lifestyle

How we stay together: 'Just share where you stand and what you like and what you didn't like'


Names: Janett and Ariel Egber
Years together: 22
Occupations: customer experience design and cybersecurity architect

Four weeks after Ariel Egber met his now-wife Janett he asked her if she wanted to fly to Australia with him. His Israel-based IT company was setting up an office in Melbourne and wanted him to consider relocating. He told Janett that if she was interested, she’d need to confirm to his HR department that they were in a serious relationship. She didn’t flinch: “She said, ‘Sure,’ and I said ‘OK, I’m with the right person,’” says Ariel, smiling broadly now.

They’d met on a blind date in Jerusalem. He’d driven from Tel Aviv to the holy city to meet her and he jokes now that travelling that distance was a commitment in itself. “It’s a risky blind date,” he deadpans, pointing out he couldn’t just duck home if things didn’t go well. “When you are there, you stay there.”

But he was drawn to Janett, to her confidence and positivity. “I fell in love with the kind of person that she is. She is very nice, very approachable. She likes to talk about everything, she gives you the space. Things that I was looking for.” He knew he wanted to have her in his life: “[The way] she treats people, everything for her is very optimistic and positive.” Over the years, it’s even rubbed off on him. “I’m not optimistic by default, but she made me look at things differently.”

For Janett, Ariel had her attention from their first phone call, when he made her laugh, joking that he was blond and blue eyed. When they met, aside from being taller than she expected, she liked what she saw: “I knew already that he was funny on the phone and he sounded pretty kind, so it was a good impression.”

Ariel and Janett Egber Wedding
‘I tell my girls: “Just find someone that makes you laugh every day,”’ says Janett. The couple on their wedding day. Photograph: Ariel and Janett Egber

The pair bonded over their shared background – both had migrated to Israel with their families when they were young, he from Argentina and she from Mexico, so they understood the challenges immigrants face. They also both spoke Spanish. “I used to go with girls who speak Hebrew. To speak the same language, is different,” says Ariel. And they’re both Jewish, a heritage that is important to them. Having similar backgrounds was a good start, says Ariel. “There are very strong roots, that they are part of our identity as people,” he says. Janett agrees: “[There’s] something about the shared history, shared values, shared understanding of where we come from.”

Their timing was also right – both were in the late 20s and ready to settle down. “In that particular moment in our life, we very much needed to find each other,” says Ariel.

On that first trip, both fell in love with Australia and decided to relocate. They also decided to get married before they left Israel, organising a wedding in only one month and inviting friends and family from around the world.

Ariel’s parents were delighted – “My father was very happy for me to go overseas … and going with someone was even better for him” – while Janett’s parents weren’t so sure. Her father pulled Ariel aside, telling him the couple would be just as happy if they stayed in Israel. Ariel was determined: “[I said] ‘We need to catch opportunities. Opportunities don’t follow you if you don’t get them in time,’” he remembers.

“[I said] ‘We need to catch opportunities. Opportunities don’t follow you if you don’t get them in time,’” says Ariel. They arrived in Melbourne in 1998.
‘[I said] “We need to catch opportunities. Opportunities don’t follow you if you don’t get them in time,”’ says Ariel. They arrived in Melbourne in 1998. Photograph: Ariel and Janett Egber

About two weeks after their wedding, they flew to Melbourne. This time they were immigrating together, which made them even closer. “We didn’t know anyone, we have no neighbourhood, we had no family. So, as a couple, we became almost very quickly, best friends and confidants,” says Janett. “You rely on one another and you really just have one another. I think that really strengthened the early days of our relationship.”

Living together took some getting used to at first. Ariel had been brought up with the women in his family doing most of the housework, but Janett quickly made it clear that they would share duties. “It was not negotiable. Ariel learned that very quickly.”

Their lives changed again a few years later when they had two daughters in quick succession. They knew they had to pull together. “It was a consensus in the first years,” says Ariel. “We never argue about that, and I think it shows the respect that we have for each other.” But he acknowledges that Janett was the driving force: “She’s the backbone of this house.”

Although their approach to parenting was similar, there were challenges. “I think Ariel always thought that I might be too soft with the girls and for me it’s more about communication, given it’s hard as it is. But you don’t always agree,” says Janett.

When the girls were teenagers, the couple had to have a united front. “If she says something, even if I don’t agree, I can discuss this maybe later, [but] in front of the girls, we have a common say,” says Ariel.

One of their golden rules is always to have dinner together: “[For] 20 years, we’ve been doing that,” Ariel explains. “This is the time that we try to get together as a couple [and a family] because we can discuss things at the table.”

Janett and Ariel 1998
‘We didn’t know anyone, we have no neighbourhood, we had no family. So, as a couple, we became almost very quickly, best friends and confidants,’ says Janett. Photograph: Ariel and Janett Egber

Now that their girls are adults, the couple have had more time together. “All of a sudden, we’d sit there on a Saturday and it’s like, ‘wow we don’t even need to plan to go out,’” says Janett. “We have so much more to talk about now. Now I know more about his work, he knows more about my work. We don’t need to just talk logistics, who takes them there, who picks up … it’s only recently and it’s so nice.”

They appreciate the time they’ve spent together during the pandemic, working side-by-side, walking the dog and watching Netflix together. “I like to stay at home and I don’t know why people want to go out all the time,” jokes Ariel. “ Last year it strengthened our relationship. We bonded on things that we love, we’re doing whatever we want with our lives [and] we have a lot of time by ourselves.”

They only argue when one person has started a TV series before the other, or over their dog’s affections. “He’s just jealous that the dog loves me more,” Janett laughs.

Over the years, they’ve learned to compromise. For example, for years Janett resisted Ariel’s love of siesta. “I fought that fact that Ariel really liked and enjoyed his quiet time, siesta! Actual proper siesta. In the afternoon, on weekends. And I’m like, on a day like today, imagine 24C and sunny. How did you want to sleep? And miss two beautiful hours of the day!” She says: “It became a non-negotiable that I had to learn to accept and respect and adapt.” Now, if the weather’s grim she’ll even nap beside him sometimes.

They tackle any conflicts straight away, something Ariel credits Janett for: “If there are things that we need to discuss and things that we need to solve, we talk about them and we [resolve] them. She’s a very practical person. It’s black, or it’s white. It’s not in the middle.”

Janett says it comes down to communication. “Just share where you stand and what you like and what you didn’t like.” Laughter also helps, says Janett. “I tell my girls: ‘Just find someone that makes you laugh every day.’”

Ariel doesn’t like the word “commitment” with its connotations of hard work and discipline. “It’s a pleasure to be with her,” he says. “I don’t do anything for commitment, I think for me it’s more that every day I look forward to being with her.”

But Janett sees the word differently: “We committed to having shared dreams, things that we want to continue to achieve together. On our own, we wouldn’t have been able to do half of what we’ve done together.”

Janett and Ariel at a restaurant
‘It’s a pleasure to be with her,’ says Ariel. ‘I don’t do anything for commitment, I think for me, it’s more that every day I look forward to being with her.’ Photograph: Ariel and Janett Egber

Their shared readiness to grab opportunities when they arise has helped them too. Says Janett: “Sometimes people overthink things. We trusted our gut, we went for it, and then you make the most of it.”

Ariel agrees: “We had two opportunities at the same time. One to get married and one to immigrate to this beautiful country. We were smart enough to pick up both of them.” Janet jumps in: “Life throws so many things at you, there are so many complexities, so many challenges, don’t make it harder than it needs to be. I’m a bit like, if it feels right, just go for it.”

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