My long term boyfriend of five years and I have this long running joke-type-thing where I moan about not being bought flowers, and he replies that if he were to get me them all the time I'd just expect them, and then they wouldn't be special.
There is truth to that. I can imagine that if I were to be showered with gifts and flowers all the time, maybe I'd become spoilt. Actually, NOPE. I'd love it.
I hate to admit it, but I love cards. I love presents. I love flowers. I love STUFF. I am a massive consumer, and I fully buy into all the commercial BS re; Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas, the lot. I love any excuse to give or receive any type of gift. I spend an absolute AGE in card shops, agonizing over the perfect choice of card for any occasion. I love cake. I love balloons full of helium that hang around, gently bumping into the ceiling for days after a birthday until they sadly, slowly start becoming baggier and each day are closer to the floor.
I love the ceremony of giving and receiving gifts, be them for an occasion or "just because." The thing is though, that my boyfriend is a lot more practical. I remember right back at the beginning of our relationship and I went into a newsagents to buy a stick of gum or something, and I bought us both a scratch-card and a chocolate bar and some sweets. He couldn't believe I'd wasted my money on the scratch-card, and I never bought another one. In my head, I was spontaneously buying a gift, in his mind I had wasted a fiver that would be better saved, or spent on something else. Fair enough. I know now after all these years, that my spontaneous gift buying is better spent on my Mum or my Dad, who are the same as me and will normally arrive meeting me at lunch with a little goody bag of sorts.
So, we are not a particularly traditionally romantic couple, although we do a lot together. We go for lovely dinners, and treat each other well on birthdays by booking trips away, trips where we remember why we are together. Flowers aren't everything -- OR ARE THEY?
Warner Leisure Hotels did a study of people in the UK and how they maintain a successful relationship. According to their results, London is the flower capital of the UK, with over 1/3 of the respondents turning to flowers to show their partner how much they care (or to apologize for something -- OK I'M JUST BEING CYNICAL). Apparently the Scots surveyed choose to surprise a loved on with chocolates, and the Welsh just go straight for the bedroom. No messing.
In Northern Ireland, the most common way of showing romance is by cooking for the other person. Now this is where I probably cockblock a lot of my boyfriend's romantic side -- I tend to cook because he destroys the kitchen. He'd love to cook for me more, but the idea makes me anxious because I can picture the carnage. I need to chill out.
Romance isn't just presents and gift wrapping and long love letters, though.
The respondents to the survey placed the most importance on listening to your partner, spending time together and never going to bed on an argument to keep a long term relationship ticking on smoothly. I am very guilty of dwelling on an argument, letting it fester and germinate into something dark and ugly when it would be better discussed and put to bed swiftly. I go to bed angry, and wake up angry. I go to work, dwell even more and then come home angry.
See, I place importance on things that probably don't mean much at all. I want flowers, when I have total devotion. I am offered a cooked meal, and I don't want it. I want something else. I have someone who listens, but I see people buying chocolates for their partner and I want THAT, even though I don't like chocolate. I just always want something I'm not getting, because I think that that's what other people are getting. I think everyone is having this massively romantic time, when in fact what I have is so much better and more meaningful than some flowers.
I have a tendency to get stuck on focusing on stupid little things, when I need to look at the bigger picture. An offer of making breakfast at the weekend shouldn't be shot down with a terse "Eugh but you'll just screw up the kitchen. And I don't want scrambled eggs anyway." -- it's a kind offer, romance in its own way. I carry around with me a faint air of irritation at the lack of grand gestures in our relationship when in fact, little ones are happening every day and I'm choosing to ignore them. I focus on what I'm not getting, when I am getting a lot.
Relationships begin and thrive because of a heady mixture of lust, emotional availability and hopefully a lack of baggage. We do things to impress the other that end up falling by the wayside later on down the line -- I bet I was way more fun when I was dating than I am now; time didn't matter back then. Afternoons bled into evenings bled into mornings, every little anything was significant. I'd be almost jealous of myself, the smug glow of new love shooting out of every pore and into the eyeline of everyone around. Things like jobs were just background noise and inconveniences because they stopped us seeing each other for a few hours a day. We ate fish and chips in my bed and I didn't care about batter getting on the duvet.
Long term relationships are different. They are compromise and doing the housework and feeding the cat. But they are also stability, and a shared history, and in-jokes. They are not always flowers and chocolates and staying in bed all weekend, but they are comfort and a deep love that changes and evolves over time. And you know what? Sometimes I just need to remember that, and thank the universe that I have someone who loves me deeply, even when we are unkind to each other for a while.
How romantic are you -- are you a flowers and chocolates kind of person, or do you hate all of that? What do you think romance is? And how do you remind yourself to not compare your relationship to other people's? Probably starting by not reading stupid surveys about romance, I guess.
I'm on Twitter: @Natalie_KateM