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Having had my heart broken badly a few times in life I found myself a stone-cold ice Queen for many years when it came to dating. I’d spend time with people, go for dinner, text and have the usual fun that any couple in a relationship would, yet emotionally I was completely void. I never hugged, held hands or said anything remotely affectionate because deep down I don’t think that I even had the ability to. I just existed in a kind of limbo somewhere between feeling past pain and awaiting true happiness, floating along killing time until eventually the scale would tip one way or another and I would finally know where I stood.
Deep down I wanted to feel safe in a future relationship, I wanted to love and be loved, but I just couldn’t bring myself to open up and leave my heart unguarded again. And so my life became about lust instead of love, which I’m not complaining about! I had all of the perks of a relationship minus the label, heartache, headaches and drama – no jealousy, no arguments and no tough decisions which suited me just fine. In a way my (un)lovelife was disposable because I had the freedom to cut off contact whenever I chose without pain or emotion, move on and meet somebody new much like a pay as you go phone instead of a suffocating two year contract.
So when I met my boyfriend I never expected my head or heart to behave any differently to the emotionless void that I’d carried around inside of me for almost six years. But bit by bit he thawed me out and I didn’t even see it coming. I mean, the fact I now call him my ‘boyfriend’ and we’re Facebook official is such a huge step for me, I’d even go as far as to say it’s equivalent to the first man on the moon! He’s tipped my scales from cold and afraid all the way to hilariously in love, only I still struggle slightly to use the word love so we say ‘poo’ instead – “I poo you!” “I poo you too!”
The word love used to scare and offend me. Much like the word sorry in a relationship is always associated with something bad. If somebody says sorry then they’ve done something wrong, something they shouldn’t have done or perhaps something they thought they’d get away with. And then there’s the sorry’s that are said without blinking, an empty, thoughtless word without sincerity or intent to change. I view love in much the same way because in the past I’ve had boyfriends tell me they love me within days of meeting me, again when they’ve done something wrong, want a favour or meaninglessly throw it around. Love isn’t a word, it’s a feeling, a collection of selfless actions that cause warmth in a heart. You can’t fake love, you can’t buy it, force it or receive it when you ask for it. It has to be free, real and open.
In my head I’ve always had this sickening image of love being an overly sweet melodramatic fairytale that doesn’t exist but dominates Valentine’s Day cards with its false ideals. I never thought it would creep up on me and turn me silently from an ice Queen to a melted ice cream but it bloody well has. And I only really came to notice when my family commented on mine and my boyfriend’s PDA’s – public display of affection.
You see, I’ve changed from sitting stiffly opposite somebody at a table to sitting directly next to or ontop of my boyfriends lap. Instead of awkwardly rolling over and facing the wall in bed at night I intertwine my legs and fingers and snuggle onto his chest until I fall asleep. When walking down the street we hold hands, slap bums and laugh without a care in the world. Whilst at the gym we high five and plant a kiss on the lips to celebrate a good workout. Every behaviour I once saw as sickeningly cheesy and overly clingy I now see as perfectly normal and we rarely leave one another alone, we’re always touching, kissing or cuddling.
Yet at times when I don’t show affection say if I’m tired, sick or busy my boyfriend questions what’s wrong with me and I answer back obliviously “nothing, I’m fine” as he raises an eyebrow. Then I start to think about what he just asked me, if I’m coming across as moody or if I’ve done something to upset him but I draw a blank. So I reiterate that I’m fine and his frown deepens as he clearly doesn’t believe me. It’s only after several minutes or even hours that I realise I’d slipped back into bottling up my affection and after a hug and kiss we’re instantly back to normal again.
To start with it was alien for me to show affection to a partner, touching hands, hugging and being tactile, but now it feels completely normal and I couldn’t imagine us not being this way. I’m pretty similar with my children always running up to them, kissing them on the head and swinging our arms as we walk together hand in hand to the park. Yet breaking the habit of being emotionally closed off to a partner for so long takes time and patience and in moments when I unconsciously revert back to being solitary it takes me a while to realise that I’m doing it. It takes time to un-learn behaviours we’ve put in place to protect ourselves.
My boyfriend thinks that “affection only feels clingy if you don’t like the person giving it to you as much as they like you, otherwise affection is fine. If you’re not affectionate with me I normally think that you’re pissed off for some reason or another and try to work out why. But I enjoy your affection, it shows that you actually might like me! And I think I’m quite an affectionate person anyway so there’s no need to tone it down. But I think there’s a difference between affection for love or lust; you could pay somebody a lot of affection because you think they’re fit or because you genuinely really like that person.” Perhaps for us we’ve finally found a combination of the two; it does exist and it’s certainly worth the wait!