see Mez in Alice, he’d say. Have fun, I’d reply.

On New Year’s Eve 2017 in a gutter, in someone else’s lap, I found myself deep in conversation with Merryn. I remember none of the conversation’s content, just a certainty that I needed to know them. It wasn’t long before it became an unparalleled, throbbing crush.

At another party I asked, can we make out? Yes. I felt the world move. A week later I went on holidays and sent essays to Merryn from Montreal cafes. We organised a date for my return – after one wine we made it only as far as the golden couch.

I didn’t see Merryn for three excruciating weeks after that first date. On the second, I walked the steps to Merryn’s apartment. We did not speak, only walked into a kiss like we’d known each other a lifetime.

We continued to date, other people and each other, in those early months, and I learned a great deal about communication and how expansive love can be.

I watched Merryn move through the world with integrity and kind curiosity: in the warmth and openness of how they held a point of view, in their rich connection with friends and in the softness of their words. I fell in love with Merryn as I saw these values on display and in action every day.

At one memorable party, I tried to find Merryn somewhere in the centre of the dancefloor, through a sea of friends, plastic cups of bad wine and hundreds of hellos and hugs.

I moved with single-minded purpose through the pulsing crowd, as it parted to Merryn. We kissed all night, stopping only to drink from a water bottle strategically placed in Merryn’s hand, behind my neck, by their best friend.

“What’s going on?” we quizzed each other, as if we couldn’t believe our luck. “I think we might love each other,” I said, as if anything more direct was impossible. “I love you,” Merryn replied.

Not long after this, Merryn blushingly confided in me that they’d told a friend they could imagine getting married to me – something completely outside our imaginations of who we were. In the next breath, I pulled out my diary, in which I had fantasised, only days earlier, about this very thing. That was in 2019; we married in June last year.

A couple on their wedding day, with their dog Remy. The person on the left is wearing a matching two-piece red waistcoast and trousers set; the person on the left is wearing an embroidered pink suit and a red cape.
Erin Riley (left) and Merryn at their wedding in 2022, with their dog Remy. Photograph: Studio Something/Supplied

Our relationship has opened up space I never thought I’d find, where connection is easy and shared idiosyncrasies have found simple synchronicity – a safe anchor from which we can both be our best selves in the world. We had done a lot of growing-into before we found each other – already so solid, individually – but we have also done so much healing together.

Merryn has offered the sturdy, consistent love I longed for – acceptance and validation for existing just as I am, without complication. So much has become possible, dreams pursued and limiting-stories challenged. Merryn waited patiently until I was brave enough to try ocean swimming too. This year, we became lifesavers.

Since the gutter where it all began, Merryn’s nursing career has taken off, I have written a book and we found our perfect match in our dog Remy, who has brought so much joy to our life.

Without Merryn’s support, I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to come out as trans – our love providing the safety and security for that authenticity. We have swum endless kilometres of Dalmatian coastline together, watched a lot of Love Island UK and recently, to Merryn’s delight, as my veganism has waned, we can now devour a cheese plate together. We are each other’s unwavering number one fan.

  • Erin Riley is a social worker and author of the memoir A Real Piece of Work, out now through Viking (RRP $24.99)

  • Do you have a romantic realisation you would like to share? Email with “The moment I knew” in the subject line, and a brief description of your story, to be considered for future columns

Erin Riley

The GuardianTramp

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