‘I’m going to have to start calling myself Mrs Bennett soon..!’’ – Mrs Kelly.
I have had no official serious boyfriend for just over 3 years. I've had my fun, I've dated and I keep my eyes open, but on the whole I’ve remained on my own. I’m not going to tell you that it’s completely brilliant all the time – I love love, I’m the biggest, most pathetic hopeless romantic going, - and I like having another heartbeat to look after, but I will admit - it has been one of the better periods of my life – and a lot of fun.
We hear the word ‘settle’ a lot; ‘Oh you shouldn’t settle for anything less than you deserve’ ‘Oh I think she settled....’ It’s got a bit of a negative connotation and can sometimes be linked to high maintenance, diva-ish behaviour and the defensive attitude of women who have been hurt. By ‘not settling’ I’m not talking about making some poor man jump through endless hoops to prove their affection for me – or even just being with someone with brown hair when you really like blondes, I mean settling for something that doesn't bring you that true joy, or settling for a relationship that is simply convenient, but not what you would choose. I went to one of my best friends weddings last year and I've never been happier for two people. They were a true example of how much there is no doubting true love when you see it. These two had completely nailed it (and each other, of course.) I've been in love, and I know it really is everything that it's cracked up to be. People put up with all sorts of crap for the sake of love because it really is that good but 28 is an age when I can’t help feeling that people have given up on the magic and start ‘panic-buying’ husbands and wives. Facebook feeds become full of glamorous engagements, weddings and coupley pictures of keys with phrases like 'taking the next step!' - Aaand then a subtle pressure starts to creep in; 'Am I going to 'miss the boat?' Is there something wrong with me?! There’ll be no one out there left!! Oh god - it's like P.E. when I was 11 all over again and I was last to get picked for the netball team....’ (n.b. This did actually happen to me – I was and am really really terrible at netball and have always hated it – pivot on the spot? Wtf?No.) But that's a load of crap - there's no point settling for any old Joe Bloggs because you’re 28 or 35 or even 65. Even though I know it doesn’t last forever, you want the butterflies and the excitement and the bit where you want to tell everyone about this great new human who’s just rocked up in your life. At the beginning – it isn’t about lukewarm contentment – you need the lust and the magic. It's a shock to the system followed by a what-the-fuck-is-happening-yesterday-I-was-fine-and-now-I've-forgotten-what-day-it-is-and-Im-wondering-if-im-safe-to-drive. Sometimes you won’t see it coming; the last person I fell for first met me mid-domestic with an ex and told me his exact thoughts were, ‘glad I don't have to put up with that'...wow…but it was fine -I thought he was a thousand times not for me – good fun - but a total nob. Then he turned out to be one of the kindest, most trustworthy, hardworking people I'd ever met. Fortunately he found out I was pretty good fun and not *that* crazy and we ended up together for the best part of 4 years. Within a month of crossing the line from casual acquaintance to sitting up all night laughing our heads off - there was absolutely no doubt I knew I was falling.
One of the most consistent pieces of ‘love advice’ that has popped up over and over again (whether I have wanted to hear it or not) is When you know, you know. It doesn't need analyzing - it just needs to be trusted. Yes I am looking at you my lovely Lake Gard guests; "Do you have a boyfriend Sophie? Oh well, I have this lovely nephew who would be perfect for you!" and "don’t leave it forever – but don’t do it unless you’re sure - you have to be sure!." I've met a few men who were technically perfect. I enjoyed their company and their conversation but that *knowing* was missing. I didn't start being clumsy or ringing my friends constantly just to tell them how great our date was for the 900th time - so I didn't take it any further, or if I did, it didn’t work out. You can't make yourself fall in love with someone simply because you have stuff in common, or they treat you nicely, or you've got a thing for tattoos and he has 5, or all your friends are getting married, or you've been together so long so it *must* be love, or he's just really really *really* fit - you have to know. It’s a heart thing – not a head thing. Love has its own plan and so often we fall for people and we're like wtf?! You?! Really???! Well Ok then....or we clash with someone initially only to get to know them and discover they're so much more than they first seemed. It's a wonderful unexpected shock to the system that sends you a bit starry eyed in the process. (I’m sorry I know that’s cheesy – but I did warn you I was a hopeless romantic...). Don't be practical about love, if you don't follow your heart you may find yourself always wondering ‘what if.?’ and no one wants a life full of ‘what ifs..?.’. It’s the one area of life that can't be micromanaged or predicted - and if you try to do that you might miss out. Don't panic marry Mr Safe because when Mr Right comes along, you'll really know. I remember in a group therapy session 8 years ago, there was a woman who spilled out one day that she was having an affair and she had never been so in love in her life. Meeting this man had made her realise she married her husband because he was ‘safe’, not because she truly loved him. I don’t know where she is now – but I sometimes think of her and hope that it all worked out.
So, we're not in the 18th century, you don't have to hurry up and marry someone because they’re rich, or they own loads of cows, or you’re only going to live until you’re 40. You have the freedom to follow your heart. Wait, don't settle with the relationship that's 'OK' - and if you are single you're not being picked last for the netball team. Go live your life, travel, eat Nutella from the jar in your pants watching re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer if you want to, write a book, go teach English in Italy, and sit comfortably in the knowledge that you aren't missing anything by not settling for anything less than that crazy swarm of butterflies. When they arrive you’ll know – and believe me it will likely not be rational or logical - but you will *know*.