(Disclaimer: contains soppy sentimentalism and may cause feelings of nausea)
An ex boyfriend of mine got married last week. He is the only ex boyfriend I am still in touch with and it was lovely to see his joy. It does feel a little odd to talk about “ex-boyfriends” when you have been with the same person for 17 years but it led me down a path of reminiscence of past relationships and, on the whole, I enjoyed the nostalgia. This has been extra fuelled by watching the first series of Girls and wincing at mistakes made and melodrama played out in my own history.
My daughter asked me how you choose a husband and why I chose her daddy. I talked a little about what not to choose and what not to accept, but only a little because she is only nine. I also talked about how not to treat people, drawing on my own guilt at adolescent meanness. I told her about my first, kind and gentle boyfriend who gave good cuddles and whose mum always fed me up, with both food and love; I didn’t explain how he and his family provided me with a refuge from troubled times at home and I didn’t expand on how I abandoned him to go and smoke and drink and listen to The Levellers in fields.
She knows the simplistic answer that I left the next one (the now newly wed) because he “kissed another girl.” I haven’t yet told her about the unsustainability of a relationship built on 17 year old intensity and over-emotionalism (mine) combined with fiery academic ambition (mine) against a desire to explore different ways of living and simply just be chilled (very much his.)
And she knows there was a mean one. She doesn’t know, may never know, how mean but I fear that one day she will also put up with rubbish because of “love” as many of us do in our early 20s.
“So how did you know Daddy was going to be our Daddy?” At 23 I didn’t know. I knew he liked my hair, liked me being clever and liked being around me. In our 20s he proved himself not completely terrified of helping me cope with some of the remaining damage from a troubled childhood and in our 30s has supported me through postnatal depression and our new unpredictable challenge of MS.
The other day a friend on the brink of engagement asked me “what is good about being married?” It was the middle of the night and I was even less eloquent than normal, but what I wanted to answer was: it’s not the marriage per se, it’s the overwhelming feeling that you are in it together and that, whatever happens, you won’t be fighting it on your own. We are stronger together because of knowing that the other one is always willing to glue back the fragile pieces. Our future is uncertain – the past three years has been about getting used to the idea that a big relapse is coming, and then trying to live life to the full despite that. And when I read about what I should be doing/eating/thinking to combat the MS I simply think I have what I need to fight today’s fight – great friends and family, fulfilling work, fantastic kids, daily little injections and my Mr C.