By Simon Day
When my wife and I first met, our Māori whakapapa was one of the first things we connected through.
Even though we were both near the beginning of our journey of learning about our Māoritanga and what it meant to who we were, Head of Re: News Simon Day writes, it was something that bound us together.
At the time it felt like a cute shared connection but it has grown into a rock at the heart of our relationship.
When we were married in 2015 I was still working out what my cultural needs from the relationship were.
But when our twin boys were born in 2019 suddenly I had a clear vision on what whakapapa means.
With their arrival I could see into the future of my whānau, and I could see into the past and all the generations of tīpuna that created their existence. As I imagined the way I wanted to raise them, it confirmed how essential my culture was to my identity.
As this identity journey has become the most important part of my life, I feel very lucky to have fallen in love with a wahine Māori.
Monogamous longevity is often portrayed as an inevitable descent into coupled celibacy and represented by couples sitting at opposite ends of the couch on their phones sending memes to each other.
While this portrayal is not entirely untrue, as our relationship has matured the things we need from each other have also evolved. As my marriage has become filled with new needs it also comes with new fulfilments.
I initially fell in love with Millie’s selflessness, her empathy and her special sense of humour that is reserved for people closest to her.
Now, I’ve discovered I also get to rely on her staunch loyalty to our whānau and our dreams for our tamariki.
I am fuelled by her belief in my potential to embrace my Māoritanga. She has not blinked as my identity has grown in directions I didn’t know it needed to.
In the first episode of Dating While Asian, the new documentary series out on Re: News, the need for romantic cultural fulfilment is an epiphany for Chinese-Taiwanese New Zealander Grace Ko.
“Not until recently have I thought about the role my culture plays in my love life. I need someone to hold emotional space, I need physical intimacy, and I need someone who stimulates me intellectually. But I never ever thought about it from a cultural point of view. Who made up the needs? Probably a white person,” she says.
In New Zealand colonisation means it’s almost certain the relationship rule book was written by a white person.
Watching Dating While Asian made me realise how much our understanding of relationship expectations are shaped by the colonial patriarchy.
It made me realise how much I had conformed to them too.
As I’ve started needing cultural fulfilment from my marriage I’ve felt very lucky I accidentally married a Māori who needs the same things.
Without the support of Millie, I would never have had the same confidence to make decolonisation and reindigenisation a core part of our relationship.
At the same time I believe my ongoing recognition and understanding of the way colonisation shapes our relationship has made me a better partner and a better father.
Doing this journey together – a journey that can be as confronting and challenging as it is uplifting – makes me feel safe and nurtured as I work out who I am.
Hopefully one day soon “actively decolonising” is a sexy part of everyone’s Tinder bio.
Dating in your 20s can be full of anxiety, loneliness and insecurity.
No more hookups with guys who don’t have bed frames.
Watch the fifth episode of Dating While Asian now.