Names: Kirsty Brown and Christian Moraga
Years together: 20
Occupations: Contemporary music specialist and marketing executive
There are all sorts of things that draw a couple together: shared interests, shared values, friends or family. And while Kirsty Brown and Christian Moraga have plenty of those, there’s something even stronger.
“We hate the same stuff,” Kirsty says with a great big laugh. “We like heaps of things in common for sure, but it’s the stuff that we hate, we both hate equally and together.” That stuff includes politics, current affairs, the disheartening Democratic debate in the US where they currently live, and the Oscars. “He supports me – I can be like, ‘Have you seen this shit?’ and just rant about something and I know he’s going to be on the same page as me.”
The couple, now in their 30s, met when they were teenagers. They both worked at the Lone Star restaurant in Campbelltown, western Sydney. He was 19, working in the kitchen, while she was 16 and a front-of-house host. Kirsty remembers thinking he was funny, charming and very popular. “This is the story of his life. He’s good at everything, and everyone likes him. And he’s just that guy. So I did like him. I hadn’t really thought about a relationship with him, but I definitely wanted to make out with him.”
Christian remembers feeling the same way: each night the restaurant staff did line dancing to entertain patrons and he remembers Kirsty catching his eye then. Even though there was an age gap, there was plenty of flirting and they bonded over music. They’d go out to see live acts like Frenzal Rhomb, Powderfinger, Something for Kate and other 90s Australian bands. “We were going to lots of all-ages shows because it’s all I could go to,” says Kirsty.
But their connection was deeper. They’d both grown up in Campbelltown and didn’t have much money, but they felt like “a different kind of misfit”. Kirsty says: “We wanted to get out as soon as we could. We found Campbelltown dull. There was no good food to eat and there’s no culture. There’s nothing to do except get drunk in a paddock on a Friday night. It was really not fulfilling to either of us to be living there. We were curious about the world and we were curious about what was beyond living with our parents in the suburbs.”
Christian agrees: “We just didn’t feel like [our siblings or friends]. They were ready to put their roots into the ground where they were, that’s not what we wanted, so that was very much a thing that we spoke about.”
Kirsty also had family difficulties: “Life was shitty for me around that age. My family was not the easiest of families to grow up in. It was tough. And you know, all families are complicated, of course, but I always felt really welcomed into Christian’s family immediately.” This helped the couple bond. “We went through a few life moments together early on,” says Christian. “That also bought us a lot closer – maybe earlier than the expected.”
They took the relationship seriously right from the beginning and both say it never occurred to them to break up because they enjoyed their time together so much. “When I’m thinking about our relationship, it has just always been to me solid as a rock,” says Kirsty. “There may be, like, seasons of our relationship [which] have been a bit patchy, but it is not a bell curve. It’s just like a big black line, really solid.”
That didn’t mean they wanted to follow the traditional route. There was a stage when many of their friends were getting married and Christian thought about proposing – but Kirsty had other plans. “I was like: don’t ask me. Because I’m going to say no, but it’s not because I don’t want to be with you. It’s because I don’t want to spend $40,000 on a stupid wedding,” she says. “I just don’t feel the need to conform and have a party that’s for everybody else, not for you and me.”
Initially this was confusing for Christian, who comes from a traditional South American Catholic family, with a mother who was particularly keen for her son to get married and have children. But he understood Kirsty’s position, which helped him, too. “I remember this was a real significant point of our life where, being the good Catholic son, there was definitely a lot of guilt coming my way ... but Kirsty helped me understand it’s OK to say no, you can say what you want to do. You can say if that doesn’t work and they’ll understand.”
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Eventually the family did understand and stopped asking – although the couple surprised everyone when their daughter Zadie arrived in 2015. Then they got married quietly for visa purposes when they moved to Japan in October 2016.
They were both excited about the opportunities in Japan, but it was a challenging experience, particularly for Kirsty. Often Christian worked long hours in Tokyo, leaving her alone to manage with their daughter. “It was very isolating for me because I had to leave my career behind, whereas Christian moved there because of work. I had to give up working and become a stay-at-home parent and that was something I had never pictured for myself. And it was really more about the shock of the loss of my identity.”
They loved living in Japan, but knew it couldn’t be a long-term solution. Yet both still wanted to explore the world and didn’t want to return to Australia just yet. “That comes back to Campbelltown and the want to be somewhere bigger,” says Christian. “We were in a smaller suburban town and we wanted to be in the bigger city and we then got a taste of what that was. It’s not until [you] live [overseas] that you realise how big and how exciting and how diverse [it is]. They were the things that we always wanted. So that was always, again, another thing that drove us – to make the most of the opportunity while we had it.”
Fortunately he was offered a job in Los Angeles, so the family moved again in October 2018. It’s meant they have more time together as a couple. “That was more of a challenge in Tokyo. We were fortunate to find a babysitter, a Kiwi-Japanese girl who was great, but now with [Zadie at] school, there are more opportunities for us to spend time together, whether it’s going to a movie or somewhere to eat or exploring downtown or going to a gallery. We just take more of those quiet moments now.”
They also understand how the other expresses their feelings even in the simplest ways. “My love language to Christian is cooking and I want to make nice food for the family, so we eat dinner together every night. And I know his love language to me is he’s very happy to indulge my desires to sleep in and have breakfast made for me and to take Zadie away and give me some time, and he’s very considerate of me like that.”
Even though they were young when they came together, their commitment to each other is so strong that they almost don’t think about it any more. Kirsty says there are many levels of commitment for her: “My commitment to him is like my family – I have commitment to him as the father of my daughter, commitment to him as my partner. And in any of those areas, I don’t ever want to hurt him.” Christian agrees: “It’s like equity – we’ve built it up over time. It just exists, it’s become a foundation.”
So, after 20 years, what’s their secret to staying together? “Don’t break up!” says Kirsty, laughing yet again. Christian says it’s down to the fact they’ve grown together as people and as a couple. “We’ve always been a part of that personal growth. And so that’s how that cliche [comes about] of you just become one person – you can understand someone in their entirety, you know who they are.” Kirsty sums it up beautifully: “We just really like each other. I really like Christian [and] I can’t imagine ever not liking him.”
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