Wednesday 24 January 2018

Living apart, but joined at the heart- How this Irish couple makes their marriage work even though they live 5,000 miles apart

They spend most of the month 5,000 miles apart, but the successful Marion and Steve make family life a priority

Marion Walsh-Hedouin from Mayo and Steve Hedouin from Normandie have two childrem , Chloe and Leo.
Marion Walsh-Hedouin from Mayo and Steve Hedouin from Normandie have two childrem , Chloe and Leo.
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Most of us couldn't imagine only seeing our partner every month, but Marion Walsh-Hedouin (41) and her husband Steve Hedouin (45) make it work with aplomb. Mayo woman Marion lives in Bangkok with their children, Chloe, 3, and Leo, 1, while Steve lives and works in Dubai.

Steve and Marion met in August 1997 when both were living in Paris. She answered an ad for a flatmate posted by Steve and his pal Damien. They wanted a foreign girl so they could practise their English on her - well, that was what they claimed anyway! At the time, Steve was working with Volvo in sales and marketing, although he grew up in Le Havre, Normandie.

"The interview was very official," Marion recalls. "The two of them sat beside each other and had me on the other side of the room explaining why I would be a good candidate for the room. I moved in and it was an absolute breeze. We shared that apartment for two-and-a-half years and nothing happened between us, and then we all went our separate ways. Steve and Damien moved in with their girlfriends and I moved to New York in 2000."

At the time, Marion was working in PR with celebrity chef Alain Ducasse, a job she held for six years that took her to Monaco, Paris and New York. Originally from Mayo, she left Ireland in 1993 and went to the University of West London to do European business studies. She visits the family farm a couple of times a year to see her mum Elizabeth and two older brothers. Sadly, her dad Patrick passed away in 2009.

After they stopped being flatmates, Marion and Steve only kept in contact through a mutual friend in New York, although he visited while she was there and she dropped in a couple of times when she was in Paris. She left New York in 2004 and moved to Hong Kong to work with InterContinental Hotels and then to Bangkok, where she is marketing, communications and public relations VP at the Minor Hotel Group.

Read more: Write from the heart: Irish woman marries her teenage penpal and is expecting a baby

She and Steve connected through Facebook, where Marion learned that his relationship of nine years had ended. She felt sorry for him and invited him to visit in August 2008, as she had bought a house in the south of France with her brother. "When it came nearer to the time, I had actually completely forgotten that I invited him." she laughs. "I almost regretted it because I had so much to do with the house, but I couldn't uninvite him. He drove eleven hours down to us, and as he pulled up in his car, he got out and was all smiling and happy. I remember thinking, 'Isn't he a nice guy?' We got together that weekend."

Mind you, Steve confesses that he had a romantic plan in mind around Marion when he made the long journey. They are compatible as they're both driven, love sports, and they go trekking and take off on adventure holidays. "We love to go to different places and to discover the world," says Steve. "Marion is great fun and she has a lot of positivity and energy and enjoys life."

Steve left his home in 1995 to go to business school, and after a stint in the UK, he joined the automotive business in Paris. He's the elder of Jocelyne and Philippe's two sons, but his parents are not together any more. He and Marion have always lived in different countries, as she was in Thailand and he was in Paris when they began dating, so they saw each other every six weeks with holidays thrown in. He proposed in February 2010 in Dubai, and they were married in July 2010 in Etretat in Normandie.

Steve decided to move to Bangkok in 2011 to be with Marion as they wanted to start a family. The children are the most important things in their lives, they agree. "I wanted to spend time with my wife and start planning a family, so love and family pushed me beyond my boundaries," says Steve. "I had a comfortable life working for a great company, but this was more important."

In November 2011, Steve moved to Singapore to work with Volvo, and in 2015, he became VP of Volvo Bus Corporation in Dubai, looking after the Middle East and Africa. He comes back to Bangkok every month and works from home for a few days so he can see the family. Even at that, Marion can be away sometimes, as the Minor Group have 145 hotels in 22 countries. They have a lovely woman who works full-time to help take care of Chloe and Leo.

"We're a modern couple, and I know quite a few people with this kind of relationship," says Marion. "When Steve is here, we don't go out that much because we spend quality family time at home together."

While both are super busy and successful, Steve says there's a clear willingness from himself and Marion to maintain a strong family bond, and they keep the commitment they made to each other to the forefront of their minds when apart. Good communication is their key to staying connected. They don't plan anything beyond the next two years, although their big goal would be for Steve to work closer to home, as they believe they will probably stay based in Bangkok.

"When Steve and I got together, he was like a light at the end of the tunnel," says Marion. "We always just knew, and when you know, you truly know. Steve was the right fit. He was always very driven, which was what I wanted, and he prioritises his family, which is really important."

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