Mike Sheeran, 32, is the programme manager for Proud Centre, Auckland Council’s annual initiative for the Auckland Pride Festival. His partner Paul Pooke, 37, originally from the UK, is an accounts assistant. They’ve been together for four years.
MIKE: I’d been single for a year when I met Paul. I’d come out of a toxic relationship and had tried dating apps without success. I’d actually sworn off using them but then I met Paul via another type of app – Instagram.
We’d liked each other’s Instagram posts and he sent me messages. I would take a few days to respond but didn’t expect anything to come of it. When Paul posted photos of a walk at Anawhata that I commented on, he suggested we do the walk. But it was raining that day so instead he took me to an art exhibition of dead birds at Silo Park. Not that romantic but it was interesting.
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We didn’t kiss until our fifth date because Paul doesn’t drive so I was always the one dropping him off and it was a bit awkward. Also, I didn’t want to be the first one to make a move. But taking our time to get to know each other slowly was actually really refreshing. It’s probably why we’re still together.
Paul basically had me at hello. He’s definitely my type – a little bit older than me, which I’ve always gone for, and he has the kind of British accent I’ve always loved. He also had lovely muscly arms.
We finally moved in two years after meeting but that was more for practical reasons because I’d just opened my own gym and at the time was commuting from my parents’ place in Albany. Paul helped me get the gym up and running and was super supportive: I’d be working from 5am-9pm and he’d cook dinner and be there for me. I’m an optimist but running the business was hard and I shut it two years later. Paul supported me every step of the way and helped me figure out my next move.
I’m spontaneous and indulgent but Paul provides a reality check and helps me turn my dreams into reality. He organises all our adventures and helps me manage my money better.
We both became vegan in August after watching a Netflix documentary and Paul, who has always done most of our cooking, learned all these amazing vegan dishes. He can do creative things with tofu that I can’t. On the other hand, I’m always the sober driver. I’ve tried to teach him loads of times but I secretly think he likes being driven around.
Both of us don’t like confrontation so we never argue. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Paul in a bad mood. We hear about friends’ screaming matches and we’re like, “Is there something wrong with us?” But I’m glad we have such an easygoing relationship.
PAUL: I moved to New Zealand from London in 2010 with a former Kiwi partner. When that relationship ended, I chose to stay in Auckland. I was totally happy being single but enjoyed flirting with Mike via Instagram. I sent him messages such as “You’re handsome,” or “That’s a great photo,” nothing too intellectual.
Mike was very attractive, with a strong jaw and muscled arms. At 6’1 he was also slightly taller than me. Plus he seemed really happy and outgoing. Dating apps are full of fake people but Mike was genuine and that really appealed.
Our first date was rained out so I took Mike to an art gallery, which wasn’t really his thing until he met me. But now he likes visiting galleries and we also took up painting this year – we set up canvases in our living room and paint which is great to focus the mind.
We’re very compatible – Mike is a total extrovert, whereas I’m an introvert. I’m also a pessimist but Mike is a total optimist. I’d like to think that some of his optimism has rubbed off on me since we’ve been together.
His enthusiasm can sometimes get the better of him. He gets really excited about something and throws himself into it without thinking things through. That’s when I have to pull him back.
But Mike is one of the happiest people I know. He’s always positive and helps people when they need it, for example covering other people’s gym shifts if they’re sick. We’re both keen gym-goers, but we’re not competitive. Because Mike is a qualified PT, he sometimes tries to help me. But he’s too enthusiastic and tries to push me, so I end up telling him to go away. Now we either go to the gym at different times or if we do go together, we’ll do our own thing.
Our next dream is to buy a house. We’ve been to a mortgage broker but unfortunately the bank wouldn’t lend us what we wanted. So we need to save for another year. Mike really wants a dog, so we need a house with a garden.
He’s also really tidy but not as tidy as he thinks because he’ll do things like clean up after breakfast but leave protein powder all over the bench. I’m like, “How did you not see that?”
During lockdown I started listening to podcasts about mental health and self-improvement. I’ve now adopted the Five-Minute Rule – to be alone with your anger for five minutes and then let it go. Mike and I don’t really argue but if I do get angry about something I’ll walk away for five minutes and it will be forgotten.
Auckland Pride Festival runs from February 3-28. See aucklandpride.org.nz.
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