That’s me in the video, trying to be a presenter and not quite getting the point of it (as I clearly love the sound of my own voice more than anyone else). Thankfully, this wasn’t a career ambition of mine – I was just helping out a friend at Don’t Panic. What’s important about this video is that it was shot 10 years ago today, making it a decade since I met Robin – the moustachioed beauty with the red bob wig and smeary eye make-up in the opening shot. I’d never believed in any of that love at first sight business but a strange force overtook me when I entered the party that night and laid eyes on his high voltage smile and lovely legs (perfectly accentuated by fishnet stockings and a pleather mini-skirt). I was smitten and would not leave him alone for weeks until he agreed to go out with me. Thankfully, he was also quite taken with me but was just trying to play it… a little too cool. Either way, whatever the force was that struck me that night, we’ve stuck by each other over the last decade. When I read Dolly Alderton’s hit non-fiction novel Everything I Know About Love earlier this year, it left me wondering what (if anything) I had learnt over these 10 years about all this love malarkey. Here’s what I came up with.
Make ’em laugh
Women are always being told that looks may fade and money can come and go, but finding someone who can make you laugh is the key to a long-lasting relationship. This is a lovely idea, but what if this person never ever laughs at your jokes? Seriously, imagine for a moment what that is like… I went through a brief period when I was weirdly worried Robin didn’t really find me that funny – LORD knows why, I’m a comedy queen – and it really got me thinking how faulty this nugget of relationship advice is.
Dating a person who thinks they’re god’s gift to comedy but never cracks a smile when you’re being your everyday LOLs self must be pretty dismal. Sure, not everyone is funny and maybe you don’t want someone amusing either; maybe you want someone who is deeply passionate about photographing hedges? If you do realise you have a sense of humour, then this my advice: shack up with someone who finds you equally as hilarious as you find them and hopefully has a similar sense of humour. For me, that means chortling into my coffee with Robin on a Saturday morning as we both trade sassy quips about Katy Perry’s latest music video (Gogglebox is really missing out by not featuring us already). So just remember, whatever your style of humour: women are freakin’ hilarious and deserve someone who finds them funny too.
Gotta have faith
One of the things that’s surprised me the most over the past ten years is how much my seemingly unshakeable faith in Robin has gotten me through the toughest times. Obviously, you’re supposed to think the person you love is a bit alright but I never realised quite how essential my belief in that crazy, amazing and beautiful person would be to keep me hanging in there. Honestly, it’s like this intense super glue that holds my life together. Of course, one should never consider your partner to be some kind of worshipped deity (no matter how much they would like you to) but you should think they’re pretty bloody brilliant. When the chips are down and life has completely gone to shit, you’re really going to need to have faith that the person you love will find a way through it.
I’ve learnt that to settle for someone who seems just ok is not a longterm investment on your part because life is going to really test what level of “ok” that is. Obviously, you should believe in yourself first and foremost but it really helps if you can find someone who is deserving of your unrelenting belief in them too. They don’t need to be a superstar like Obama or Ellen, they just need to be an everyday awesome person who you think can really make something of themselves. Someone you’re eternally happy to wave the imaginary “You’ve Got This” flag for – and who waves it for you in return.
Love someone less pretentious than you
I’m a still a still a bit of a pretentious wally but you wouldn’t believe what I used to be like. Meeting Robin, I was surprised by how unfazed he was by what anyone thought of him and he, in turn, was so puzzled by the silly social mannerisms I’d gradually acquired to try and appear “achingly cool”. I surrounded myself with some right wankers in my 20s, wrapped myself in a uniform of black and looked down on pretty much everyone… because that’s what I thought you were meant to do. Robin, on the other hand, wasted no time on such silliness, chatted with everyone merrily and wore whatever the hell he wanted. To me, he was like some friendly interplanetary life form who wasted no time worrying if everyone was or wasn’t still going to that party in the former video store that was now a secret hipster bar.
Falling in love with someone less pretentious than you is such a blessing. It allows you to let go of all that fakeness and eye-watering snobbery and actually accept yourself. Your life becomes a whole lot less contrived and way more fun. I would never have believed that a decade later I would trade in my “cool” job in film, colourless wardrobe and snooty friends to be a backpacking, rainbow-hued, drag performing blogger with big-hearted friends – but then, who cares really? Being with Robin made me realise how much more you can do with your life when you’re not creating these silly standards for yourself. The hilarious thing is, he quite liked that black haired girl with a bit of a superiority complex – but then he’s a huge part of the reason I’m the way I am now. Love made me care a lot less about what other people think and be much more true to myself.
The balancing act
One of the hardest things about a long-term relationship is allowing each other room to grow whilst also not growing apart as a couple. I think the problem with the happily ever after model of love is that we buy into this very singular idea of who a person is. We take them off the shelf, all packaged up and say “This is the one for me!”, not realising that no person is ever a finished product. Of course, there are essential things that never change, but it’s astounding many other things do. We are ever growing, ever changing, ever developing beings and to put the person you love in a box and tell them they have to stay exactly the same forever is really sad. Careers, haircuts, music taste, even sexual kinks all evolve over our lifetimes and it’s not our jobs to police our partner’s development.
Robin and I were inseparable in the first couple of years of our relationship. We did everything together. Seriously, everything. This time in a relationship is all about growing together, merging your lives – not just moving in together but combining your interests, friends, record collections, bank accounts, and railcards. If they’re an awesome person, that bit is pretty easy. It’s the next bit that is a bit trickier: trying to carve out individual identities for yourself again without losing your shared bond. As I said, you will change and you have to allow your partner to as well. I suppose that’s why we often look towards making commitments that give us a sense (whether it is false or not) of security about that shared bond: having children, buying a house, getting married. None of these are guarantees that you won’t grow apart but they do help you feel like you’ve cemented that bond (whilst also putting their unique set of pressures on a relationship). I really like commitment, as long as it’s my own version. You don’t need to fit your life into these socially constructed ideas of what commitment means to you. Make your love, your relationship and your commitment your own. Allow both you and your partner room to become the people you need to be and try to find a way to still have a bloody lot of fun together.
The thing about love is that it’s both the ‘not knowing’ and the ‘all feeling’. I have no idea what life has in store for Robin and I in the next ten years – maybe we’ll still be together, maybe we won’t. But I know that after this decade I still have all that fizzy, amazing, excitable love for him and rock-solid belief that he could be anything he wanted to be. In return, he gives me more love and support than I ever thought was possible. I’m writing this blog after going through one the most brutal months at work I’ve ever experienced, finally quitting my job this morning – and he has been there for me every minute, on call 24/7 with great advice and big hugs, backing me all the way. So if I’ve learnt anything in the last decade, it’s the really big yet really simple stuff; essentially, that love means being with someone you really fancy and genuinely believe in, being kind to them and making sure they are kind to you in return. Oh, and making sure they think you are hella funny too.