Growing up I don’t think I had very good role models when it came to romance. It’s only now as I look back and also review the relationships I’ve had that I can see how the dynamics I witnessed as a child/teenager shaped what I expected in terms of romance for myself.
My step-dad was all about the infrequent but grand gestures which were often rooted in what he wanted not what my Mum actually wanted. My Mum’s birthday was actually on Valentine’s Day. Which made it very hard to forget. He did though, once, on her 40th birthday. Completely forgot, made no plans. I was 11 and had managed to get her a little teddy and a card with the help of my friend’s mum, who was also a family friend.
One of the years he did remember though, he got my Mum a puppy. A beautiful boxer dog, who became a wonderful fixture in my home as a teenager. The best bit of this story is my Mum wasn’t the dog lover in the family and hated that my step-dad pushed for the dogs but it always fell to her to do the walking and financial things related to them. Having a boxer was also my step-dad’s life long dream, he named it, he chose it and then presented it as this big, wonderful thing he’d done for her.
My step-dad would definitely say he was a romantic. He’d often write love poems into her cards, and he proposed via letter while he was in the Gulf War, including handwritten lyrics to The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It always seemed nice at the time, but in reality, it was all superficial and for show. I don’t think he ever truly knew what would have been special or romantic for my Mum and to be honest, I suspect that was the downfall in their marriage. He didn’t care enough to learn her and when she spoke I suspect he heard what he wanted to rather than what was being said.
When I met my ex-husband despite the fact my Mum had become loudly disillusioned with men and relationships, I was still full of optimism for my own future relationships. I felt an instant connection with my ex and we went from our first date to talking about spending our lives together in the space of about 6 weeks. In fairness, we were together 10 years, so I think our intuition served us well and the fact we remain firm friends makes me believe that even more so.
Our relationship was never exactly filled with romance though. I think I received flowers once, and in the space of ten years, I can think of two gifts that truly felt like romantic gestures that mattered to me. One was a beautiful necklace and earring set, and the other, my absolute favourite was the Star Wars Build-a-Bear I’d been after with a recorded message inside for one of our anniversaries.
He also blew me away with his proposal, he very carefully and very cleverly removed the toy from inside a kinder egg and replaced it with my engagement ring and sealed the egg back together and wrapped it like new. It was hidden in the fridge for days without me finding it, and when he decided the time was right he declared ‘oh, I forget, remember you said you fancied a kinder egg the other day, I got you one.’ It was a genius plan and opening that kinder egg and having an engagement ring pop out was just one of the best moments ever.
Asides from those moments though he was very unromantic. Cards and gifts were not easy with him. He didn’t see the point in cards and was impossible to buy for because everything he wanted was incredibly expensive and anything less than what he wanted wasn’t really worth buying. I won’t lie by the time we split up I was completely over buying gifts for people, I felt like it was an impossible task, so why bother.
When I met Bakji, he was also not into buying gifts for occasions, which felt like a relief. It was hard to get right and this way I didn’t have to worry about it. He also in our very first week’s together explained he wasn’t looking for or into relationships and what I took away from this was that romance and an emotional connection were things I could cross of the todo list.
Even when our relationship evolved I don’t think I ever quite let go of how I saw his viewpoint in those early days. I was never very good at initiating physical affection like hugs and he’d often say I needed to be warmed up before he could come at me with a hug. We also didn’t do ‘typical’ romantic things, even though we did end up having a ‘vanilla’ side to our dynamic the complexities of navigating the alternative relationship we had I think left me feeling unsure of how to express what I wanted from romance and intimacy and how without those things a certain part of me was definitely a bit shut off.
I know I say it a lot, but this isn’t meant to be disparaging towards either my ex or Bakji. In neither of those relationships did I speak up loud enough about how I’d like things to be different. I think I often convinced myself my desires aligned with theirs when deep down I knew I was after things that weren’t part of those dynamics. Perhaps things would have been different if I’d been clearer and firmer with my desires.
In the course of spending time with Mr F, we have had some illuminating conversations. One was about first dates. In terms of what I class to be first dates, I’ve had one. That was with my ex-husband. Bakji and I started out doing rope together, and rightly or wrongly those meetings never felt like ‘dates’. As time went on we did do things that perhaps were dates, but because of the nature of our dynamic and the lack of definition it had for so long, they still never felt to me like the romantic dates I pictured other people going on.
When I explained all this to Mr F he said he would take me on a date, so he planned a date and we went on a date. I met him at his house and he’d bought me flowers (pictured above and in Romance for Day 11 of February PhotoFest), he’d planned where we were going for dinner, chosen and after dinner activity and decided that we’d take a walk along the beach on the way back to his house. If anyone has been wondering what this guy did to capture my attention so fully, this is definitely a part of that puzzle.
The fact he spent time considering how to make that evening fun for me was a refreshing change. It wasn’t about kink, or even fucking, it was just about going out and doing some nice things together that he hoped I would enjoy. I had the most fun that evening, I felt light, bubbly and up until that point, I don’t think I’d realised just how much I missed the regular stuff folks do together.
Since then we’ve done lots of things together that probably go unnoticed in lots of relationships, but they’ve meant a lot to me despite the fact this is another dynamic that currently lacks definition or perhaps even a future. However, what I’m gaining from our time together is a lot of clarity on the things that I would like from life and that is worth a lot to me right now.
Another conversation, that was a bit of an ‘omg, are you serious?’ moment for Mr F was when he asked me if I’d like to do something on Valentine’s Day. This is the first time, ever, and I mean ever in my life that anyone has asked me to do something for Valentine’s Day. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know Valentine’s is predominantly a commercial enterprise these days, and I do think we shouldn’t wait for a designated day to celebrate love, but I also don’t think there’s any harm in embracing Valentine’s Day if it makes you happy to do so.
I’ve never really ‘done’ Valentine’s Day, I’ve always said it’s because my Mum had her birthday on that day, so that was always my focus. Honestly though, that’s pretty much an outright lie, one I told myself to soften the blow when nothing every happened for it. I would often do things like bake for my ex, or cook an extra nice dinner on Valentine’s, but whatever his love languages were they weren’t the same as mine and I don’t think he ever really saw those gestures for what they were.
Since we’ve been spending time together Mr F has done a bunch of little things that have given me that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, that to me seem romantic whether they are intended that way or not. He’s cooked me dinner, which is lovely because he’s not a confident cook, but his willingness to do it anyway is adorable. He bought me a super cute gift back from his holiday. He’s honest when he wants me in his bed for cuddles. He doesn’t seem to have a quota on how much time we spend together. He kisses me often and well. He holds my hands, strokes my hair, pulls me close and hugs me hard.
I love kink, I really do and my kink hiatus didn’t last as long as I expected because as I’ve explained in other posts Mr F has been a willing participant in some of my kinks. What I don’t love is kink being my only outlet for physical intimacy and for me, kink does not fulfil my emotional needs and there is no romance for me in kink. That is definitely a personal statement, I’m not for one minute saying it can’t be romantic for other folks, and I’m not saying there isn’t emotion in kink for me, of course there is. Kink can’t be my only form of expressing or exploring those things though.
In previous relationships, I’ve always been reluctant to admit I’d like the romance, not only that but that I’d like to be romanced, to be wooed, to be the one having plans made for me, not always the other way round. I felt like this would be a burden on the person I was with. Both my ex and Bakji always said we could ‘do whatever you want’ and I’m sure this was true, but the truth is I never felt keen to express the things I wanted to that were romantic or ‘vanilla’ because I knew deep down they didn’t have the same urge as I did to do those things.
I love doing things for the people who matter to me, I like planning adventures for us, cooking them dinner, finding funny little gifts for them when I’m out and about and one of the things I’ve come to realise is that I want someone in my life who likes doing those things for me. Not big, grand gestures or a continuous stream of expensive gifts and fancy dinners, but the small, random things that make me know I’m worth investing time and thought into.
The time I spent focusing on kink was life-changing for me in many ways, I learnt a lot about myself and I wouldn’t swap those adventures for anything. I feel like I’m at the beginning of a similar kind of adventure now, an adventure that sees me brave enough to experience the more romantic side to life.