The first time I fell in love, I was 19 years old. It caught me a little by surprise because I was never one for feeling too much. In relationships – of any kind – I was always the one who cared less. I kept everyone at arm’s length (emotionally-speaking) and I liked it that way.
I remember the exact moment – on a long train journey – that I decided to make a ‘proper’ relationship out of whatever-it-was I had going on with the cute Greek guy in my university halls. I remember the exact moment he told me he loved me for the first time. But I don’t remember the exact moment I realised I loved him. It kind of crept up on me … the realisation that I didn’t want to be without him – ever again.
I don’t think I liked it – that vulnerability, that feeling that my happiness was somehow in someone else’s hands. I did several monumentally stupid things during the early days (months, years) of our relationship. Perhaps it was subconscious self-sabotage … my little inner voice whispering get out before you get hurt. But I hadn’t counted on the fact that he loved me, too, more than I could imagine – and had the most amazing capacity to forgive.
In the end, I must have gotten over it because I stopped behaving like an idiot and married the guy. And it was just peachy for a while. We had this beautiful baby, we were building this amazing life. We were a team, and we were so happy. …. Then unemployment hit us on one side, long working hours and stress on the other. Financial worries divided us, loss tore us apart and depression took us down. We were in pieces – two pieces, instead of one.
I know he never stopped loving me. That’s why he stuck around when I was bat-shit crazy. Anyone else would have left. I cringe at the memory of the abuse I heaped on him, the arguments, the accusations, the threats. God knows what I was up to. Was it just the illness talking? Was I testing him? Seeing how far I could push him?
Did I actually want him to go?
Sometimes, maybe I did. Sometimes I thought it would be better. I imagined I could make it on my own – forgetting he was the one who drove me to work and back every day when I was too weak to walk after losing our baby; he was the one who talked me through my first panic attack; he was the one who always told me that – one day – it would be all right. Forgetting that he is the reason I am still alive today.
Did I ever stop loving him?
Sometimes, maybe I did. I don’t know. Maybe I just lost the part of myself that was capable of feeling that way. My emotions were drawing a blank – and I couldn’t deal with processing that, so I ignored it and instead immersed myself in children and work and baking cakes in the middle of the night. Too busy to think – too busy to feel.
I carried on like this for ages – even after I started getting over my depression. I think I was scared to face the issue because I remembered how wonderful being in love with this guy felt, and I didn’t know if I could get it back. I was terrified at the thought of going through the rest of my life right next to him, feelng blank. What kind of a life would that be?
And while I was ignoring the problem, he was waiting for me to return. He didn’t wander off with someone else – someone who wasn’t a nutter and had real emotions, for example – and he didn’t get angry or frustrated with me. He just waited … and waited … Which is funny, because I recall on our first ever date that he told me he had no patience. … Turns out he is probably the most patient man alive.
To be continued …