For eight years, she worked periodically with Fabio Donghi, an Italian man who was based in Spain and whose production company handled events for Australian Fashion Week. His presence, when he was in Australia for work, barely registered on Taylor’s radar except when she “bark[ed] orders” at him.
And then, at the end of 2018 she travelled to Italy to attend a friend’s wedding. Donghi, 45, was there, too.
“There was a moment, we were by a campfire, before the wedding started – we were staying at the same hotel – he was next to me and sort of reached over and he looked at me, and I went, ‘Woah!’ It hadn’t really crossed my mind, but … it was like an instant chemistry, that had never sort of happened before.”
She assumed it was a one-time thing.
“We hit off,” she says, but thought: he’s from Italy, lives in Spain, and is 15 years older than her. “This is so unexpected, [I thought], ‘What is this?’”
What followed was the realisation – on both their parts – that they wanted to spend more time together. And so, over the next seven months or so, slotted between work engagements they each had around the world, they met up for a cumulative “20 to 30 days” in far-flung destinations like Paris and Sri Lanka. They spoke daily on the phone when they weren’t together.
It was like an instant chemistry, that had never sort of happened before.
“We were getting to know each other on a very deep level, because we weren’t there with each other, so we had to talk, we had to communicate,” she says.
It was sharing adversity that cemented their bond.
There was the time, shortly after they met – when she was in London, and he in another country – when she found out that her Sydney apartment had flooded and he patiently talked her through it over the phone.
And, more intimately, there was the morning on her balcony, in Sydney, when he held her as she was hit by a sudden wave of grief over her late father, who died in 2016. Normally, she wouldn’t share this pain with anyone.
“I’m not someone that released my struggles very often, and speaks my truth, I get on with it, I’ve got on with it my whole life,” says Taylor, whose father was sick from the time she was 12.
“But I just started crying – it’s a wave that comes over you, and suffocates you – and he was there, he just held me, and he actually cried with me. The pain that he saw me in, and that he knows I’d be feeling, hurt him. To finally have someone I can be totally real with, you know, in such an intimate way … That’s when I knew that this is my little soulmate, this is my person.”
It’s what has given her the strength to tackle the challenges she’s been thrown since moving to Majorca, in June last year, to live with Donghi and his two children, Syd, 13, and Sarah, 9, in a country where she doesn’t speak the language and where she had no friends.
“It’s been a huge learning curve for me,” says Taylor of step-parenting. “It’s not your own children, you have to respect different boundaries, as well as it being an amalgamation of two families.”
She’s also missing her friends in Australia and is suffering from grief at leaving her family not long after the death of her father.
There have been confronting moments. Among them, when, straight after arriving in Majorca, she was swept up into a bunch of kids’ parties and moved in with Donghi and his children in a tiny apartment where people below would have raucous parties until 3am.
To finally have someone I can be totally real with … That’s when I knew that this is my little soulmate, this is my person.
“What got me through was my love for Fabio,” she says.
Donghi, she says, has helped her to have fun and live in the moment. “He takes me away from my structured self, makes me more roll with the punches, which is something that’s in me, but hasn’t been always expressed or enabled,” she says. “He’s enabled me to discover more about myself, have the confidence to be entirely who I am.”
Her love for him has wiped away her previous reservations about having children, which, she hopes, is in their future. They’re still working out the timing.
“The biggest thing that differentiates him from all the rest of relationships [I’ve had] is that he’s a giving person and very generous with himself, with his time, his resources and his love. And I had never had any person before treat me with the same respect and care, and kindness and love that I had always shown them. So I finally felt that I met my equal.”
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Samantha Selinger-Morris is a lifestyle writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.