Love, Or Something Like It
In Love, Or Something Like It, our new Metro.co.uk series, we’re on a quest to find true love.
Covering everything from mating, dating and procreating to lust and loss, we’ll be looking at what love is and how to find it in the present day.
My heart sank when I found out the tired green Vauxhall Astra belonged to Bill.
We’d only just met in a cottage in Cornwall – invited there for the weekend by mutual friends – but he’d already caught my eye.
He was tall and broad-shouldered with the air of a gentle giant, but could I fancy a guy who drove such an average motor? I’d so hoped that the shiny Range Rover or the smart VW Transporter van – both symbols of success in my mind – would be his.
Bill grew on me over the weekend, especially when he gave me a fireman’s lift over a stream. But the more I found out about him, the more I questioned our compatibility.
I was a former political journalist who’d travelled the world with prime ministers. I had a degree from Oxford University and spoke a few languages. I prided myself on my drive.
I’d expected to date and eventually settle down with another ambitious A-type, perhaps a fellow Oxbridge graduate, a lawyer, doctor or banker – someone who could afford a shiny Range Rover even if they didn’t have one.
Bill had studied at Portsmouth Polytechnic and worked as a mechanical design engineer. He clocked in and out of his job, went for bike rides after work and preferred an easy life to climbing the career ladder.
How would Bill fare at a London party with my Oxford pals or my former colleagues from Parliament? What would my friends think of him? And how would we build a life together if I always strived for more while he was content with his lot?
Like many women, I’d been socialised to ‘marry up’ – to find someone wealthier, more powerful and more successful than me. This idea of partnering with someone of higher rank and social status goes way back, to the days when women relied on men’s legal protection and earning power to protect them.
Within my lifetime, women had still been expected to go from their father’s care to their husband’s without even considering a career of their own.
Despite all the advances of feminism, old attitudes take years to change and they are deeply ingrained: try and think of a romcom, even today, that doesn’t end with the woman bagging the man of her dreams.
I was especially susceptible to the romantic fairy tales because deep down, I wanted to be taken care of – rescued, even. I had an ingrained sense of financial insecurity that dated back to my childhood after my parents divorced when I was eight and money was tight. I’ve had an irrational fear that I’m going to end up broke and living on the streets ever since.
My low self-esteem impacted my romantic life, too. If my partner impressed my friends, maybe I’d feel better about myself. I could bask in his reflected glory. And so I found fault with every guy I met who didn’t measure up – wrong car, too short, lived in the wrong part of London.
I’d still be doing the same today – rejecting lovely guys and holding out for someone who doesn’t exist – if I hadn’t taken the time to build my self-esteem, learn to take care of myself and heal my past wounds. Instead, as you read this I’ll be marrying Bill and I couldn’t be happier.
We began dating after that weekend in Cornwall. And as I lowered my defences, our relationship flourished.
We did most of our courting under canvas, camping at music festivals in Dorset and on a sheep farm in Suffolk. We hired a campervan one Christmas and explored North Wales, enduring snow and driving rain, amid sunny intervals. We also spent a lot of time outdoors cycling – it was a shared passion, and Bill was someone I could share it with.
There were times I wanted Bill to make big, expensive gestures, like I’d seen in the movies. I imagined him showering me with jewellery or taking me on a surprise foreign trip. I was a romantic at heart and I thought such extravagance would show he truly loved me. But as our relationship continued, it dawned on me: Bill and I were happier lying on the grass outside a tent and I already felt secure in his affection – he didn’t need to prove it to me.
Slowly, I began to see that the person I always thought I wanted to be with – the go-getting guy in the sharp suit – wasn’t actually the person I needed.
I used to think I needed to feel on fire all the time, on edge and breathless. In reality, I need someone gentle, kind, solid and supportive, who will help me heal old childhood wounds.
I now believe that love is a choice – a conscious choice two people make when they’re ready to mature emotionally, understand what truly makes them happy and walk through their fears.
I choose to love Bill, every day, not because of an impressive CV, a shiny car or his earning potential, but because of how I feel when I’m with him.
That’s what clinched it for me. With Bill, I am able to be myself entirely. I feel at peace, at ease and at home. In previous relationships, I felt insecure, afraid the guy would leave me for someone else. Or I experienced turmoil, always wondering if I’d be better off with someone else. With Bill, it feels entirely right.
Any worries I had in the past about what other people would think of our match have disappeared. I understand why many high-achieving women are reluctant to choose a partner who’s achieved less after fighting so hard and long for their own success – it goes against the grain and against long-standing tradition. And we want our peers to approve of our choices. But ultimately the key to true love is to find someone who makes you happy.
My family and friends all love Bill and see how good he is for me – and I’m sure of that, too. I even feel more secure and stable, even though he doesn’t have a job and I’m self-employed. And the more I get to know him, the more I discover his hidden talents. He’s really creative and brilliant at building and fixing things.
I never imagined I’d get married at 48 to a 53-year-old out-of-work engineer, but it feels entirely right. Since Bill first caught my eye in that cottage in Cornwall eight years ago, he has changed my idea of what I thought love was. In the last place I expected, I have found my life companion.
Katherine Baldwin is a relationships coach and the author of How to Fall in Love
Last week in Love, Or Something Like It: As a queer Muslim woman, falling in love is a political act
Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2019/06/22/queer-muslim-woman-falling-love-political-act-10017332/?ito=cbshare
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Love, Or Something Like It is a brand new series for Metro.co.uk, published every Saturday. If you have a love story to share, email [email protected]
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