Lessons in Love I Learned In My Thirties (The Big Stuff)

In matters of the heart, I would deem my thirties as the years when sh*t got real.

Overnight, the romantic dalliances of my twenties seemed trite. My love obsessions, so intense and true at the time, proved to be weightless by comparison to the depths things got to in my thirties. As life becomes more serious, we evolve in tandem and suddenly love is big and real. Both trying and transformative, we’re dealing in the big stuff; children and marriage, broken engagements, affairs and unrequited love. Hearts burst with joy and break with sadness. Well mine did, anyway. Here are a few things I learned along the way…

#1 Love will ebb and flow

Even in the best of relationships, love sometimes feels as though it is only an intermittent visitor. And this is ok! That crazy-bananas hormonal out-of-your-mind-with-love state is highly unnatural as a lasting thing. It is only designed to encourage you to bed, and would, quite frankly, be a bit exhausting if the mode was always set to on. Once the initial bond is made, be your individual selves within your relationship, it will remind you why you fell for each other in the first place too. And that’s important to remember in testing times when arguments about money/the bins/your family take over.

#2 You must like each other

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See above. If you can’t recall the reasons you fell in love in the first place, or like who your person is turning out to be, there is a problem. In the end it’s about companionship; love is important, but liking each other is key.

#3 Break out of your type

Date all kinds of people, you’ll enjoy the stories later and it’s good to try out different ways of being. You may well end up with your ‘type’, as that’s often a hard template to break, but variety is a joy. Have fun for a bit before it all gets serious.

#4 Date someone who will slow dance in the kitchen with you

Because romance.

#5 Loving someone who loves someone else is the hardest thing

It’s difficult to walk this path. If this happens to you, you’ll need to soul-search and find out what’s really going on. Are you projecting something on to them? Is there anything really there? Can anything change it? Often, the only answer is to walk away. People make a choice to be where they want to be. If they say one thing and do another – that is the enactment of that choice. Yes, it’s shit. Walk away.

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#6 Cry at weddings

Your wedding, your friends’ wedding, weddings on the telly…? Because love is gorgeous. Don’t become jaundiced or immune to it.

#7 Children change it all

For better or worse. At its best, having kids is the most joyous, life-changing thing. It is also one of the hardest challenges you’ll ever undertake. The process of becoming (or not becoming) pregnant pushes a relationship to its boundaries. If those walls are shaky, they come down. If a bond isn’t strong enough to sustain the blows of the early years of parenting, it can signal the end, as this is when you will need each other’s significant solidarity. You also need to really know each other and how to help each other. Stressed people hide behind walls and sometimes need to be coaxed out again – so be mindful of yours and your partner’s behaviours and remember that (sometimes) you like each other. Walls can be rebuilt.

#8 If it’s right, fight

Don’t lose sight of what is probably a great thing. If you feel known and loved by someone else, and you know and love them in return, rise up and fight for it. Everyone wobbles from time to time, everyone makes mistakes. Don’t hold someone to impossible standards. Kindness is important. Compassion is important. Hear each other out and recognise the bumps in the road for what they are – minor disturbances. And when you’re in the ring, fight fair, don’t belittle, intimidate or stonewall. Your partner is flawed and so are you. If it feels right in your soul, show up and stay steady.

#9 Take no shit

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Know what you will accept and what you won’t. Love causes many a blind eye, so ramp up that self-esteem and define your non-negotiables. Recognise when to stay, but know when to go.

#10 See the good

It still always amazes me that out of so many different kinds of people on the planet, living increasingly more disconnected lives, pairs still manage to find each other. The beauty of it is that love changes constantly and grows immeasurably. The sadness is, it also dissolves. Whatever is happening to you, stay hopeful.

#11 Be honest

If you love someone, tell them. Leave serendipity to the movies, sometimes we humans don’t pick up on signs.

#12 Kiss a lot

No explanation needed.

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Photo credit: Nick Fewings, Unsplash

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