Thirty-one years ago my (now) husband saved my teddy bear from certain disaster. We had just finished school and we were in a hotel room celebrating our newfound freedom. I hardly knew him and his rowdy group of friends but, as happens when you are young and carefree, his friends knew my friends and a party of sorts had spontaneously erupted in our hotel room.
I was 17, insecure and a little emotionally damaged from what had been a turbulent few years of adolescence. This may or may not account for the fact that my childhood teddy bear Pooky was in the hotel room with me. He was my constant companion, my fluffy safety net and I never considered leaving him behind when I want away.
But 17-year-old boys react to fluffy childhood toys quite differently to the way insecure teen girls do. Pooky quickly became a football the boys tossed around with careless abandon. My connection to this brown ball of fluff cannot be understated, 30 years later I can still feel my visceral horror at seeing him hurled around the room. I can also recall the moment my future husband shouted "throw him to me" as my heart sank further and further. I don't know if he saw the tears in my eyes or if he picked up how anxious I was. I do know he caught Pooky and handed him straight back to me. It was the first of thousands of times he showed his true, very kind heart.
In the fairytale version of this story I would say that this is when I fell in love with him. That my eyes locked on his and, as he handed my bear back into the safe embrace of my arms, I knew he was the man for me. In reality I thanked him (probably tearfully) and offered to buy him a drink. There were no arrows to the heart, no over dramatic thumping of the heart, but I started to think that this was a really good man, a kind man. I liked that about him.
Thirty-one years later I still do. Even more so now that I have travelled so much of my journey with him by my side.
There are many times in our relationship I have felt that huge and heart-filled love with my husband and I relish those times, but I also know that such a feeling is not sustainable. It's not how the everyday works. It's not an indicator of how much I care for him, how much he means to me or how much I respect and admire him. I do love him, if love means a deep affection which makes me want to spend the rest of my days with him, but more importantly than that, I really just like him.
Love, to me, is like the tides of the ocean. Sometimes it threatens the ground underneath me, turns it to mud and makes it I feel like I am sinking. Sometimes the waves roll so far back from the beach I'm left alone on the hard sand.
But the fact that I like my husband, that is a constant. I see the good in him, I want to spend time with him and when the love is harder to feel because there is fighting or chaos and real life is not romantic, I remember that while I may not feel overwhelming love at that moment, I really like who he is.
It's often people entering or leaving relationships who ponder the meaning of love, people looking for love who need to define what it is. But if you accept that above all else you really need to like someone to live a life of love, it may make it a bit easier.
As for Pooky, he came with us on our honeymoon. He lives in our cupboard happily nestled among the winter blankets and I still love him.