Zoe is a Londoner who is currently living in Amsterdam for a year with her husband. Her days are spent reading, writing, and trying to decide if clogs are acceptable attire. In her free time she eats cheese, talks politics, and falls asleep watching films. She blogs at www.piclinegirl.com and tweets, some might say too often but she would say a regular amount, from @zoeparamour.
Hmm. How would I describe myself to aliens? “Hello! I am one of those humans you have heard about – but I’m one of the nice ones. Would you like some of my cheese? See I’m nice. I used to teach the smaller humans but now I get paid to write which is a dream. I like cats, coffee and politics and you’ll normally find me with my nose in a book or tapping away at a laptop. Anyway, welcome to Earth – most of us are good people, we like watching videos of animals on the internet and taking photographs of our breakfasts. Enjoy your visit – oh but stay away from America for a while – they’ve just elected a pumpkin in a wig to be President – yes really.”
Seriously though, about my love life. I’m married. I’m not sure if newlywed is still the correct term as we got married in August… actually you know what I’m owning it – newlywed. I got married in the summer which is something I never thought I’d do (getting married, not getting married in the summer which I actually highly recommend).
As a rule, marriages tend to go wrong in my family so I was never really sold on the idea when I was growing up. Marriage held no more value than just staying together. In fact, I think at one point I believed that being married did more damage than good. So, I didn’t believe in happily ever after or soul mates – I believed relationships required hard work and often ended badly.
I met my husband in 2010 when he interviewed me for my first ever teaching job – and didn’t give me the job! I later got a call back from the school because they needed another teacher – which is how we ended up working together. I would say “and the rest is history” but real life is never that simple. After a bit of back and forth we finally got together in 2013. The circumstances of working together made it tricky more than anything else.
Even once it was clear this was going to be a long-term thing I never assumed we’d get married. His proposal came as a complete surprise but at that moment there was no doubt in my mind about what I wanted. What I’ve realized is it isn’t “being married” that makes a relationship good or bad. Marriage itself won’t be difficult in a good relationship any more than it will fix a bad one.
When I was younger I used to believe that real love came with a struggle and pain. I honestly thought it was only true love if it also involved a level of suffering. God knows where I got this idea, other than my family – possibly from reading slightly too much Victorian literature at university. Anyway – it’s bullshit. Real love is the easiest most comfortable thing in the world. It’s like wearing your favourite jeans and eating mashed potato – it isn’t hard work. Of course, there will be difficult times – but they should be outweighed by the good. Ultimately it is about sharing your life with your favourite person. It’s brilliant.
We’ve also shared big life changes recently. Last year we were both school leaders, which is a demanding job that often has you working a 65-hour week. Our evenings were spent working or too exhausted to talk; we hardly saw one another. One evening we decided enough was enough: we wanted careers that would give us a better work/life balance so we both quit our jobs and started careers as freelance writers. Now we can manage our own working hours and have more time for one another – hooray!
I’d have to say that this was a much easier decision to make together because it meant we could plan it carefully, save up some money to act as a safety net and help one another with work. It also meant we could reassure or boost one another in those moments of self-doubt! I quite like my own space and I’ve always enjoyed my own company. In the past that has caused tension in relationships – some ex. boyfriends would take it personally if I chose an evening in on my own over a night out with them, for example. Thankfully my husband also likes having time to himself so we now make sure we spend quality time together but respect one another’s need for space.
Before meeting my husband, I collected a number of not-so-memorable dating stories. In 2011 I really threw myself into online dating. I dated something like 29 men in the space of 12 months – some good, some bad and most were just “alright.” Each one taught me more about what I wanted from a relationship. It also increased my confidence – when you’ve survived a few terrible dates you stop worrying about them! It was a New Year’s resolution to “put myself out there” (in a non-slaggy way) as I realized that I was unlikely to fall into a relationship whilst eating Doritos and watching “Peep Show” reruns from my sofa. Online dating is good fun and I was trying to be open-minded and not too rigid in my criteria. None of the dates went anywhere but it was good fun for the most part.
There was the date who took not one, but three work phone calls during dinner (I suspect he was in fact married), another who stuck his hand up my skirt after I’d politely declined his invitation to go back to his place – that was particularly memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Of all the dates during that time my most memorable was probably my second ever online date. We went to “Drink Shop Do” in Kings Cross, London, and had cocktails and cake – I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a cozy, unusual date location. It was lovely, he was great fun but I just didn’t feel any spark. The next day I sent him an email explaining as such and he could not have been nicer in his response. We kept in touch for a while, checking in with one another to share dating stories etc… I think we’re still Facebook friends now. This date really stuck with me because I learned that honesty really is the best policy and that it’s far better to say that you’re not interested in taking things further than to lead someone on. I also learned that if you’re kind and honest with people they will, for the most part, return the courtesy. From that point on my rule for dating was that I would always be kind, fair and honest – even when it meant having a difficult conversation.
Advice for online daters would be that, obviously, it’s important to be attracted to the person but if you’re thinking long term make sure you also really enjoy spending time with them. Not just for a few hours whilst on a date but spending days on end, in one another’s company. I can’t remember where I got this quote from but I think it sums it up:
“As Dad would say, think of those sleepover parties you had as a kid: some nights you want to stay up late playing games, but more of the time you just want to laugh and talk until you fall asleep. Now, imagine you could only invite one friend over for a sleepover for the rest of your life. You better pick someone who can make you laugh.”