From the time we're old enough for bedtime stories or to play with a Barbie, girls are surrounded with the idea of a happily ever after, fairy tale, perfect Ken or prince charming style relationship. The expectation of a man riding up on the back of a horse and sweeping us off our feet, stealing us away to a shining castle on a hill. But why? For a start it's completely unrealistic; I can almost categorically guarantee most of us will not end up living in a castle and besides that, no two relationships are the same and nor should they be.
I was single for a very long time. I spent my teenage years watching my friends’ relationships from the side lines, learning what worked, what was accepted and what wasn't. The main thing that I learned was, their relationships were something I would never experience — from friends who stopped every few yards to kiss (despite us already being late), to friends who treated their boyfriends with disrespect just because they could, that would never be me. At the time, I genuinely believed that that was because of the way I looked or because I wasn't like my friends; thin, beautiful, blonde, into boyband members with floppy hair and six packs. I had everything going against me back then; overweight, glasses, braces, ginger hair and my own individual likes and dislikes; I was never one to follow the crowd. Because of my perpetual singledom, I developed a vocal disdain for relationships purely because they felt so unattainable, the old school, fairy tale story of boy meets girl, the boy does the chasing, it has to be a relationship before anything physical should happen was ingrained in my brain and I thought I was going to be #foreveralone because, for a start, I didn’t want that.
Of course, no one is going to be forever alone; although I know that can be hard to believe when you're feeling lonely. My relationship now is very new, only 4 months, but that doesn't stop people from opining on the subject, which they cannot possibly have any knowledge of because it is not theirs. I had friends asking me if we were 'official' after a month or so, and when I said that we weren't they proceeded to tell me that it only took their boyfriend four days to 'decide' (what?). That comment really upset me, the relationship was so new we hadn't spoken about that yet and as conventional relationships were new to me I began to genuinely believe that maybe he wouldn't ever love me. All those old fears and voices came back, I was unlovable, I was a mug, I was being used as a joke. None of that is true though because my guy is sweet and caring and genuine (which in itself is something I am still getting my head around), I've never met a man before that was capable of love, and in particular of loving me, all my relationships had been purely physical up until this point and I thought maybe love didn't actually exist for me, or that people just pretend. I never said anything to my partner about it because I knew deep down it was silly, but I did pay closer attention to how he interacted with me and discovered he made me feel loved and wanted and safe without having to explicitly say it or post it all over social media (to this day we have had one public interaction on social media). This was an eye opener for me, 'I love you' is said too much and too easily and for the wrong reasons sometimes; I don't care if we're together for years before it's said because words are just words and I want him to mean it, but I do not need other people telling me how quickly it happened for them or how they wouldn't be happy with that, sowing seeds of doubt in my mind.
Despite what we see on telly and in films, relationships are not all the same. Some are high maintenance, some are chilled and laid back, some incorporate baby voices and are sickly sweet, some are more like loving friendships. But most importantly, no one else’s relationship is any of your business. You need to be told that you’re loved? Fine. You need to phone your other half 3-4 times a day? Fine. You need to post every detail of your relationship online? Fine. You need Valentine's and anniversaries and memorable dates? Fine. You think that’s the only form a relationship can take? You’re wrong. I don’t remember the exact day our first date happened, but I remember it clearly, and I’m gutted I didn’t ask him for the movie ticket stub. I couldn’t tell you when we would have been together exactly a year, I know roughly how long our relationship has been but there won’t be an anniversary. And I will never post my relationship status on Facebook. I remember our first kiss as if it were yesterday, the first time he slept in my bed, the first time he held my hand while we walked. I know which cushion holds the smell of his cologne best, how important his family is, what his goals are and importantly that they align with my own, I know that we make a good team and I’m pretty sure we could face anything together. I don’t believe we’ll be together forever, but I don’t believe it has to be forever to be successful and happy, and that doesn’t mean I don’t hope this lasts for a long time.
My point is, relationships can take all sorts of different forms, none is more real than another, none is better than another. If it works for you then go for it, but please don’t talk to other people about their relationship as if its weird, don’t feign concern when really you just want gossip, and don’t offer reassurance that the other person likes them when there wasn’t any concern in the first place. Your words can cause doubts and issues and really its none of your business anyway. Unless you have genuine concerns about your friend’s safety or happiness keep your nose out, they’ll tell you what they want, and if they tell you nothing, that’s fine too.