My version of love

I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of the cultural phenomenon that is Valentine’s Day. There’s something mildly icky about panic-buying the same old bunches of roses, boxes of chocolates and cringey cards, paying double for hotel rooms and sitting knee-to-knee with other couples in overpriced restaurants with heart-shaped confetti all over the table.

But I think if you strip back all the extravagance and shiny red balloons, Valentine’s Day can be pretty beautiful. It’s a celebration and reflection of love in all its shapes and forms; the love for friends, parents and siblings – hey, maybe even a pet. Valentine’s doesn’t have to only embody romantic love – but considering this type of love has been a part of my life for eight years, it only seems right to give it a little attention.

I’m not an expert on love by any means. I’m only 22, so I’m well aware that I’ve not experienced the full spectrum of what it means to love and be loved in return. I don’t really know what heartbreak feels like. I have never had children. My experience in the millennial dating game is non-existent – I’ve never been on Tinder and never had a one-night stand – which makes me feel stunted, in some ways. But I think being in a relationship from such a young age has helped me learn and grow in ways that are equally as exciting and challenging. I may not have felt that first rush of a new connection since I was 15, but I do know how to love so deeply and consistently it becomes unconditional. I know love requires work and effort, despite the prevailing notion that it’s easy and flawless. I know that when it’s fundamentally right, even if it sometimes feels a bit wrong, all roads will eventually lead us back together.

I think I find the Valentine’s Day – as it appears in adverts, films and shops – a bit uncomfortable because my relationship isn’t one of big romantic gestures; we don’t do random bunches of flowers or spontaneous city breaks. They don’t come naturally to us, and we aren’t great at pulling them off. In fact, we aren’t good at a lot of things. We both have short tempers and we clash over money, friends and what to watch on Netflix (him: dark, moody documentaries; me: unrealistic rom-coms). I’ve learnt over the years that it’s more than okay not to ace everything, because we’re pretty great at a lot of things. We’re really good at telling each other ‘I love you’ every day – not because we have to, but because we mean it, so we say it. We’re good at making up after a fight and bouncing back when shit hits the fan. We’re good at making each other laugh – like, really belly laugh and wet ourselves. We’re good at cuddling and eating and watching TV. We’re good at looking out for each other, and buoying each other up when we’re struggling to stay afloat. Our version of love is far from perfect, but it’s always there and – most importantly – it is unique, and belongs only to us.

It’s tucking him up to bed on the sofa when he’s too drunk and reeks of beer, and as I put the blanket over him he whimpers ‘what would I do without you?’

It’s him smothering my face in kisses even when I’m really spotty and kinda smell.

It’s singing Disney songs at the top of my lungs and asking him if I’m being annoying, and he says ‘nothing you do ever annoys me’ which is a definite lie (reminding him to do the washing up 100% does).

It’s pushing him away when I’m going to sleep because I want space, but then somehow waking up in his arms.

It’s him waiting up and running to the station in the freezing cold at 2am because he doesn’t want me to walk the five minutes home by myself in the dark.

It’s putting on a stupid chipmunk voice that no-one else can understand but he knows exactly what I’m saying.

It’s him falling asleep on my shoulder on the tube ride home from a night out, and it’s really heavy and uncomfortable but I let it stay there anyway because he looks so peaceful in the window reflection.

It’s telling him long intricate stories about colleagues or friends he doesn’t know and then angrily asking ‘are you even listening?’ And he can recite the stories back to me almost word-for-word.

It’s him saying ‘I can hear your mind whirring’ when we are lying there in the dark and I’m feeling too anxious to sleep.

It’s demanding my own space and independence but when he goes away, even for a night, my heart physically hurts from missing him. It’s as if both our hearts are connected by a wire and the further we go, the tighter it gets.

It’s his everyday habits that I say I hate but secretly love because they’re him; his obnoxious yawning in the morning, the crumbs in the bed from where he’s eaten toast or popcorn as a midnight snack and the way he always leaves the tiniest bit of orange juice or milk in a carton instead of throwing it away.

It’s him telling me he wishes he could put me in his pocket and take me to work with him, so that he can sporadically squeeze my cheeks (that’s face cheeks, obviously).

It’s when we are at a party together and he whispers in my ear ‘I kinda fancy you’ and we giggle and flirt like we only just met that night.

It’s writing a really cringey blog post about him for Valentine’s Day because, well, that’s just about the only romantic gesture I know how to do.


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