It’s very difficult to write about the subject of love without more than a touch of Carrie Bradshaw about it. So, let’s just get that reference out of the way now.

A few months ago, I referred to that scene when Carrie and the Russian guy are in a Parisian hotel room and she says that she is “looking for love – real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love”. I felt that and then some after two years of dating disasters. Although, I (now) have no problems with being single – and I actually quite enjoyed (some of) it in the end – I still craved that stuff which only comes from hanging out with one man and one man only.

Love is a word which is thrown around so much with little thought given to what it really means. Sometimes, it’s impossible to deny its presence – like how I feel about my four-year-old son, TJ. All of the parenting clichés here are true – they become the centre of your world and all other actions and decisions, whether big or small, are made with only their best interests at heart. Other times, it’s difficult to know for sure if the love was ever really there in the first place. Sadly, that’s how I feel about TJ’s dad. We definitely had something during the decade which we spent together. But that something may not have been love in its truest form from both parties involved.

So, when we can easily love a film, a song or even an outfit (shout out to my sister for the amazing dinosaur print skirt she got me for Christmas!), how do you know when you truly love another person?

The L bomb

A few months ago, I went on my first Tinder date of 2019. I had deleted the dating apps on NYE 2018 after much unprecedented drama from various douchebag men. So, I was a bag of nerves when I got back in the online dating game again. I kept questioning why I was putting myself through this ordeal anyway. The answer was simple, of course. It was the hope and optimism of a fun evening (or plenty of fun evenings) with someone new to follow up on a few weeks of very promising text chat. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to fall for that man … and luckily, the feeling is mutual. The new decade was welcomed in together in the best possible way and I couldn’t stop smiling. Actually, I still haven’t.

Ease of companionship, honesty, respect, communication, ridiculous common ground, intimacy, empathy, understanding and support. That’s love. Fancying the pants off of each other doesn’t hurt, either.

When you don’t know …

I think that it is much easier to decide when you don’t love something or someone. For example, I know that I do not love the music of FloRida. I don’t romantically love TJ’s dad anymore, either. That’s what led to Situation Separation and then, finally, at the very end of last year, the divorce. But, the absence of love doesn’t mean the absence of any feeling – maybe just not the right one (s) which make a marriage sustainable enough for the growing old and grey together whilst happily ever after stuff.

I talked about this in the media on Divorce Day – which is typically the first Monday of the year when the highest number of divorce enquiries are made. The festive season and New Year can put a lot of pressure on couples and families to live up to the images of unity which surround us for much of December. It can take its toll when your reality doesn’t quite live up to all that. That’s where I found myself in back in January 2017 – and, a few minor wobbles aside, I have never looked back. Life has, for the most part, been much happier since then and long may that continue.

Not my love story

But, something kept me and TJ’s dad together for so long. Admittedly, I was more wrapped up in the idea of being a princess bride than what a marriage would mean when that one expensive day was over. We also had more than our fair share of arguments, break-ups and other horrible activity over the years that we were together. But, there was a lot of good there too. A year in Australia. Creating a home together. Having our boy, TJ. At the time, I thought I was in love. I thought those bad times were just a consequence of the honeymoon period being over and boring old reality setting in. But it wasn’t. It was more than that. Maybe it was the absence of mutual feelings. It was most definitely a fundamental lack of compatibility. Maybe it was only ever lust and infatuation which burned out pretty fast. Who knows.

This is something that I guess I will never really know or understand the answer to. It is only when it sits alongside the presence of real love that there’s a noticeable, almost tangible, difference to what has gone before – with anyone. So, it’s probably fair to say that only time will tell. The only way is to learn lessons from the past, let prior experiences shape you in every way possible and still have faith that love is real and that it can be found by swiping right.