What causes the most pain?
A) Cartwheeling down the stairs before crashing into a brick wall at the bottom, your metatarsal shattering in protest, or
B) Waking up on Valentine’s Day with your leg in plaster cast (following aforementioned fall down the stairs) to discover your husband of four years on his knees at the foot of the bed, packing his case – and not for a holiday.
In my twenties, my ex-husband was the love of my life; I wouldn’t have married him otherwise. We had an identical outlook on life, shared interests, goals and friends, and dreamed of the same future. It was an easy relationship and one I didn’t think required too much of an investment from me – rather I assumed things would just tick along quite naturally without interference. I was wrong.
If we had started off as similar in 1998, by 2003 my ex-husband and I could not have veered off in two more wildly differing paths if we had tried. As certain a split as that splintered bone in my foot, our marriage ended acrimoniously and the love of my life fell into someone else’s arms.
Following the end of my marriage, the object of my affections for many years was my best friend who I desperately wanted to be in love with, but wasn’t. We laid awake together waiting for the sun to rise while talking complete rubbish, he witnessed me skydive from 10,000 feet and came with me when I got my tattoo. He accompanied me to my degree ceremony and partied hard alongside me when my divorce was finalised. He came to the zoo with my daughter and I, and we skied together in Belle Plagne and Val Thorens in the Alps. He told me to drink less and write more, he introduced me to some of my favourite music, and we laughed a lot until the tears streamed down our faces. And yet, I was not in love with him.
We eventually parted company when it became apparent that a platonic relationship would get in the way of other, more romantic, relationships for both of us. That was five years ago, and I still miss him terribly. I probably always will.
Aged 35 and weary of love and all the complications it can bring, I closed down my account on a dating website (which had brought nothing but disastrous dates with men less than honest about themselves on their profiles), and swore off the opposite sex for good. I came to the conclusion that relationships were best left to other people.
Valentine’s Day 2003 marked the end of my marriage. During the years I was married, I drank a lot (we both did) and lived for our social life, often to the detriment of our relationship. The bad things that always arose from my alcohol consumption did not appear to come about when my husband drank. One night I sat on his knee and cried for hours about the fact that I was an alcoholic. After that I decided to stop drinking but resented my husband for it, feeling I had made the decision for him rather than for me. Soon afterwards I began drinking again.
I drank a lot all through the years of my friendship with the man I loved but was not in love with. I drank in an effort to stir feelings for him that simply weren’t there, no matter how hard I tried to find them. The heavy drinking prevented me from having the clarity to see that I would never be in love with him, and the mistakes I made when drunk ultimately resulted in us parting company forever, the friendship left in tatters.
I was drunk the night I met my partner, my fiancé, in January 2011; completely out of it, flirtatious, loud and obvious. For a couple of months after our first night together I continued to drink, and on several occasions I made a fool of myself causing him to express concerns over my alcohol consumption.
And then, in April 2011, I decided to quit drinking.
I became alcohol-free with his support. I learnt to like myself with him by my side, and I came to appreciate how wonderful life is when you aren’t drowning your emotions with ethanol. I have grown up emotionally alongside him, I understand what love really means because of him, and he’s the only man who has ever known me as the real me. We’ve been through tricky patches and come out stronger on the other side. Together we’ve made a family.
With him I started my life all over again, and this is what true love means to me now;
It’s when the person you are with allows you to be exactly who you are, and supports you in your endeavours to be the best you can be. It’s when walking through the front door means coming home. It’s when you make sacrifices in silence simply because you know it will make your partner happy. True love is what you are capable of when you’re free from addiction and able to focus on life, as opposed to fulfilling a craving.
For me Valentine’s Day 2014 will be about making time for each other amidst hectic schedules, and celebrating what we have today – something I wished I had for years but never found until I met Sean.