THE LOVE

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I was going to end my celebration of love on a list of things I currently adore: from the new season of Girls and fish pie to fat coke and spring sunshine.

But how could I celebrate the most powerful of all the emotions for four weeks running without even mentioning the big fat love of my own life, instead opting for a list of vacuous things I sort of like at the moment? You might find the following post gushing or boastful, but I just think it’s fitting. Because, although I find it cathartic to reminisce, and you probably find it more entertaining reading about my tragic mishaps and bad choices of the past, I think it’s important to also be grateful (and honest) about what really ticks my tock (snacks aside) in the here and now.

So here goes.

I currently share a bed with a man whom I – in equal parts – love dearly but also wish to strangle at almost every hour of the day. He is horrendous at making plans, one of the worst communicators and spends far too much time on Buzzfeed and/or BBC News, whilst I grapple for a comforting spoon or a much needed boob grope. Vegetables are exempt from his diet. He eats a little too loudly when it’s just the two of us. If it’s yellow, he let’s it mellow. He has a terrible – and really quite bizarre – phobia of pregnant women falling over. And we disagree on pretty much every political opinion a person can have.

But he is also kind. Loving. And overwhelmingly gentle for a man of his stature. He loves my freckles. He runs me baths. And he surprises me every single day. He is the sort of guy who springs a (very romantic) Valentine’s surprise on you and accepts that you choose (the not so romantic) Meat Mission as your dinner selection at the end of it. He sleeps in a single bed with you and bares the stiff neck the next day. He understands the importance of a perfectly-timed poached egg. He showers as much as you and knows a good coffee when he tastes one. He is the sort of guy who buys you a powder blue bike (basket included) for your first birthday together (2 months in). He is the type of person you meet in New York a month later while he’s away for business, just because. And he’s the sort of guy who surprises you with a trip to Norway for Christmas, so that you can pretend to be Anna from Frozen for a few days in the snow. He puts up with your singing, adoration (obsession) with Jemima Kirke and your complete inability to deal with a hangover. In fact, he puts up with you. Full stop.

So, right now, for as long as it takes you to read this post, I would like to celebrate the love I have with him. And then, I promise, I’ll get right back to humour, sarcasm and laughing in the face of anyone who takes life (and themselves) a little bit too seriously.

Love can appear out of the most unexpected of scenarios or places. In my case, it was via an app. In your case, it might be through work, via a friend of a friend, or at a very messy house party. But I’m happy to have discovered – after a month of people sharing their experiences of the heart – that, in whichever way love falls into our arms, we are all pretty damn grateful for it. Be it the good times that we can cherish, the heart break that has taught us a valuable lesson or the decisions that we have been forced to consider that only make us stronger. And that’s exactly the way it should be.

So, even if you have to pick pieces of chewed up food out of his bushy beard, share your hair bands with him or suffer from being spooned to the point of suffocation, just let love in. Because the real thing – when you eventually find it – probably (definitely) won’t look the way you think it should. And it will absolutely be better than you ever could have imagined.

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Thank you for reading and celebrating with me this month. And thanks to all those who bore their souls to me and allowed me to share their experiences with my readers.

Keep cuddling, keep smiling and keep being honest with those who have nabbed a piece of your heart, because one day it might be a little too late to let them know just how much they mean to you.

THE FAKE LOVE

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He was really funny.

Like, ‘my cheeks hurt’, ‘I almost just pissed my pants’, funny.

He smoked. He drank gin. He sat at the desk next to me at work.

I loved him. The only problem was, somebody else loved him too. That person was his girlfriend.

For us, there were no meeting of eyes across a packed room and it certainly wasn’t love at first sight. He was in a new city and I was a bit… lost. We got on. A few messages and intense after work drinks later, we kissed.

And that was sort of that.

By ‘that’ I, of course, mean full-blown affair.

But did I care that I was doing the dirty? Not really. I was going at 100mph and enjoying myself too much to notice his relationship falling apart, to care that the guy I was seeing was getting hurt too, to think about the innocent woman who was driving herself mad with suspicion or to realise that what I was doing was wrong. We spent all our time together at work. We spent all our time together outside work (that we could manage). We stayed late almost every evening. We drank together every night. We met up on lazy afternoons in galleries and on park benches. I would do all I could to see him: cancelling plans, avoiding dinner dates. I even called things off with the perfect guy for him.

It was safe to say I was addicted.

But, as with most addictions, they always leave you wanting more.

So, after months of empty promises, disappointment and getting in too deep, I decided to cut and run. There was no future for us. There never really was. And the stronger fix I was chasing was never going to be found. He loved his girlfriend – despite what he did – and I knew that we would never work. As soon as I realised that I was chasing an unachievable dream with a heart that I was sharing with somebody else, it was clear what I had to do. And so I did.

I’ll admit it, I did cry when it was over. In fact, it pretty much ruined Christmas for me. But the fact that I had dusted myself off by New Year and work resumed as normal – sans romance with him – come January 5th? It meant that I never really loved him in the first place.

In retrospect, I can now see that the all too familiar butterflies and beating in my chest that I mistook for symptoms of love, were actually just a byproduct of my anxieties surrounding getting caught. I realise now that it was the adrenalin – not him – that had made me fall in love with the ‘relationship’ we had.

So, to those of you enveloped in the heart racing, blood pumping momentum of an extra marital? Take this as a slap to the face and a shocking realisation that, actually, it probably won’t work out. And even if it does, do you really want to pursue a relationship with one who is so capable of deceiving someone they share a bed with? The beauty of an affair is that you get to realise what you don’t want in a partner and who you don’t want to become. You berate yourself for being so blind and stupid, but it also makes you realise just how powerful desire can be sometimes, how often it can be mistaken for the real deal and how careful you should be in the future.

The biggest lesson I learnt from falling for someone who was in a relationship with someone else? Don’t do it. Real love isn’t a half hearted, part time, sharing platter. It is a full time, kick you in the balls, can’t be without each other attraction that is both one hundred percent uncontrollable and easy at the same time. It is comfort, understanding and support. It is not holding hands under tables and hiding your phone from your partner. With real love, both parties will fight to the death for it. Not make excuses about rent prices and comfort zones.

Take it from me, never give your everything to someone who is giving theirs to someone else.

Two’s company and three’s (nearly always) a crowd.

THE SUNDAY PAPERS

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As my month of love continues to grow, I thought I would stick to all things relationships and sex for this week’s Sunday Papers post. Here’s my round up of romance from the last 7 days.

Sex Myths Decoded

Single and Proud

Going the Distance

Dating at 30

Sober

For When Cupid Doesn’t Strike

A Love Story

Bag a Bargain

Addicted to Love

Ridin’ Solo

Couples Living With Couples

When Divorce is a Good Thing

Women Enjoy It Too

I can’t get no…

Have a great week.

OUR LIPS AREN’T SEALED

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Love is one of those things that has the ability to knock you sideways, whilst also being able to seep in silently like a good scent. It can appear as if from out of nowhere, but it can also grow for years before you realise you’ve even been struck by it. Sometimes, you don’t even know you’ve had it until it’s gone. But that’s the thing with love, you never know what form it’s going to take, how to prepare for it or in what way it’s going to shape you. But it does shape you, in one way or another. Every. Single. Time.

And I think that’s something worth talking about.

So, seeing as Valentine’s Day is pretty much on our doorstep, I thought now would be a good time to do just that. Yes, it’s a ‘Hallmark holiday’ and a cheap excuse for retailers to up the price of prosecco and long stemmed roses, but it’s also a chance to celebrate love in a few of its many guises.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be adding a pair of lips or two to this post, just below where you’re reading now. Behind each set, you’ll find a tale about a type of love that somebody has experienced (for better or for worse). These stories have been told by people I know, people I don’t know, people I’ve met and some that I haven’t. And then, of course, some by me. From the dangerous and forbidden to lost and lesbian love, I have it covered. But please, if you feel compelled to write one of your own, send it over. I’ll be posting throughout the month, so there’s still plenty of time to spill the beans.

Although we might not like to admit it, we have all had our fair share of both heart-make and heart-break and I think it’s time we spoke honestly about these experiences in order to both celebrate and laugh in the face of love.

Come inside, our lips are far from sealed.

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THE SECOND WIND

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Whenever someone asks me whether they should get back with their ex, I, and most likely you will too, dish out the same, woeful, clichéd advice: exes are exes for a reason; if things didn’t work out the first time, then they definitely won’t this time; don’t look back, you’re not going that way, or, my personal favourite: there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

But what about when the person contemplating getting back with their ex is you? What happens when you’re the one nervously muttering to your friends that you’ve been seeing him again and that it might be worth a shot? You once said that you would never talk to him again and now you’re holding his hand. Everyone shifts awkwardly in their seats and you order another round.

It’s at this point that you need to follow your heart and not the eye rolls from those around you. Mainly because they aren’t there and despite the fact that you’re convinced that the world and his wife are judging you and your other half, they aren’t. Unless you’re on Made In Chelsea, in which case yes, they are in fact watching and judging you every Monday at 9.

But it’s fair to say that those around us rarely know what to say in these situations. They’ve dragged us from the depths of break up hell – from nights in with all the food to nights out with all the gin – to being okay again. They want to protect you and are fearful of giving the wrong advice. So they end up not giving you any.

And understandably so.

However, as I perch nervously upon the very first few weeks into a second attempt at a relationship, I can tell you that all I want is advice. Advice on how to navigate a new old relationship. How to act, behave and cope. How to know when enough is enough and how to know if you’ve made the right decision. Each relationship is a personal journey and I most certainly do not have all the answers. But I can talk to you about what I’ve learnt so far.

So here goes.

Firstly, tread carefully. You have both been through a bad break up (more importantly, the same break up) and although you would like to tell yourselves that you are completely over the trials of yesteryear, it is only natural to have clung onto some of the nasties that lurked at the end of your time together.

But turn this into a positive.

Talk, listen and figure out whatever it was that led to your demise. Returning to the scene of the crime means that forgiveness becomes a part of your language and you begin to learn from your mistakes. You will gain a lot from letting things go and even more from working (hard) through others. Do not ignore the issues from before; deal with them head on and then – more importantly – move on.

Secondly, you do not need to know if they have touched another human since you broke up. Unless they’ve bumped uglies with your bestie, you are both here now and that is all that matters.

Thirdly, you can’t un-know each other. If you’re looking for butterflies and awkward kisses, then quit now. You know he picks his nose when your back is turned and he knows you secretly love Zoella. If you’re not okay with certain aspects of each other’s personality, you never will be. Behaving like someone other than yourself might fix things in the short term, but if things are going better now that you’re not being yourself, then it might be time to actually just… find someone else.

And finally, because break ups are so shit, you will inevitably have seen each other at your absolute worst. There are some splits  – I’m sure we have all experienced them – that can make even the coldest of humans feel as though their heart might fall out of their arse holes. And what is likely to happen when we feel like there’s a high chance that one of our vital organs might vacate our rectums? We act crazy. At times a little frenzied. Always a little out of character.

So pull right back.

The throes of a break up can normalise screaming, shouting and name calling. They can endorse bad behaviour, shocking decisions and a great deal of tears and snot, but you need to remember that this is not how humans should behave. Particularly not two humans who are supposed to be in love. So touch base with what you were like before the end and go back to a time when you were respectful, honest and kind to each other. Things might have got bad towards the end, but they were once really good, right? Hark back to the good times and shake off the bad. You’re back together for a reason, so set boundaries for how loud you’re allowed to shout, put coping mechanisms in place for when times are tough and be really honest about what bothers you. Then just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I don’t know the stats on how many couples have been successful at a second wind, but what I do know is that if you feel as though something is worth a shot, then it probably is. Even if it’s just to hammer home that you are actually better suited to someone else.

Who cares if it takes you a couple of goes to get it just right? After all, practise really does make perfect.

Good luck.

THE SUNDAY PAPERS

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Sunday is here. Take it easy, wrapped in your double duvets and matching jammies and have a read of these golden nuggets from the last 7 days…

Beautiful couples from my favourite city

Nadiya

Love Advice From Over 60s

Illegal Drugs and Your Ovaries

If, like me, you want to be Scandinavian

Women in Film

I fancy everyone

Has Your Relationship Died a Bed Death?

Brilliant.

Have a great week.

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THE SUNDAY PAPERS

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It’s Sunday. It’s October. And I’ve got my ticket to Glastonbury in the bag. Life is good. As is the internet. Here are some of my favourites reads from the past 7 days, for you to enjoy.

I know it’s Monday tomorrow. But until then, relax and be merry. We still have a few hours of Sunday left to tuck into…

Have a good one.

Wise words from wonderful women

Where did the memorial for slaves go?

Irish women speak out about abortion

What is life like for female refugees?

The problem with body hair being used as a tool for feminism

Haunting photography

Why I love being a British woman

Is the party over?

Orgasms at the drop of a hat: why are we still not getting it?

Cases for and against Corbyn’s women troubles

We do have types, apparently

Make your space a space

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THE COIL

large (5)Yep, you heard it right.

Today I’ll mostly be talking to you about your very own vagina whilst oversharing with details of my own.

Still reading?

Good.

The Coil is a birth control device that is implanted into the Uterus, making it an “inhospitable environment” for baby-making. Now, I do understand that this might not sound like a particularly appealing option for many of you, but I can assure you that it is far more desirable than the prospect of changing the nappies of something that looks a lot like that bloke you met in the Bussey Building nine months ago at 4am on a Tuesday.

The Coil is, to me, a dream come true.

Hear me out.

For years, I have tested pill after pill, I’ve grappled with condoms and have considered trying the implant, until I heard about The Mirena, that is. This name (thankfully) sounds a lot more genteel than The Coil, which is the only thing that caused me to investigate the method further- and thank God I did. Although, as it turns out, you really shouldn’t google anything medical, particularly when it comes to your lady bits; there are a great deal of scaremongers out there and tons of inaccurate information on offer. So, after much scrolling and filled with doubt but an unrelenting curiosity, I turned to the most trustworthy of voices: my friends.

I don’t know whether it’s a mid-twenties thing, but so many women around me are opting for the coil. It seems that more than ever – despite our financially stabler and ever more capable minds – we want to make doubly sure that we have children when we want them, as opposed to when mother nature tells us to. So yes, that is why many women these days are walking around with a piece of plastic in their womb. This, in theory, sounds bloody awful, but in reality it’s heaven. Not only do you free yourself from tiny tots, but – in many cases – from tampons too. Yep, you heard me: no periods. Ever. Well, for some of us anyway. As I say, it all depends on the person and which coil you opt for, but it’s a likely possibility. Of course, you may continue to have periods, but then again, you might not. You might get hungrier, but then again you might eat less. You might hate it, but then again you might love it. Birth control is, and always has been, a roulette unfortunately. Unless you just stop having sex, then it’s pretty foolproof. But that kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it?

I’m not going to lie, having it fitted is no picnic. But it’s no war zone either. There’s no blood, no guts and limited pain (well, nothing you can’t handle anyway) and it’s over in about fifteen minutes. And if you have the right doctor (which I really did; she was amazing and I would recommend her to anyone) then it will be a walk in the park, or a jog around one at the very least- with the aid of paracetamol of course.

At 17, “the clinic lady” planted Microgynon in my hand and shoved me out the door, banishing me to months of a bloated tummy, a spotty chin and low moods. At 26, I am more aware of my body than ever, I know what does and doesn’t work for me and I feel confident enough to tell the professionals so. And so should you, whatever age you are.

Please don’t think you’re restricted to condoms or the godforsaken pill when it comes to preventing pregnancy. Don’t settle for heavier periods and adult acne and PLEASE, whatever you do, do not give up on birth control altogether and risk it with “rhythm methods” or “pulling out” (sorry for being so explicit but it’s important that this is clear). There are tons of options out there for you ladies and you will find one that works for you. It’s just a matter of doing your research and testing them out.

If, like me, you react badly to hormones – think bad skin, fat hips and moods that swing farther than Tarzan on a proverbial vine – then this form of contraception might just be for you.

You’ve probably heard horror stories about complications which probably date back to the 70s. Or blokes saying that they can feel it when you’re doing it. They’re lying. No one’s willy is that big. And there are risks with anything you do.

Take it from me, the coil – or IUD, as it is known as today – truly is a revelation.

Free your womb and remain worry-free. Except for Herpes. Always worry about Herpes.

Have a great weekend.

*Disclaimer* I am not a doctor. The only authority I hold over this is that I have a Uterus. I told you, birth control is a roulette. This is just an option.

The Betrayal

large (7)We’ve all done it.

Whether it’s about how much we weigh, how many drinks we’ve had or how old we are, lying is, unfortunately, a fact of life.

Pretending you’re ten years younger than you really are or being in denial about the effects of the latest fad diet on your thighs however, is not quite the same as lying about having slept with someone you shouldn’t have or kissing someone when you should be kissing someone else.

It seems to me as though most people wait until they’ve got a white dress, a three-tiered cake and a pair of neat brogues to even begin thinking about remaining faithful to each other. Surely this should come a little earlier and a little more naturally, being one of the fundamentals of a relationship?

I’m under no illusions that there are people who can’t even control themselves within the realms of matrimony. Married men cheat on their wives, women date ten guys at a time and friends have been known to sleep with their best mate’s other half. And I, although it’s probably hard to imagine, am not a saint either.

Relationships are hard, there’s no denying, but the question I’m asking is: when the fuck did morals go out of fashion?

At school we’re taught not to hit each other in the playground and to be nice to our friends. We’re told not to lie to the teacher and to choose our words wisely. Why then, isn’t there a time, perhaps in the latter half of one’s education, when teachers (or parents) get real and explain that cheating is inherently wrong? We’re getting pretty good at progressing from condoms, bananas and films from the 70’s to explain how our genitals work during intercourse, but we fail to explain to kids about when best to use them, perhaps because we’re still grappling with these issues as adults.

I understand very well that children learn best from making their own mistakes, but with some things, it causes more harm than good to let people figure it out for themselves. We don’t wait around for a child to kill someone before using it as an example to explain that it’s inherently wrong, so why don’t we do the same with cheating? Both cause pain and are irreversible, and both can be avoided.

If you think I’m being dramatic by comparing the two then it clearly hasn’t happened to you… yet.

Some people say I’ve had a ‘good run’, considering how common cheating actually is. 25 years it has taken me to join the Cuckold Club and only now that it has happened to me, do I feel like I can comment with conviction.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of finding messages on your partner’s phone, or even better, catching them in the act, then you should know that it’s probably one of the worst things to happen to a person. And the bigger the love, the worse it is. I could sit here and try and explain the feeling but I can’t; it’s indescribable how much it hurts. Forget a kick in the balls or an elbow to the boob the week before your period; this stuff hurts. A lot.

Excuses are void and can range from the desperate to the ludicrous. They’ll explain that they don’t know why they did it and, particularly the male variety, will tell you that they can have sex without it meaning a thing. (It’s at this stage that I’d like to point out that so can women and that doesn’t make it okay.) Another favourite of mine is the, ‘It wasn’t very good’ or ‘I didn’t even fancy him (or her)’. My response? Thank you so much for ensuring that you didn’t take pleasure from putting your penis into someone else’s vagina, maybe next time you’ll get lucky?

Cheaters of the world: whether you did it and enjoyed  it, knew him or just met him, whether she has crap hair and looks like a gnome or has the body of a Victoria’s Secrets model, we don’t care. You did it, it’s disgusting and we’re hurt, so let us move on, be it with you or without you.

In my younger, feistier and perhaps more naive years, I was so sure I would dump a cheater without a second thought. Watching my friends being cheated on by their boyfriends and seeing marriages fall apart, I thought it impossible to even contemplate going back there. But when you’ve actually invested in a future with someone yourself, it gets a little more complicated than the standard duvet day and Beyonce session to help you move on (although both are still completely valid and do still sort of help the situation).

It’s a fact that humans can revert to sex to try and make themselves feel better. We’re suckers for a coping mechanism, hence why we have alcoholics, sex addicts and all the rest and I have seen lots of couples make it through to the other side, changing them for the better. But why let it get to that point? I’m really not sure how many times I have to say this until people get the picture but if you treat people the way that you would like someone to treat your brother, sister or best friend, then the world would be a happier place. I genuinely believe that we have a social responsibility when it comes to people’s hearts and if we each did our own little bit then it could have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Whether you’re the person who is attached or the one who wants that guy with the girlfriend, take responsibility for your actions – gin sodden or sober – and be the better person and prove how strong you are by saying no. Cheating is always a choice, never an accident.

I enjoy rebelling as much as the next person and can completely understand how the temptation of doing something you shouldn’t can be very attractive, but my experience has changed the way I look at things. Will I get over it? I’m not sure yet. But what I am sure of is that relationships aren’t mandatory. There’s no law saying that you must commit and if you do want to go out there and be ‘free’, then do as you please, but simply stay single while you do so. That way, when you jump in a cab back to theirs, nobody gets hurt, except if they’re into S&M, but that’s their prerogative.

All that I’m asking of you is that you take a couple of seconds longer to think about any decisions you might make in the future and to only partake in the gift of giving this season if you’re ‘giving it’ to all the right people.

Just. Be. Good. It’s really not that hard.