Sitting down with John Barletta and Sandra Antonelli, it’s easy to tell they have achieved married bliss. As a clinical psychologist and a Doctor of Creative Writing, it’s obvious they lead busy lives. But they say even though their professions are important, there’s a strong focus on finding balance.
“Clear boundaries are important,” John says. “At work we don’t talk about personal stuff and at home we don’t talk about work. We both try to keep reasonably healthy and connected to other people. It’s a real complementary marriage. There are things I’m in charge of, things Sandra’s in charge of.”
“Yeah, you kill the spiders,” Sandra laughs. “We’re also one of those odd couples who actually sat down and negotiated what we would and wouldn’t do. I shot myself in the foot with the ironing I have to say. 20 years later and I’m still ironing!”
But it’s not all housework – Sandra balances her work life between working as John’s practice manager and writing, with her third novel, Driving in Neutral, out now.
“It’s a love story about claustrophobia,” she says “It focuses on fears people have. What keeps two people apart or what keeps them together. It fits in nicely with what John does with couple’s counselling.”
After writing a novel based on crippling relationship fears, you’d expect Sandra would attract some therapy sessions. But both Sandra and John admit there’s not often a cross over between their two passions.
“Let’s be honest, John doesn’t read what I write. He doesn’t often read novels for pleasure, unless he’s on holiday and reads Dexter - something clinical. Secretly I fear the day he comes to me and suggests we write a novel together, because we both are really organised and controlled in our own ways and sometimes that doesn’t always mesh.”
Even with two “closet control freaks” under one roof, they admit there’s no competition for the head of the house… “The dog! He’s almost 15, so he’s a little old man, half blind, and has all these health issues,” Sandra says. “So anything we do we have to think about the dog.”
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