Today being Valentines Day, I thought I’d share with you a love story.
When I was 17 I got a job working for a pizza restaurant. I got the job through my best girlfriend, who had worked there for a while at that point. I had a boyfriend, we’d been together since we were 16, at high school, and I went to college.
The colleagues I met there became good friends; There was constant banter, affectionate bickering, we’d turn the music up loud in the kitchen and dance while we worked, we’d spend hours in the pub over the road once our shift had finished and at the weekends a small group would end up at someone’s house, drinking more and having fun until the early hours of the morning.
By the time I was 18 my relationship was rocky; we argued all the time (mostly over the fact that I wanted to listen to different music and wear different clothes to what my boyfriend wanted me to) By that point I’d passed my driving test so was even more independent, not having to rely on him for lifts; If I’d been drinking I just slept at whoever’s house I ended up and started from there the following day. I kept my college bag and a change of clothes in the boot of my car in case of going straight to college after one of those nights, as they started happening more often throughout the week. My boyfriend resented the amount of time I could have been spending with him but was choosing to spend with other people. We argued more and more, and as I rebelled against his more controlling side I deliberately became more like what he didn’t want – I dyed my hair from coppery blonde to plum purple simply because he said he’d dump me if I did, and I thought that would be such a ridiculous over-reaction to dyeing my hair that I did it just to see if he would carry out his threat (he didn’t).
My best friend and I remained solidly close, spending a lot of time together and in the company of our friends from the restaurant. There was another pair of best friends there – two guys, older than us by a year, both of which I really enjoyed the company of. They were welcoming, friendly and we’d spent many evenings getting drunk in the pub and playing video games back at someone’s house, having a good time. My best friend and I went on holiday, and before going I tried to finish my relationship with my boyfriend. I missed him while we were away, and when we returned to the
and I got service on my phone again I had a load of messages from him. We ended up getting back together again, though even as I did it I wondered why. UK
In truth, one of the best friends had been flirting with me more than usual. He had beautiful eyes that I couldn’t help looking at, and as silly as it sounds he always smelled nice, which I liked. He had a shy smile and was fairly quiet and nervous – nothing at all like my bolshy, loud, shouty boyfriend! I enjoyed spending time with him especially, but didn’t think it meant anything more to him than just being friendly. That illusion was shattered after one evening in the pub when he was telling me about a girl he really liked, but that she had a boyfriend and while it wasn’t going well with her boyfriend he wasn’t sure how she felt about him. I encouraged him to tell her how he felt, my argument being that at least if he was rejected he would know how she felt and could move on accordingly. He agreed that was what he’d do, and soon afterwards I left the pub. A few moments after I got into my boyfriends car I got a text message from my friend simply saying It’s you x
I didn’t reply that night. I didn’t know what to do, or say, or even think. My boyfriend and I had broken up and made up so many times in the past and while I knew it wasn’t working in the long run I didn’t want to end it because of my friend: On the other hand, now I knew my friend felt the same way about me that I did about him, I knew it was unfair to keep my relationship going, because it was bad enough that I felt that way about someone else while I was still in a relationship. My boyfriend knew something was up and was clingy and even more controlling, trying to tell me I wasn’t allowed to go out with other people and not him, telling me where I could go and what time I had to leave and what to wear. I felt suffocated and trapped: We’d been together three years, I’d never had another serious boyfriend like this and at the start of our relationship I imagined we would be together for always. When you get with someone when you’re 16 years old, you either grow up together or you grow apart, and unfortunately we’d grown apart, and the more he tried to stop it the more I encouraged it. I wanted to be my own person, free to decide for myself, but he wanted me to be his girlfriend, one half of a pair, to allow him to direct me. Shortly after my 19th birthday I finally found the courage to tell him it was over between us. He didn’t want to accept it at first, but then the following day he messaged me asking if he could come over and I said yes, then packed all his belongings and some photographs of us into a box and left it on the doorstep of my parents house. He collected the box and went home, then phoned me and asked if he could see me. I said I didn’t think that was a good idea and he started crying. It wasn’t an easy break up and for ages afterwards he kept trying to convince me that we should get back together – I don’t think he knew what to do without me in his life at that point and it wasn’t because it was me, specifically, but more because he hadn’t been single for a long time and didn’t know what to do.
My plan was to be single for a while, to show that I wanted to break up with him because I was unhappy and not because I wanted to be with someone else, and also because if I got together with my friend on the rebound how would I know whether it was a genuine thing or not? Would I just be using him to replace the person in my life I’d just cut out? I didn’t want to treat him that way, knowing how deeply he felt about me – a confessional letter from him on my birthday had him spilling his honesty onto a page for me, telling me exactly how he felt and leaving me in no doubt that he was in deep, regardless of the fact I still hadn’t said anything to him about the text message. It didn’t happen, though – I couldn’t keep away. Then one night, when I knew he would be at a club with friends, I dressed up and messaged him It’s you x then I walked into the club and over to him, leaned over the table and kissed him, and walked out again. I felt like I was on something as I walked out of the club – I got back in the car and drove home.
My next decision was that we’d take it slowly, not rush things, he needed to make an effort to win me over and I wanted to get to know him better, and again that was a decision that didn’t last. Within a week I was staying over at his rented house every night, returning home in the morning for a shower and to change my clothes, heading off for college, and going back to his house that evening. One night as we lay in bed together I said to him, “Do you think we can make this work?” and he said, “Yes, I do.” At that point my ex was behaving badly, showing up everywhere and kicking off, I’d had neighbours call the police on him, his friends walking up to my new boyfriend and threatening him, yet at the same time my ex was trying to get back with me, making promises for a future he didn’t want but he knew I did, trying to persuade me that he would change and be what I wanted him to be – he didn’t seem to understand that the whole point was he shouldn’t have to change, and neither should I. I tried to explain that if we were right for one another we’d be ourselves, open, honest, and it would be fine; if either of us had to change it wasn’t meant to be.
My new boyfriend and I moved in with my parents for a while when the lease on his rented house was up. I didn’t have to pretend in this relationship – I was myself, and it was fine, and I could do what I pleased, go out where I liked and with whomever I liked, wear what I wanted, and because I had that freedom I didn’t need to rebel against anything and I settled right down. I never felt more comfortable, more secure or more happy than when I was being held in his arms.
Our relationship was tested almost four years into it. Relatives from both families died at an alarming rate, and we attended a funeral each week for ten weeks solid, until only our immediate family was left. Then my grandfather died; my world fell apart. I was utterly crushed, devastated and bereft – and then his grandfather died within a month. The pair of us clung to one another, the emptiness inside us both. The Autumn of that year, I lost my grandmother, too, and once again my world collapsed as I watched my mother and father crumble again, watched aunts and uncles and cousins shake with emotion and saw the same minister provide another moving service at the same crematorium that I’d already spent so much time in – I felt the sympathetic eyes of friends on me, the crumpled mess who’d lost almost everyone that meant something in my life. I don’t know what I’d have done throughout that time if it hadn’t been for my boyfriend. Despite his own grief he was always there for me, knew when to give me a hug, knew when to leave me alone, knew when to say something and knew when to be quiet.
The following year, we married. I was desperate for something good, a happy event, after so much grief and sorrow, but it was a bittersweet day as I realised how small our family had become and that my grandparents and so many other relatives didn’t make it to our wedding. After we married we discussed where we would live, where we would build our future, and we thought about moving 100 miles away, to
. East Anglia
I’d only visited a handful of times; I’d never holidayed in
like The Hubby had done when he was a child. I had no experience of this area of the country, had never considered moving away from my roots before – I’d been brought up in the same house where my parents moved when mum was pregnant with me and where they still live to this day, and moving away from familiarity wasn’t something I’d considered before. Then again, everywhere I turned held a memory of someone who wasn’t alive anymore, a time when I went here and there with great aunts, great uncles, or with my grandparents. We discussed the pros and cons of moving away and I found myself telling The Hubby that I thought it was a really good idea. My past was there – my future was with The Hubby, wherever he wanted to settle. We started house hunting and found the perfect place within a few weeks – we moved in within a month. Within a week of us being here it felt like home – we’d lived for two years in a rented property before moving and that was always ‘the house’, with my parents house remaining as ‘home’, but within a week of living here that changed and this was ‘home’. East Anglia
In December 2009 I discovered I was pregnant – The Boy was born in August 2010 and the closeness and love I had for The Hubby before has increased even more now he is the father of our beautiful child. He’s still as thoughtful and sweet and kind as he was when I first got to know him, and he knows me better than anyone. Throughout labour with our son, The Hubby was the perfect birth partner, he knew exactly what to do and when (no mean feat, considering that literally everybody else who was involved pissed me off at some point during the experience!)
We’ll have been together for 12 years in July this year – I’ve still got the first photograph ever taken of us as a couple, taken about a week after we got together and we still say “I love you” at least once a day to one another. I try not to get the hump with him and if I do I just say it and get it out of my system rather than have a fight with him about it – in 12 years we’ve not had a major fight, we’ve only had occasional bickering and a bit of annoyed banter. I still miss him when we’re apart; we still message one another several times throughout a normal day and finish our text messages with kisses. I used to wonder how my parents put up with one another – they’ve been together for almost 40 years and married for over 30 years – but now I realise that if it’s the right person then it doesn’t feel that long, and it isn’t that much of a challenge. Obviously there are times when you argue and bicker and things aren’t going smoothly, but you get through it together and it makes you stronger and happier.
The Boy and I were away last week, and we arrived home on Sunday. The Hubby had been busy - as well as doing all the housework, he’d started the laundry and been shopping! Yesterday morning he got up with The Boy and left me to have a lie-in; last night he cooked us a lovely dinner.
For me, it’s still him – it has been for years and I can’t see that changing any time soon. I can’t imagine my life without him in it. So, this Valentines Day, rather than spending a lot of money on stupid teddies, pointless trinkets and overpriced cards, I’m going to cook him dinner and tell him I love him, just like I do every other night of the year – after all, it doesn’t have to be Valentines Day for me to appreciate him!