I've been in love with my husband for sixteen years. That's a long time in love years. Before meeting LOML at a seedy hour at a seedy pub in a seedy neighbourhood in 1996, the longest relationship I'd ever had was eleven months. Yep, just eleven.
I could never make anything stick. I was hyper-critical of what 'being in love' actually was and even more critical of my boyfriends (and, let's face it, one-night-stands!). They were too broke, too wimpy, too lazy, too angry, too druggy, too bogan, too corporatey, too... not right.
I didn't know why I wasn't meeting 'Mr Right'. I was only 24 years old and already I felt like 'all men' weren't right for me. That 'all men' didn't like strong women with opinions. That 'all men' liked those cutesy kind of women who wore doe eyes and cardigans with the sleeves pulled down over their hands. I decided this based on the way the relationships I'd had up to that point had made me feel: like I couldn't be myself. I had to be a quieter, prettier, smaller version of myself. Yes, that's how 'all men' make you feel, I decided: stifled.
I didn't realise it at the time, but the one thing all my relationships had in common was... me. It was me who decided I needed to be a different kind of woman to 'keep' a man. It was my choice to agree to hang out with his friends and abandon my own. Do the things the boy wanted to do and not even mention the kinds of things I was desperately missing. To turn a blind eye to things I didn't agree with and make excuses for the little things they did that made me feel unwanted. It was all me.
When I met LOML I knew instantly that I had found the right man. It was love at first sight for me, but not for the reasons that romantic novels gush about. Sure, he was extremely attractive and had a way about him that was just right, but no, it was something more than that that made me love him straightaway.
He wanted to know me.
Not shag me (although there was that), but really know what made me tick, what made me smile, what made me get up and cheer. He genuinely liked the way I talked, the things I talked about and the way I saw the world. He took me at face value and didn't judge the things I said or make me feel like I should say them differently just because we were together. There were no constraints, no 'why don't you's or 'why can't you's, just a deep curiosity to know everything about everything about me. I felt free, as free as a bird. A single bird with the world at her feet and a good man at her back.
I still do.
Part of falling in love with someone, I think, is falling in love with the way they make you feel about yourself. You begin to love yourself in the same way that they love you. The only way to do that is to be yourself, and only yourself, in the first place. The move from 'being single' to 'being with LOML' was so instantaneous and smooth that I barely even noticed the transition.
So, I say the same thing to anyone who asks me, "how you know when you've met 'the one'?"
I say, "marry the man who makes you feel single".
Because he is the exact right man for you.
How did you know you'd met 'the one'?
[Image source unknown - please let me know if it is yours. Words by me.]