First-time love doesn't always end up happily ever after, even if you've been together for donkey's years, well five - that's a long time in the life of 23 year-old Gemma.
I moved in with my boyfriend of four years straight after finishing university. We'd just spent a year in a long-distance relationship while I finished my degree and I couldn't wait to be a proper couple. Nights in snuggled up together watching films, rushing into bed with each other the minute after you get in from work, cooking romantic meals. It was going to be pure domestic bliss, or so I thought. A month later, we still hadn't Christened any part of the house, let alone our new bed - 'fake pine' - a must for first time co-habiters. I started to think "oops", there seems to be a problem here.
After spending five years together I noticed we were looking more and more like brother and sister. We sported the same mousey brown hair colour and whispy cut and made similar facial expressions and hand gestures. We finished each other's sentences, if we were talking at all. We shared a diary, because it was easier to remember things that way, and in the morning as I rushed around to get ready after another sleepless night (his snoring) I would end up grabbing his deodorant, which worked better than mine anyway. So now we smelled the same. Great.
Ironically, even though we were now living together, we were actually spending less and less time with each other. He didn't want to go out with my friends and I was sick of being the girl stuck in the pub drinking on my own, while he glued himself to the fruit machine with his mates. That's when it dawned on me that I had no idea what it was like to just be me anymore.
We'd been together since I was a gawky 18-year-old and five years later I still felt like I pretending to be grown up and that James wasn't able to look past my child-like state. I was now a woman, and a changed one at that, and thoughts of being on my own, doing what I wanted, when I wanted, with whom I wanted, how I wanted, like I wanted, became more and more appealing in my mind.
When I first declared how serious I was about the boyf, my Mum told me: "I'm sure it is wonderful now darling, but you will meet lots of boys before you meet 'the one'." Well, I've never been a bitter or half-empty cup kind of person, but I was starting to feel that she may have been right all along.
I panicked about being on my own and thought, oh God, what if I am making a big mistake? What if this is what happens to all couples; a five-year itch, where you know each other so well and you just get confused.
Obviously there are exceptions, but when I thought about it, how many couples did I actually know who got together at a tender age and were still together and showing no signs of restlessness? It was not like being a couple in the 50's where people were expected to marry young and stay together, eventually sleeping in separate beds. Times had changed and whether I liked the idea or not, perhaps there really were more fish in the sea?
A year-and-a-half of going to bed at different times, me cleaning up after him, going to separate gyms to get away from each other, and one session of relationship therapy, there was nothing left for me to do but end it. I wrote him a letter telling him I couldn't go on like this anymore, and he accepted it (rather too well). He went away for the weekend, came back and slept on the sofa for two weeks.
I panicked about being on my own and thought, oh God, what if I am making a big mistake? What if this is what happens to all couples; a five-year itch, where you know each other so well and you just get confused. My Mum said you will never get the 'perfect' man and you just have to accept some flaws as part of a relationship. But hang on, how could this be right? It was only inevitable that in order to break the mould we were going to break a heart along the way, both of us scared stiff of what it would be like without the other half.
In my state of panic, I convinced him I wanted to be with him and that he wanted to be with me and we decided to give it another go. Two weeks later after a relationship rescue picnic and a late afternoon film (ironically called American Pie: The Wedding) it was over. He dumped me. Surprisingly there were no tears, not even a day later or even after a few weeks, only relief. I now look back on this time and realise I had what's medically described as 'shock'.
I don't mean to sound heartless, of course I was gutted it hadn't worked, but at the same time I was grateful it ended before the rings were put on our fingers and it was too late to look for the person who would really rock my world. Three years later and I've found that person, so maybe there are happy endings after all.
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