It finally dawned on me earlier this year while watching an episode of Peaky Blinders. I was increasingly intrigued by the love story between the characters of Tommy and Grace: it had become a sort of symbol of everything missing in my own relationship. I realised that despite our best efforts, Josh and I were not in love anymore and we would never be again. We had been together for seven years and married for three. Somewhere along the way we had fallen out of love and become best friends, and that’s just not enough to sustain a lifetime together. We both knew it, which meant that admitting it to each other almost felt like a relief.
So began the process of untangling the life we had made together and figuring out a way forward for both of us. Thus far we have managed to negotiate a tricky path well and without rancour. I am loathe to use the phrase “conscious uncoupling” (not least because Josh despises Coldplay), but that is what we have tried to do. And, I’m happy to say, it really does work.
We have a dog and we have tried to make sure he spends time with both of us so he doesn’t feel too much upheaval. Dogs (like most of us) take comfort from routine, so he has stayed in the flat with Josh and I have moved out. Even in the process of getting a divorce, we have tried very hard to remain a family, and we both hope we can have that for as long as possible. My family lives in Ireland so it’s nice to have some family here in London that I can rely on.
And thus I find myself single. Not alone, but not in a relationship anymore. It’s a big adjustment and has been at times incredibly lonely, but still, I am enjoying my new life. Being independent is a challenge, but also liberating. It has led me to do some serious thinking about relationships and dating and what may lie ahead. Dating is not something I am good at. The actual dates are fun, of course: who doesn’t like dolling themselves up and going out for an evening with somebody you find attractive? It’s the part in between the dates that I struggle with. I hate all the rules; the endless games that you supposedly have to play. And yet, being myself and not playing by these “rules” doesn’t seem to work so well for me either (see previous heart-shaped potato post for more detail). So honestly, I have no idea how to go about dating again. Or even, frankly, whether I can be bothered just now.
The only thing I have figured out is what I do want in a future relationship. What matters more than anything else to me is kindness. If and when I choose to give my heart away again, I would dearly love for it to be safe and to be cherished. (‘Your love will be / Safe with me’: my favourite line in my favourite Bon Iver song.) Surely that’s all anyone wants? Real life can be mundane, and sometimes miserable, but being with the right person can make it worth pushing on through. Someone to share your life with; to melt your heart just by smiling. So at the risk of sounding like an incurable romantic (which I am), I’m going to hold out for that, even if it means being alone for now.
That’s my manifesto for love. I have no idea how to go about it, mind you. But at least I know what I want.