What lockdown and loss taught me about love
If, like me, you've spent years looking for a life companion who fits a particular mold, I invite you to broaden your search, because the partner you think you want might not be the partner you need and because opposites make a great team
For most of my short married life, my husband has either been unemployed or on furlough, paid a portion of his salary to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic. This wasn't the plan I had for my life and especially not for my life partner.
In fact, for a high-achieving, workaholic like me, the idea of my middle-aged man being at home without work was my biggest nightmare.
As it turns out, it's been the greatest gift.
Back in my dating days, I searched for men like me - men with careers in journalism or law or medicine; men with annual goals, five-year plans and relentless drive. Even after giving my all to my role as a political reporter and burning out - ending up single and childless in my late thirties, albeit with an impressive CV - I remained fixated on the idea of a go-getting partner.
Naturally then, when I met my now husband, I tried to talk myself out of dating him, despite an obvious attraction that meant we kept falling into each other's arms, tents and beds. I was drawn to his air of calm, stability and solidity, but put off by his laid-back attitude to work and the absence of targets and life plans.
I kept looking for someone else, a better fit for the husband mold I'd been chiselling for years, but I kept going back to him, not because he ticked all my boxes but simply because I felt happy by his side. He felt like home.
Ten years on from when we first met, eighteen months into our marriage and now on our third lockdown together, it's clear that I made a genius choice because opposites, I've discovered, not only attract but make a great team.
My husband has taught me to relax, to play, to take time off and to rest when unwell (we both had Covid-19 last year). In short, he's taught me that we are human beings not human doings and that there is much more to life than work.
And if I wasn't already sure that we were the perfect fit, these last few months, perhaps the toughest of my life so far, have proved it beyond doubt. My mum died in mid-January following a slow and then rapid decline and for the entire time, my husband was right by my side.
He wasn't in meetings, on phone calls or travelling for work. He wasn't stressed out and focused on his career. Instead, he had all the time in the world to support me - to prop me up when I stumbled and to provide a broad shoulder for my tears.
My husband may not have been the man I'd wanted for years, but I now see that he is what I needed all along. I needed someone who would be there.
Who do you need?
I am writing this, a few days before Valentine's Day, because I wish someone had relayed this message to me when I was searching for someone who didn't exist or for someone I thought I wanted but who wasn't the right fit. It would have saved me a lot of heartache and time.
I am writing this because if you are looking for love, I'd like to invite you to consider an alternative future with a different person by your side to the elusive one you've been trying to find.
I am writing to suggest to you that your true love match might be an unexpected one, like mine and like many of the women I coach - a match that your head finds many reasons to resist but that feels just right in your heart.
I am telling you this now because I wish I'd known sooner that what I needed more than anything was someone who was loving and kind.
Yes, we look for a partner to share the good times, someone to laugh with, travel with and with whom to build a home. But we also need a partner who, when the dark clouds come, will walk beside us and hold our hand.
We need someone who'll be willing to support us as we say goodbye to the body of a loved one in the back room of a funeral parlour on a cold January day, as my husband did for me - I'll be forever grateful for his comforting presence, for his warmth and his massive heart.
Of course, we are all unique and you might need someone with different qualities. You might, in fact, need a driven, A-type person, someone to motivate and energise you - I do that for my partner. The most important thing, I believe, is that we put down the rigid mold or the checklist, quieten the voices in our head and allow our hearts to lead.
One final thought about love before I go, which I'll mention in brief but return to another time.
Many of us stay away from love because we're too scared of loss. I did this for years and many of my clients have done this too. We may have been hurt in the past, as children or as adults, and we're terrified of experiencing that pain again.
But as I continue to grieve for my mum, I can acknowledge that I loved her deeply and I have lost her now and I am still here. And despite the pain, I wouldn't have loved her any less.
Love is painful but it's worth the risk. Love makes life worthwhile.
My transformational 12-week How to Fall in Love - Laying the Foundations course begins on February 22nd for eight women. Details here. My 12-week Date with Courage, Clarity and Confidence small group course begins in March. Details here.
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