Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and love is in the air.
As someone who has been married longer than I’ve been alive* and auntie to several dozen wonderful young people, I feel like it’s my duty to dispel a few myths about love, romance and how to know if someone’s right for you. If someone is, in fact, The One.
Let’s start with the Soul Mate myth, shall we? It’s the one that tells us that somewhere on this earth is the One and Only person meant just for you and if you want any chance of happiness at all, you need to track that person down or die lonely in the attempt.
And I’m thinking…..
Isn’t it awfully convenient that we limit it to one person out of all the lovely people on earth at any given time, but allow for that person to be alive at the same time you are? If the Soul Mate myth were truly a thing, given the total randomness of life, we would end up being paired with someone who lived a thousand years ago or won’t be born for a few millennia more, or may not even reside on this planet at all. And if you want to use that as an explanation as to why you’re still single the next time some annoying person asks you, you totally should. My gift to you.
But really, most of us end up paired with someone nice, from our own home town and make our life with them. Which tells me that there is something else at work here.
And the way it worked for me was that I’ve only recently begun to suspect that Alan is, in fact, my Soul Mate. And I’m pretty sure he came by that status through the very life we lived together.
Thirty-two years of day-in, day-out adventures and mundanity and, as if by magic, Soul Mates!
Now, clearly, my take on life and love and everything else will not be shared by everyone, which is what makes this such an interesting world to live in. And some people will travel down that aisle, or put the deposit on an apartment with The One. Bells will rings and the ground will shake and they will just know. And yay for them. I know people for whom that happened and, how lovely is that?
But if your world doesn’t work that way, if you’re a little more hesitant or, as my family likes to call me, quirky, than that, the road to love and romance is not necessarily closed to you.
I grew up on all the big love stories. And, due to the generosity of an elderly neighbour, developed a wicked addiction to Harlequin Romances in my late teens and early twenties and, you want to talk about a warped world view, Harlequin Romances of the late 70’s to mid 80’s were it.
And then I met Alan. Shorter than me (a definite Harlequin ‘don’t’), not alway decisive, in possession of a sense of humour (blasphemy, romantically speaking) and, y’know, nice. What was a girl to do?
Well, since the tall, silent, brooding pile of mystery I was sure was my destiny was having none of it and I really wanted to settle down and start a family (what? I was 21. Time was ticking on!), I married him.
The family didn’t happen and the brooding pile of manliness married someone else (bit of a blow to my ego, that) and Alan and I had an adventure. And another. We shared a lot of laughs. I cried a lot (I get really tearful when I’m tired and this marriage has meant for many late nights). And I think I finally know what I’m looking for in a romantic partner (and, yay! it’s Alan!).
If I had it to do all over again, I think my test of the relationship would be to have both of us stay awake for three days straight and then try to put together a set of Ikea bookshelves. Maybe on a deadline, maybe outside in the rain. And if he made me laugh while that was happening? Blammo! The One! Because I love nothing more than that feeling of helpless laughter that can only overtake you when you are so sleep-deprived that you can’t even speak coherently and he says something random that sets you both off. The best!
Of course, many of our sleep-deprived moments were due to family emergencies with no opportunity for laughter and those really reveal the true nature of a relationship, don’t they?
I remember the day my Mum-in-law had the stroke that eventually killed her. We owned our prior-to-this-one bakery and Alan had been up for hours and was in the middle of baking when the call came in.
We made arrangements, packed up the car and headed down to Windsor. Met the family in the hospital and then sat down to wait. By this point, it had been a long day. We were tired, frightened and in desperate need of a toothbrush. But sitting together on one of those uncomfortable waiting-room loveseats, I remember thinking how nice it was that Alan and I could just flop together and draw strength from each other. We weren’t holding each other or overtly comforting each other. We were each talking to different people (he comes from a big family, too). But our shoulders were touching and that was enough.
So, yeah, for me it would be the Ikea bookshelves in the rain and the flop. That’s how I would know he was The One.
The fact that it only took me thirty-two years to figure this out, the fact that I threw my lot in with a man I was only sort of sure of, makes this whole love and romance thing far more risky than many people would like.
But I figure it this way. If it didn’t work out, I could always invoke the Soul Mate myth and claim that my One and Only had been killed during the French Revolution, so whaddaya gonna do?
Happy Valentine’s Day, lovelies. Give yourselves a hug from me.
*My mother came up with this phrase. She was aiming for “more than half my life” but we all thought this was WAY better.