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Kerre Woodham’s love story

Kerre Woodham doesn’t claim to be an expert on men or love. If anything, the radio host and New Zealand Woman’s Weekly columnist reckons she was a slow starter.

Spending her formative years at an all-girl Catholic boarding school in Hamilton didn’t exactly set her up to be a femme fatale. “I wasn’t at all sophisticated,” she recalls. “I remember at my sixth form social telling the boy who danced with me that his car keys were sticking into me and he said he hadn’t driven… that’s the level of naivety!

“I certainly wouldn’t say I had a wild and racy youth. I wanted to find out about boys but had no idea how to and they didn’t seem particularly interested.” At 19 Kerre started her first job at TVNZ in Wellington and that’s when she discovered men as friends. “I met a lot of older journalists who were very smart and sophisticated,” she explains.

“They knew about books, baked their own croissants and played Edith Piaf. And they were all very kind to me.” When Kerre began dating, she was looking for excitement – boys who rode motorbikes and knew how to have a good time attracted her. “But I was lucky and none of them were really bad,” she says. “Many are still friends, which I think means we chose well on our path to finding the right people.”

Although she’s had four or five marriage proposals over the years, Kerre never considered accepting any of them and hasn’t regretted it. Her Mr Right is the man referred to in her columns as her “Irishman”, aka Tom, who’s been her partner for the past 14 years.

When you hear the story of how the pair met, it’s clear they were fated to be together. Kerre had moved to Auckland to take up her current job as evening host at Newstalk ZB and was beset by doubts it had been the right decision.

She’d finished her shift and stopped for a quick drink at her local bar to think things through. “I was feeling gloomy and wearing no makeup and backless orange Hush Puppies, so clearly wasn’t out to meet someone,” she recalls. “When a man offered me a drink, I didn’t even look at him before saying no thanks.

He asked a second time, then a third which is when I said, ‘Listen mate, I get paid to talk to people and the meter isn’t running!'” Undeterred, the man sent over the waiter with a glass of red wine and a message saying he hoped it would improve her mood.

“On the way out I thought I should say thanks,” Kerre recalls. “That’s when I noticed he was very good-looking.” They chatted and Kerre gave him her number, but he didn’t call.

Three days later she ran into him in the same bar by chance and discovered she’d written the number down wrong. Tom, who is enormously publicity shy, was about to return to Japan for work so they barely had any time together.

“On his last day in Auckland he bought me a beautiful Zambesi coat, filled my arms with flowers and gave me a book of Pablo Neruda’s poetry which he read to me in Spanish and I was gone, totally hooked,” Kerre says.

In many ways the pair are polar opposites. She’s very social; he’s more interested in books than parties. She can be stroppy; he refuses to argue. She loves to get dressed up; he’s happier casual. “We’re so different, people find it spooky,” Kerre admits.

“And I’m sure we’d never have appreciated one another when we were younger. But I love having Tom to come home to. I love hanging out with him and talking; I’ve never met anyone who can make me laugh as much as he does. And it’s really cool having someone who believes in me and can be relied on.”

Tom still surprises her with romantic gestures. “Every now and then he’ll do something so thoughtful and lovely, it will take my breath away,” Kerre says. “When I was training for my first marathon and was scared about whether I could do it, I’d come back from long training runs and he’d have a bath waiting for me and breakfast ready and would tell me I was amazing.”

In return Kerre loves to spoil him by cooking up a storm and filling the freezer with his favourite meals whenever she has to go away. Since Tom has a day job in education and Kerre works nights and is often out of town on speaking engagements, time together is precious.

Their best moments are often when they’re doing simple things like taking a road trip. “And every New Year we stay home together. I cook Tom his own turkey because he hates sharing at Christmas and we get in nice wine and it’s just us in our house, playing music and dancing together.”

Kerre suspects she’s not the easiest person to live with and is grateful to have a partner who accepts her for who she is. “Every now and then I’ll get restless and want to run away and do something completely different. But Tom’s not keen and I’m not going to run away without him!”

Ask if they’ll get married and Kerre laughs. “Everyone says that. My daughter Kate wanted us to get married before she did. The trouble is Tom would prefer something small with four guests in a country church and I’d like all my friends cackling around me.

Even as a little girl I never dreamed of getting married. And I don’t feel I need to stand up in front of my friends and family and say I love him – they all know that.” The important thing, Kerre says, is that she and Tom support each other unconditionally – neither expects the other to be perfect, and they share the same values and are working together for the same future.

“Like any couple, we’ve had difficult times,” Kerre admits. “I know you can’t get complacent or take one another for granted. But Tom’s my soul mate. I hope I’ll always be his best friend and he’ll be mine.”

Kerre’s tips for a healthy relationship

  • Most men would rather think about sport than discuss your relationship. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

  • Men can’t read women’s minds.

  • Kindness is vital in any relationship. So is the ability to accept each other utterly for what you are – with all your goodness and badness.

  • Generally men don’t do things to upset you on purpose. Most of them tend to prefer a smooth life. So there’s usually some reason behind the seemingly incomprehensible things they do. Understanding this is a useful device to unlocking the male mind!
  • When I was young, it never occurred to me that men are just as beset by things like lack of confidence or self-doubt as women are.
  • Falling in love with a man isn’t the end of the story – it’s only the beginning.

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