I met Andy purely by chance. In fact it was so random, that we have both always felt that fate must have had a hand in it…
One cold night in January, not long after ‘Blue Monday’ my avatar walked into a Bowling Alley on PS4. I headed for an almost empty booth. As a female on Playstation I was a novelty & was often harassed simply because I was a woman. Sometimes I met friendly people who I actually had a lot in common with – many of them I am still in contact with. Usually though, guys greeted me with over-eager responses, wanting to know if I was genuinely a woman… I got my share of unsolicited dick pics – which I greeted with the disdain they deserved and a quickly typed “Wow, that looks like a penis! Only much smaller.” (Seriously guys – no woman in the history of women enjoys a gratuitous dick pic – except maybe for amusement value!).
“Wow, that looks like a penis! Only much smaller.”
Andy was different though. He didn’t really WANT to talk to me. I turned up – made the usual small talk: name, location, job… He was unresponsive. Now usually I would have given up at this point & gone and found someone else to chat to; or gone searching for another one of my online friends. His reticence seemed to pique my interest though. So I persevered with what by now may have seemed like a rather aggressive line of questioning in order to spark up a conversation.
Offhand, I mentioned music and this seemed to magically change the tone of the conversation. He seemed interested all of a sudden. We discovered we both loved Heavy Metal – granted ofc there was some disagreement there. As any Metal fan will tell you with the ridiculous amount of sub-genres that exist, there is always a lot of healthy discussion on whose taste is best. Even bands with great longevity such as Metallica, still give rise to some serious lines of questioning.
The night we met, we talked for 8 hours straight.
So we started talking music and we carried on talking. The time flew. 8 hours later, I decided to call it a night and go to bed.
Now I wasn’t looking for a Relationship. In fact, I was already in a Relationship. However I was deeply unhappy. My mum had died 3 years before and I was still struggling to come to terms with it. We moved house not long after Mum passed and it was supposed to be a fresh start; getting away from old memories. However, since the move, I had spent too many hours sitting on my own in the kitchen, staring out of the window calculating if I could afford to live alone. In the same train of thought, I was still trying to convince myself that I wanted to stay.
I have always believed that the perfect thing always shows up at the perfect time.
And in Andy’s case, this was totally true. In truth it was his appearance in my life that gave me the push to leave my relationship of nearly 12 years.
After that length of time I was ofc deeply in my comfort zone. I was with someone who my Parents liked a lot and it was easy. We were really great friends. One day a friend at work, saw how unhappy I looked and started asking me about what was going on at home. After explaining it to her, she said to me “Yeah but you still fancy him, right?” and it hit me: No I didn’t. In fact, I was so keen to choose someone that my parents liked, I’m not sure I’d ever really fancied him. I had embellished our love in my head to include that part of it.
The truth is that we got on brilliantly and were best of friends but we should never have been lovers. He pursued me aggressively before we got together and I conceded more out of an appreciation that someone wanted me so much, rather than a genuine desire to be with him.
“Regret, as they say, is a pointless emotion.”
Our relationship carried on for over a decade – my focus always on something else. I’m ashamed to admit how much time slipped by. It only highlights how little focus I had on my own life, goals and development. However you cannot change the choices of the past and can only learn the lessons it gave. Regret, as they say, is a pointless emotion.
When my Mum died though, things were bound to change. My mum was an alcoholic; which was something I found out when I was 12 years old, on discovering a bottle of vodka hidden under a bookshelf in our house. I remember clearly thinking on that day that I knew she was going to die. It was just a matter of when.
I spent the next 18 years waiting for that event.
If I had known then what I do now, I feel like I could have had a hand in changing her mind about wanting to die. Believe me, I loved my mum more than anyone else on the planet and I would have done anything at all to have changed her mind. There were days I screamed & shouted, swore & cried at her – wanting her to understand what she was doing; how much pain she was causing. She was hell bent on her own destruction though and, whilst I do believe that everything that happens in our lives is sent to shape us and I would probably not be sitting here now typing this if things had been different, I do desperately wish she was still here.
Alcoholism has such a stigma attached to it – though really it is a mental illness like any other. Many psychological issues stem from a belief that you are not Enough. I could never have thought that about my Mum though because to me, she was the most beautiful human I had ever seen – inside & out; she was so much more than Enough.
“So much more than Enough.”
Mum was a force of nature – her fiery, argumentative Leo was in stark contrast to my watery, recessive Pisces. I watched both in awe and horror when she took people on in life. I could never imagine being that bold & I just could never understand her combative nature – She was quite fearless. Equally she was incredibly wise – I miss her instinctive knowledge about how to handle situations.
Even now, so many years on, I so often need to ask her advice. She always knew how to make people feel incredibly welcome (unless she didn’t want to and then she had no problem at all letting them know where they stood!) and had that skill of making you feel like the only person in the room. I never needed a best friend because she was it.
I really did feel like I lost a part of myself when she died.
She had her own demons though and I am not sure I ever really got to find out what they were. She was intensely private – she thought talking about personal problems was like airing your dirty laundry in public. So her drinking stayed a badly kept secret. I didn’t have many friends because I worried about inviting people home, not knowing what state she would be in. Dad ran his own business and I guess spent more time than perhaps he needed to at the office because it was often easier than being at home.
Dad believes that people don’t, can’t or won’t change. Because of that I’m not sure if he tried to do anything to help Mum to change. Honestly I am not sure he would have known where to start and, knowing what I do now, I am also not sure that he would have been in anyway equipped to. However, as a kid I never forgave him because he, in my mind, should have been saving the day and not leaving it to just run its course, or enabling her, which is how it appeared to me growing up.
Something was missing.
So it made sense to me that I ended up with someone who I felt really loved me and who fitted into the family. Years later a psychologist told me that I craved stability and it was true. Having always been a hopeless romantic, I used to watch loads of films that had the kind of epic love that I knew in my heart I wanted; shedding wistful tears as I watched couples heading off into the sunset with their soulmate. Something was clearly missing, I just didn’t recognise it at the time.
My mum always said that 1st and foremost you need to be friends with whoever you spend your life with – advice I took to heart. She also said that Marriage was ‘Just a piece of paper’ and it took work to be with someone for life.
However, my need for stability meant that I had chosen someone for whom I didn’t have any Passion.
Andy’s appearance in my life was to change everything though. I quickly realised that I wanted to talk to him all the time. I thought about him even more often. It became glaringly, urgently obvious to me that something had to change. Either I stopped speaking to him or my Relationship had to end. Given that I had been contemplating that very outcome for about 2 years and had always convinced myself to stay for one reason or another, in the end it was actually not a decision at all.
I sat bolt upright in bed one morning and simply said “I can’t do this anymore.” It was the truth. I had not planned those words coming out of my mouth. Part of me simply went into autopilot and that was it. We got up, got dressed and were more polite to each other than we had been in a very long time.
When something is over in your life, you feel a sense of loss and this causes sadness.
That description was about as emotional I felt about my previous relationship. It was over. And I mourned it. However, I knew deep in my bones that it had not been right for a long, long time. In fact I wasn’t sure if it had ever been right.
Years later, I understood & admitted to myself what I had known since the beginning. I wanted so badly to have a relationship, to be validated by having another human who loved me; I wanted the stability that I didn’t get when I was growing up and I wanted to be happy and to please my parents. These were all the wrong reasons.
However misguided I was back then, I realise that things happen for a reason. I never got married to my ex and I never wanted to. I was sure part of me KNEW he wasn’t the one and it stopped me taking that much more serious step. Sure I look back and wonder what on earth I was thinking and maybe the truth was I wasn’t thinking at all. I had chronically low self esteem and I just never believed I deserved more.
I felt like I was following Mum’s advice by being with someone who I was great friends with and yet there was so, so much missing.
Much it was missing from me.
It’s fair to say I was in a fairly dark place when Andy turned up in my life. And he was definitely responsible for putting the sunshine back into it. We talked online for months. Like an alarm that starts off quiet and then gets gradually louder & louder, I just couldn’t ignore that I had strong feelings for him.
There were lots of reasons why we should have left it alone. The distance being one as we lived 175 miles apart; the age gap was another – I am 12 years older than him. As time went by though, we both felt like it might be better to try and fail than not to try at all…
So we decided to meet up.
The first time we met was at a halfway point between where we were both living at the time. I was terrified. Despite having talked to him for so long I was worried – what if something didn’t stack up when we met in person? What if the bucket loads of online chemistry just disappeared as if in a puff of smoke?! I just didn’t know what to expect. Our connection was so strong despite having never met in person which is something I didn’t fully understand then.
I just didn’t know how it was going to go down when we met IRL.
I packed 4 outfits not knowing what to wear and changed at least 6 times before settling on my outfit for the night. He was later than I thought he’d be, having got lost on the way. The time ticked by and eventually he messaged me to say he was outside. I remember watching him walking towards me, taking in all the mannerisms and body language that were so absent from the photos I’d seen of him.
“Wow, you look really great.” were the first words out of his mouth. “Likewise.” was all I could manage to get out. I felt tongue tied and a bit like I was in a dream for the rest of the night. He, though naturally quiet & reserved, never stopped talking all night and the time just flew. We only realised the pub we were sitting outside had shut when one of us decided to get another drink, well past midnight.
“We decided straight away that we would never leave it that long again.”
After that we were both busy for a few weeks and so 3 weeks after our first meeting we saw each other again. We decided straight away that we would never leave it that long again. We spent every weekend together after that – Leaving work each Friday night and one of us driving the 175 miles; returning home on the Sunday night and even at times early on the Monday morning when we couldn’t bear to be parted. One day, a girl from work saw us out shopping and remarked it was like we had our own little ‘Love Bubble’ because we seemed so wrapped up in each other.
A year after we first met, we moved in together. 2 years after that Andy proposed and I gladly accepted. All my reservations about Marriage were gone – old friends couldn’t quite understand the 180 shift – knowing how opposed I had been to marriage in the past. I couldn’t honestly put it into words though. It just made sense. We just worked. He was my forever human.
We got married in Hawaii a year later, just the 2 of us, 8000 miles from home.
Although it started out as an offhand comment, kind of a “Shall we just F off to Hawaii and get married? Hahahah?!” In the end we decided to go there because it was a dream destination for both of us. Getting married abroad meant we could be on honeymoon the minute our wedding service concluded. So many of my friends had said to me “If I had my time again, I wouldn’t do the big wedding, I’d go away, just the 2 of us”. Well I didn’t really need to give it any thought.
For me, it was never about having a huge Wedding, it was about the Man I was marrying.
When we started joking about going to Hawaii, I dropped onto Trip advisor like I always did to start scoping out what the hotels were like. The one that was at the top of the listings looked, quite frankly, perfect. I knew it was pricey though. More out of curiosity than anything I casually dropped them a line to ask about their wedding packages… I had expected to be priced out of the market. They responded quickly and it wasn’t as bad as I thought… It was definitely still cheaper than the kind of huge family wedding we would have been planning here. Oh and of course we’d be in Hawaii…!
So it snowballed. We chose a super simple wedding for 2 and booked to stay at the hotel for 3 nights which put a major dent in our budget however, this was once in a lifetime and we both agreed the debt was worth it!
The hotel was out of this world.
In fact my review of it on Tripadvisor afterwards referred to it as ‘your own personal Truman Show’. It felt so much like the whole resort revolved around you, it was as though the staff were there simply to exclusively make You happy. You only needed to mention your first name and they seemed to know exactly who you were. They made sure everything you asked for happened. Immediately. They even had their own Marine Biologist on the resort! It was insanely slick.
In fact it ruined all other hotels for me – nothing has ever really come close to my experience there. We could understand why the likes of Beyonce and Charlize Theron had stayed there. Not long before our Wedding, both Megan Fox & Jack Osbourne had been married there.
We knew a wedding would put us horribly in debt. Why not at least get into debt whilst hanging out where the A listers did…?!
Our Hawaiian dream wedding was followed by a trip to Volcano, an aptly named small town near the Kilauea volcano. Kilauea famously was erupting consistently between 1983 and 2018. It’s been jokingly referred to in guide books as a ‘Drive Through Volcano’. The eruptions were not the explosive Mt St Helens style but the slow, inexorable flow of lava and it was really very easy to get close to the action; seeing the core of the earth ooze out onto the land and sea is an incredible experience.
The landscape of Hawaii blew us away!
Honestly some of the areas we visited were so much like Jurassic Park (which was mostly filmed on the island of Kauai) that if a raptor had wandered out in front of our car it would have seemed, well, perfectly normal. We traveled 2 of the islands and had ‘mountaintop’ experiences on both: taking a helicopter ride over the island; seeing the sun rise at the summit of Haleakala (another Volcano!) at 10,000 feet; watching the lava glow from an active volcano as darkness drew in. Hawaii is bewitching: simply absorbing the unimaginably beautiful sunsets whilst cocooned in the magical Aloha Spirit of the wonderful Hawaiian people is a mountaintop experience in itself.
I cried as the plane took off at the end of our 3 week adventure. Knowing I would never be the same again after our trip to this incredible part of the world and having had the most magical wedding I could possibly ever have imagined. I began to wonder what could ever come close to that experience…
“Somehow, somewhere along the line, the rot had started to creep in.”
Time passed. I couldn’t quite get over what an incredible time we had had and how dull real life seemed in comparison. Although I was still blissfully in love with Andy, regular life ticked on. I felt like a ship without a rudder, just floating aimlessly on the currents of life. I hated my day job and I desperately wanted a proper direction in life but I didn’t know what it was or where to start looking for it. Things between us seemed fine but we were becoming disconnected. Somehow, somewhere along the line, the rot had started to creep in. But where my discontent was focused on my career, for Andy it was a bit different.
One night a couple of years later, as we sat down to dinner, Andy said to me “I’m not happy”. I felt my stomach drop. That same feeling you get on a theme park ride when you are dropped from a great height.
I knew what was coming: “I don’t think I love you anymore.” He simply said.
Blind panic set in. How could this be? Was there someone else? I didn’t understand. My legs went out from under me and it felt like the feeling I had when Mum died.
I was sobbing, pleading, tears and snot flying out of my face. Desperate for this to not be happening. The pain was unimaginable.
How could I lose this Man who had come into my life as if by divine intervention? The one who had given me so much happiness. The one who was my missing piece. I had never really been able to explain why I loved him so much. It wasn’t ever a matter of he’s kind and funny and handsome and all that stuff. I just always felt like we were meant to be together. When we met it was more like we were being reunited. It seemed like we were an expression of something greater than both of us – something that we will never understand fully. There’s an ancient Chinese belief about an invisible red thread that joins 2 human beings. It is believed the thread will always connect and reunite them, even if they are not aware of it; I truly believed that was us.
At first he wanted to talk about it. Gradually though I could see him shutting down…
We had got a week booked off work and he went to stay with his family. I was home alone; bobbing about aimlessly, not knowing what to do. I struggled to sleep and I forgot to eat. I lost over half a stone that week. When he came back he moved into the spare room; he wouldn’t make eye contact with me and he barely spoke to me. He went out with friends til the wee hours of the morning. I’d see Facebook notifications whilst he was out that he’d made friends with some pretty girl or another. I felt like he was almost goading me for a reaction. My friends said it was almost like a midlife crisis – although he was of course too young for that.
I went to Relate – alone. They were sympathetic. Their advice however only seemed to make things worse between us. I spent ages looking for information online. Purely by chance I found someone online who I seemed to resonate with. He promised to get us back on the same page in just 7 weeks. I felt hopeful. I signed up for his course and waited the 4 weeks, which seemed like an eternity, for it to start.
Meantime, Andy started going to Therapy. This was a process I wasn’t involved in which I struggled to cope with at the time.
I was scared that the Therapist would convince him to leave me.
Looking back now it seems such a stupid way to think. Fundamentally you either love someone or you don’t. What I was failing to see was that through all this he hadn’t left me. Part of him had always been looking for a way to put it right. Andy told me that he just didn’t understand how he was feeling. He expected it to be perfect between us always and once it was less than that and something started telling him that he was not ‘in love’ with me anymore, it all just started to fall apart for him. He later told me that in his attempts to fix the situation he had avoided telling me because he didn’t want to hurt me. Holding the problem in though amplified it beyond all measure.
Our ‘love bubble’ was well and truly burst now.
True to form, we did manage to get our relationship out of crisis in 7 weeks. Although we were not out of the woods yet. We had learnt a huge amount in a short space of time and we needed to go back and consolidate everything. At least now we were doing that on the same Team though. I had also discovered in the course of the 7 weeks how much I loved the theories and the psychology behind Relationships. This was a whole new world for me and one that truly lit me up. While having lunch with my Dad & Step Mother and explaining to them about the course, they commented on how excited I was by all the theories – even suggesting back then that perhaps this would be a new career choice for me…
I realised that I needed to know more about myself; to know more about my Husband and to know more about all the theories behind how people work.
My purpose suddenly started to appear.
The past half a decade+ has been a huge voyage of discovery for me. What drives people at a subconscious level fascinates me – in particular I love learning how people come through survival situations. There are so many tales of unbelievable Real Life to draw on; In ‘Alive’ by Piers Paul Read, after a plane crash in the Andes, the survivors famously had to eat the bodies of the dead passengers in order to stay alive long enough to make it out of the mountains. In ‘Man’s search for Meaning’ Nazi concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl’s thoughts saved him when the reality of his situation was too much to bear. Or in ’Touching the Void’ we learn how Joe Simpson famously got through the accident turned ordeal whilst climbing; facing death completely alone and finding the will to press on.
I believe humans are truly at their best when tested.
Just these 3 tales alone of wildly differing situations show how incredible and resourceful human beings are. Especially when we are placed in situations that are apparently without hope. All 3 of these tales show that our Minds are the most outstanding gift we will ever possess. If we can process information in a certain way we can make it through unimaginable difficulty.
What is more damaging to the human condition is to never grow. To stay as you are. Without growth, we atrophy. Whilst I wanted to be spared the heartache of my husband telling me that he didn’t love me anymore, it was actually exactly what I Needed.
I had tried for too long to protect myself from just that sort of situation.
By choosing someone in the past who I didn’t love wildly, fiercely, unreservedly, I was protecting myself. With Andy I had opened my heart up so I could love someone to the very edges of my capability. In doing so I also had to trust that he would take care of that heart. We are all human though And honestly we just didn’t have the knowledge or skill to behave in any other way than we did
Like most people we just trusted in our love. We didn’t realise there was so much more to it than that. There were so many times in the course of our learning where we said: “If only we had known this before, we wouldn’t be in this mess now”. We also learnt that in Relationships it is as much about reading the signs as it is about taking the correct action.
Were the signs there? Yes of course they were.
I chose to block them out though. I chose to believe that something else was the root of the issue though. We were both in jobs that were making us unhappy. Andy was working with a very young crowd at the time that were of course behaving in the way that we all did when we were very young; being carefree, without any serious commitments or responsibilities. It’s said that people can suffer a crisis when they perceive a sense of permanence to a Relationship. Andy was a fair bit older than his workmates and his life seemed rather restricted in comparison to the way they were living.
He’d realised that he was staring down the barrel of forever and he was freaking out.
Meanwhile I couldn’t see a future where I would ever have such an amazing & happy time as our Weddymoon. We were both making less and less of an effort. Our sex life was dwindling. Without any clear direction in life, we were bobbing round on the current of life. Like 2 rudderless, anchorless ships.
If you believe in the idea of a self fulfilling prophecy, then you will understand when I say that I had manifested this situation. I was terrified. Terrified of losing the one person who I believed I was meant to be with. That Fear was only ever going to be answered by my worst fear coming true.
The truth is we needed to understand each other at a much deeper level.
And that is exactly what we ended up doing. We learnt things that, when you add them up, equal you not reacting to their behaviour and instead understanding WHY they are behaving that way. Things that when you add them up mean that you understand yourself on a whole new level so you stop behaving like a crazy person. Instead you say ‘Oh yeah, I know why that upsets me’ and just move on. Things that when you add them up create a completely different climate in your Relationship.
We spent weeks & months talking, sharing, crying and reliving things that neither of us wanted to drag up from our past. Trying to Master the new techniques we had discovered…
It was very grim in parts. It was also very necessary too.
In order to create the Relationship we wanted & to experience the kind of Love & Passion we wanted, we also needed to unburden ourselves from all the painful experiences of the past, so we could create a more compelling Future.
I am happy to report that we have a beautiful Relationship now; one that we are both truly proud of. We understand how each other work on a very deep level so it becomes simpler to navigate the challenges posed by a lifelong relationship.
Andy and I are completely different beings from the ones that met back in 2009 and we will both continue to evolve in the years to come and, as we do, our Relationship will evolve too.
“The only person who can decide what happens next, is you.”
Your Relationships are always going to be as beautiful & unique as You are. You completely have the choice to create a whole new level for your love life. Whether you have hit rock bottom like we did or if you are 2/3rds of the way up the mountain and just need that extra push to reach the summit, the sky is the limit for you. The future is unlimited for you right now. The only person who can decide what happens next, is you.
Nelson Mandela once famously said: “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
I know that you are absolutely capable of living an amazing life. If I can change my destiny, then so can You.