Those three little words

There’s something magical about someone saying they love you for the first time. Your mouth widens involuntarily into a stupid grin, your heart beats faster and you giggle like a schoolgirl at a slumber party. At least that was the case when J said it to me yesterday.

It took me by surprise given we were in his parents’ kitchen, surrounded by two dozen relatives celebrating orthodox Easter. Plastic plates bearing the remnants of the feast were stacked by the sink, dirty cutlery was lined up in the dishwasher, and the drinks were flowing along with five conversations, some in Greek. It was a happy, warm setting for what was to be a milestone in our relationship.

Affections had been running hot all day, a morning punctuated by stolen kisses between preparation and cooking and setting up for guests. Sweet nothings were whispered whenever we passed one another and he took any opportunity to run his hand up under my dress.

We were sitting at the breakfast bar, me rubbing my full belly while he persevered with his platter of food, overflowing with lamb and steak, chicken and garlic potatoes, keftedes and chilli salsa. We laughed and joked with his brother and future sister-in-law while exchanging smitten glances and doe eyes.

He had stood up to walk to the fridge to pour me another drink when he looked at me and said in a somewhat exasperated voice, “Argh, I just want to tell you something”.

“What is it?” I said, reaching out to take his arm and pull him closer. “C’mon, tell me.”

He leaned into me, his arms sliding around waist, and into my ear he said it.

“I love you.”

My face broke into that stupid grin as I squeezed him hard into a hug.

“Do you really?” I whispered back.

“Really, really,” which was our nod to Donkey in the Shrek movies.

I can’t describe the happiness I felt in that moment and some small relief. I had said the “L” word more than two weeks ago and while I didn’t want or expect him to say it back immediately, the guy knew I was hanging for it. Over those two weeks, I had used it sparingly, not wanting to put pressure on him to have to say it back. And I used it only when I felt it hard, like a bucket overflowing with water, when I couldn’t contain the emotion inside me. Each time I said it, he smiled. Even if I couldn’t see him, I could feel the smile that sprawled across his face.

He had told me that he wanted to be 100 per cent sure before he said it to me, which I respected. He also said he thought it might have been too soon, being that we’d only been officially together a little over a month. And I guess it was early for me too, but it was how I’d felt and the words had fallen from my mouth before I realised what I was saying.

I was in a relationship once where I said it too soon and I regretted it almost instantly. It was said in a drunken sexing on Christmas Day night, a combination of booze and festive spirit that lulled me into thinking I felt close to him. The next day I knew I’d made a mistake and about five days later, I retracted it. For some reason we stayed together, and it was another six weeks before I felt confident about saying it again. It was still a mistake, but it took me another 18 months to work that out.

That wasn’t the case with J. I had been wanting to say it for days, the words teetering on the tip of my tongue like a person waiting to bungee jump. My lips formed the words but I refused to give them sound until I knew I was sure. And when they fell from my mouth, like tumbled blocks, I had no desire to take them back. I wanted him to know my feelings and it was important to me that I acknowledge them after two years of denying my emotions.

I’d spent the better part of the last year having detached sex with strangers and fuck buddies. The few that got close I sabotaged until they ran screaming or I cut them off. I’d become good at it, was even proud of my ability to keep my emotions in check.  But it wasn’t sustainable, and after the devastation wrought by AndrewNotChris I realised it was time to sort my shit out.

I wasn’t expecting to find love on a Tinder date, even if I had met J before in social circles. He had a past, I had a past and there were some common connections that had the potential to cause trouble. But there was no harm in a first date, a catch up of friends even if we’d never been close.

Like most of my first dates, it ended in the bedroom, and the next day when I left his house, I wasn’t sure we’d do it again. We’d had a great time but I hadn’t really clocked a reading on where to from here. As it turned out, it would be another two weeks before we saw each other again, in one of those right time, right place situations that neither of us saw coming.

And from there we went hard, too hard. An intense coupling that saw us spend five days and nights together without pause. It was too much, too soon, and doomed us to having “the talk” ridiculously early in the piece. And I responded by dusting off those weapons of sabotage and set out to ruin our relationship before it began.

J saw right through it. He called me out on it and I was left to face some sad truths. To date, I’ve packed the few belongings that I lug between his place and mine three times and sat crying in the car, wanting to go but wanting him to stop me. Yep, it’s fucked up. And oh so needy. I’ve driven him insane on a dozen occasions asking questions, dissecting conversations and body language, critically analysing what this word or that word meant. I’ve all but told him to break up with me at least twice citing crazy insecurities. I’ve passively aggressively cleaned and then collapsed into tears while apologising. And this calm, kind grown-up just opens his arms and hugs me until I feel better.

When J said he loved me yesterday, it said he loved who I was and all my head fuckery. I can’t remember the last time I felt so content.

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