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Relationships

Zoe and Benji Marshall's separation anxiety

The couple talk us through the trials of long-distance love.

By Ashleigh McEnaney
Proud of their unconventional union, Zoe and Benji Marshall have never let society dictate the rules of their marriage. The loved-up couple, who got hitched four years ago, insist they enjoy their independence, sleeping in separate beds and travelling the world alone.
So when it came time for Kiwi league legend Benji to leave Sydney for Brisbane to play for the Broncos last year, Zoe was confident she’d be fine with living apart – but to her surprise, she had a change of heart after just six weeks.
“I wasn’t going to go to Brisbane and I was quite adamant about that,” reveals Zoe at our photo shoot in the Queensland capital, where she and Benji, both 32, are happily living under the same roof.
“People think you have to spend every waking moment you are not at work with your partner, but we are quite different. We love having separate lives, then coming together and sharing a wonderful life as well.
“But the distance was too much, even for us. It wasn’t healthy. The last straw came when I was home alone and the house alarm went off in the middle of night. I got a massive fright and the dogs were going crazy. I just thought, ‘Why am I here and he’s there? This doesn’t make any sense.’”
While Zoe found it tough leaving behind her fabulous, fast-paced life in Sydney – where she had her doctor, naturopath and acupuncturist on speed dial – the decision was made easier knowing she and her husband were finally committed to starting a family.
“Benji’s been prepared for babies for years and I feel the most ready I ever have – there’s been a real shift in the last few months,” explains Zoe, who says a gruelling second operation to remove her endometriosis, a condition that sees uterine tissue growing outside the uterus and can cause infertility, last year gave her the wake-up call she needed.
“When I was dealing with my endo, I tried to visualise myself not having a family and Benji not being a father, and that was really scary. Everything is working out here – it really feels like there’s no better time.”
Fatherhood couldn’t come soon enough for clucky Benji, who’s been sidelined for the next six weeks after fracturing his wrist last weekend. “I was born to be a dad. Growing up with a big family and always being surrounded by cousins makes you that way inclined – I feel like it’s my purpose in life to have children. I’ve had to push Zoe along slowly, but I’m stoked we’re finally on the same page.”
However, it’s not just the home front where things are falling into place for the pair. Having recently launched their own Aussie radio show, Meet the Marshalls, co-hosts Zoe and Benji are kicking goals in the professional world too.
Described as a voyeuristic look into their personal lives, accomplished broadcaster Zoe says the show will reveal more about the glamorous couple than ever before and while Benji is concerned his footy mates might give him stick, he hopes it will reveal another side to him.
“On the field, I can be quite confident and cocky, so everyone assumes that’s how I am away from sport too, but it’s quite the opposite,” Benji says. “Zoe’s pretty much like the husband in our relationship and I’m the wife. She’s the out-there one and I take the more prudish approach.”
It was Zoe’s open-minded personality that led her to traditional Chinese medical practitioner Dr Shuquan Liu, who started the brunette beauty on a controversial extreme detox to ensure her body was in optimum shape to conceive.
The drastic regime saw her eat nothing but special herbs for eight days in order to regenerate the body’s organs and rebalance hormones. In that time, she lost six kilos, but she also experienced temporary hearing loss, migraines and dizziness.
“Any pains you’ve ever experienced in your body rise and resurface, so they can heal and recalibrate,” explains Zoe. “I thought because I don’t drink much alcohol, I don’t drink coffee and I don’t smoke, the detox would be cruisy, but it was hardcore.
“It’s a radical approach, but the philosophy behind it is truly mesmerising and I wanted to be a part of it. We had talked about other options, like IVF, but I didn’t want to do it without trying out holistic methods first. I challenged my doctor to have me pregnant by the end of the year and he said, ‘That is not a challenge – we’ll have you pregnant by June!’”
With eating out of the question, Zoe felt disconnected from Benji during her detox, but their ultimate goal, to start a family, has brought them closer than ever.
“We’ve made each other a priority – our relationship comes first, with career and everything secondary to that,” Zoe concludes. “It’s a really good feeling knowing that as we come into the baby stage of our marriage, our relationship is very nourished.”
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