This Valentine's Day, I hope my first love reads this and takes me back


You were my first serious boyfriend and the kindest, funniest, sweetest guy. You were good looking, sporty, into drama and liked by everyone. Being with you was the first time I understood what it felt like to be cared for and valued as a person in my own right.

You spoiled me rotten, too – not with material gifts, but attention and carefully thought out romantic gestures. You once asked a friend to surprise me at the airport with a bunch of flowers; another time you burst into a lesson to deliver chocolates. It was butterfly inducing.

Looking back, I don’t doubt that I loved you – but I was a teenager and had no idea what love was. I thought I needed angst in my life: my friends seemed to argue, break up and dramatically get back together. Dawson’s Creek dictated that relationships had to be complicated and earnest. And deep down, I couldn’t really believe I was worthy of such an amazing guy.

With this all spinning round in my head, I finished it because you were ‘too nice’. You didn’t understand how that was a problem, and were devastated.

We left school and drifted. I went to university and you went travelling but through mutual friends I’d hear what you were up to.

I trained to become a teacher and hopped from long-term relationship to long-term relationship. Eventually, I got married and had three children, and started my own business. My time was filled with family and nurturing my career. But nothing made me feel like you used to.

I thought about you a lot – you would invade my dreams and I’d wake up imagining what your life must be like.

I finished it because you were ‘too nice’. You didn’t understand how that was a problem, and were devastated.

Time marched on and after seven years, my marriage broke down. I was an empty shell, going through the motions, dutifully fulfilling the daily routines of a single mum: school runs, sports matches and birthday parties. I was lonely, even though my life was busy.

One night I sent you a message on social media. I wanted to speak to someone that knew me well, that I could be honest and open with, who wouldn’t cast judgement on my thoughts, and I felt like you would be the best person to advise me how to cope. I was hesitant but confident you wouldn’t have changed.

You messaged back, offering me advice and we talked – nothing more than that – but I can’t begin to explain how much that helped. You were lovely and as kind spirited as ever.

I wanted to tell you how much I had missed you over the years and how much it meant to speak to you, but I couldn’t. My head was muddled; anyone that goes through a marriage separation will know the feelings of failure and unworthiness that follow in its wake. I didn’t have any belief that anyone would feel the same about me.

Four years later, however, with things going wrong with my new partner and one glass of red wine too many inside me, I finally sent you an email telling you how I felt.

It wasn’t too gushy or cringe-worthy but it was embarrassingly from the heart, explaining that I liked you and how sad I was that we had never stayed together.

You didn’t reply.

After a few days of feeling down and repeatedly checking my inbox, I let go of my disappointment in the knowledge that you either couldn’t – or wouldn’t – reciprocate. I needed to look forward not backwards, and I vowed never to send a drunk email again.

The more time I spend with you, however, the more I realise I have feelings for you.

Then last year, you got in touch, asking if I could help with a project you were working on. I agreed, ecstatic. My drunken message inevitably came up, but you simply said: ‘Don’t worry, nostalgia and alcohol are a heady mix.’

Now, we talk regularly on the phone and we have spent a lot of time together, working on our shared project. We have never spoken about our past – that sounds too grand a word for a two-year teenage romance. I find it strange but it’s like we’re both too shy to discuss it.

The more time I spend with you, however, the more I realise I have feelings for you. I sway between wanting to tell you everything, and never wanting to tell you anything… And now I am single, it seems like there’s been a cruel twist of fate because you’ve recently met someone online.

Deep down I believe you still have feelings for me and sometimes I wish your relationship would naturally come to an end, just so we could try once again.

I don’t want to even think about trying to split your relationship up. I am not that person and I also know you’d never do that, as you’re committed to her and you’re the most trustworthy person I know.

Perhaps loving someone is simply a balance of pain and pleasure. In my case, I suspect too much of life has passed to tip the scales in the favour of pleasure.

Sometimes I think it’s a waste of time to focus my energy and thoughts on you, that I need to cut all ties with you. But then we meet up and have such a good time together, talking about anything and everything and we laugh so much. I don’t want to give that up and so I’ve tried to accept that our relationship as purely platonic.

The prospect of strangers knowing my deepest secrets is less daunting than speaking directly to you. They don’t hold the power to break my heart – you do.

So I’m admitting right here and now that all I really want this Valentine’s Day is for my childhood sweetheart to join me in a parallel universe, where life is simple and straightforward, where it’s just us.

Where you will read this, look up, and feel the same.

Last week in Love, Or Something Like It: I’ve been the other woman – twice

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Love, Or Something Like It is a new series for, covering everything from mating and dating to lust and loss, to find out what love is and how to find it in the present day.

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