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'Why Marrying My Platonic Best Friend Was The Best Thing I Ever Did'

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'Why Marrying My Platonic Best Friend Was The Best Thing I Ever Did'

According to the Collins English Dictionary, a soulmate is "a person for whom one has a deep affinity".

Not long after meeting, Deidre Olsen and Chiderah Sunny knew this definition fit them to a tee. There was an "instant knowing" between them. They just got each other.

Two years after the pair laid eyes on each other, they'd packed up their lives and moved across the world to Berlin, got married and even started thinking about starting a family together.

"When we're together magic happens," Deidre tells Tyla, rather poetically. "It seems like the universe pushed us together."

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The only difference between their marriage and a traditional fairytale? The newlyweds' connection is purely platonic.

Chiderah and Deidre's wedding day (Credit: Deidre Olsen)
Chiderah and Deidre's wedding day (Credit: Deidre Olsen)

Model Chiderah, 25, and writer Deidre, 30, first met on a Hinge date in their hometown of Toronto, Canada in February 2019. While there was "instant chemistry" between them, Chiderah realised, not long after their date, that she wasn't queer, after all.

Despite this, the pair vowed to keep in touch anyway - simply taking romance out of the equation.

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While to some, continuing such a relationship might feel confusing, luckily, for Deidre this simply wasn't the case.

"Once it's established that something is platonic I can't really go back on that," she says. "[But] when Chiderah ended up realising she's straight, we decided to be friends, because we just had this feeling that we were meant to know each other."

Over the next six months, the women stayed in touch, and like many female friends, solidified their affinity by talking about more personal topics, like relationship woes, career ambitions and a shared desire to travel to Europe.

But then the pandemic happened, and catapulted their relationship into unchartered territory.

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"We were in lockdown and both going crazy," Deidre recalls. "I lost my job, she broke up with her boyfriend and suddenly the things that were keeping us in Toronto were no longer there.

"At the time we just needed somebody else, so we started embarking on these four to five hour walks. We didn't really have anywhere to go, we just wanted exercise and human connection."

Finding solace in each other during what has been a globally isolating time, the pair were able to spend "concentrated, meaningful time together" without any distractions.

"It was like falling in love with somebody," Deidre says. "It was like going on a walking date every single day, and we just talked about everything...relationships; mental illness - because I have borderline personality disorder and she has bipolar disorder - and the fact we wanted to move abroad."

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After six weeks of spending huge chunks of their lockdown together, roaming the streets of Downtown Toronto, the two friends had hatched a plan to up sticks and start a new life in Berlin.

Deidre (left) and Chiderah (right) (Credit: Deidre Olsen)
Deidre (left) and Chiderah (right) (Credit: Deidre Olsen)

"We were both like, 'we have nothing to lose any more, theres no reason to stay in Toronto, so why don't we just go?," she recollects. "We had this feeling...we just knew it was gonna work out. We knew fate was on our side".

So, just like that, they left Toronto in June 2020, with Deidre's 13-year-old dog in toe, stopping off in Lisbon before flying to Berlin a couple of months later, to start a new life together.

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Despite their strong rapport, it's not surprising that going from walking partners to housemates wasn't all plain sailing at first. For one, Chiderah is assertive, tidy and an early riser, while - by her own admission - Deidre is pretty much the opposite of all of those things.

"We knew each other well from our walks, but it's different when you live with somebody," Deidre says. "It really changes the dynamic.

"Then there's the fact you're so vulnerable in a new country... it's a pandemic, theres a language barrier, and you have to figure out all these different things, like housing, a visa, getting around the city.

"So it was a really insane experience at first that really tested us. We got on each other's nerves for a little while, but we've now resolved that, we're sort of each other's yin and yang.

"I've changed more in the last nine months than I have the last five years, just being with her".

It was as they adapted to their new normal in Germany that Chiderah and Deidre realised their bond was more than friendship, and yet also "transcended romance".

As they settled into life in Berlin, both women jumped into the dating pool, both fell in love and both suffered heartbreak in a matter of months. This meant they each saw the other's highs and lows first hand, and each helped to weather the storm of the other's mental health battles.

The pair had to adapt to living together (Credit: Deidre Olsen)
The pair had to adapt to living together (Credit: Deidre Olsen)

This shared understanding of depression was a real bonding moment, Deidre says.

"Normally, you feel like you always have to explain yourself, and 'come out' as having a disorder. Then people make assumptions about you... that you're volatile or emotionally unstable or manipulative, and its very very exhausting. Between us, that all just collapsed and fell away".

She remembers: "In January, there was a moment where Chiderah was sobbing, and she was wondering if she had made the right decision to come to Germany. She was asking herself if this was all worth it, and I came and held her and let her just cry into my arms.

"She's told me that thats the moment she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me, because that was the first time that anybody had really cared for her in that way."

There was a similar epiphany for Deidre, after her borderline personality disorder left her incapacitated following a similarly gut-wrenching breakup.

"I couldn't even get our of bed," she says. "My disorder means I feel everything so intensely, but during that time, she cooked and cleaned and took care of everything, and nursed me back to health when I was in the throes of heartbreak.

"That was when I realised I was heartbroken over someone romantically, but actually the love I had been looking for was right there in front of my eyes."

Fresh with the realisation that they were each other's 'person', it wasn't long after this that Chiderah popped the question, and the pair married two weeks later, on Deidre's 30th birthday.

Deidre and Chiderah want people to redefine the word 'soulmate' (Credit: Deidre Olsen)
Deidre and Chiderah want people to redefine the word 'soulmate' (Credit: Deidre Olsen)

"We had been joking since September that we were married with a kid [the dog]," she says, but somewhere along the line, it just seemed like a natural step.

Their ceremony was "makeshift", with only three friends in attendance, but all that mattered was that they had solidified their union.

Of course, the pair are all too aware that some won't 'get' their dynamic, but that doesn't phase them.

For one, marriage is about having "real rights" when it comes to finances, hospital visitation and other legal issues - something they'd rather share with each other than any romantic partner, Deidre says.

But more than that, the label of 'wife' symbolises "companionship," and honours their bond.

"To me, marriage is emotional support and care giving. Those are the central tenets of a healthy relationship, and having experienced romance subtracting more than it added to my life, it really really made sense," she adds.

"We'd been there for each other through everything imaginable, and my life would be incomplete without her. We ultimately realised that romance isn't everything."

Deidre and Chiderah want people to redefine the word 'soulmate' (Credit: Deidre Olsen)
Deidre and Chiderah want people to redefine the word 'soulmate' (Credit: Deidre Olsen)

Moving forward, Chiderah and Deidre have even talked about starting a family together, and recently welcomed a second dog into their brood. Should either of them meet anybody else romantically, they're open to their dynamic "evolving" - whatever that might mean - by right now they just plan to "take life as it comes".

In sharing her unconventional love story, Deidre hopes that people are inspired to rethink term 'soulmate', and question why we only ever apply it to romantic love.

"Society teaches us that we have to chase being found attractive in order to be happy, but actually I just want somebody to come home to that loves me," she says. "I think we need to give more power to platonic love in bringing happiness to us.

"There are so many ways to be loved that are not centred around the nuclear family. I never thought I would marry a straight woman but I've never been so happy in my entire life".

Featured Image Credit: Deidre Olsen

Topics: Life News, Sex and Relationships, marriage

Joanna Freedman
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