“Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love!” – Moulin Rouge

LOVE! I love LOVE and I have done ever since I was a little girl. If you browse through my DVD collection (yes, I still have one of those), 80% of those will be love stories. From the classics of Wuthering Heights, Gone with the Wind and Roman Holiday to the modern day love stories of: The Notebook, Ghost, Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing to the RomComs of Bridget Jones’s Diary, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days and She’s All That – I’ve loved them all and seen them all (many, many times)!

If you take any cinematic love story though, nothing about “love” is easy. Come on, it would be a pretty boring movie if the crux of the story was: boy meets girl, they fall in love, the end! 

  • No, no! Love must conquer the most impossible situations for it to have meaning and depth. Look at Romeo and Juliet: two warring families prohibiting their entanglement which resulted in them poisoning themselves to be together! I’m not really sure that worked out too well for them, but I digress. 
  • If it’s not warring families, there is deceit, lies, mischief, a ruse that must be discovered before the protagonists’ true feelings of love and adoration can emerge. Think Bridgerton and every other period drama that has ever been filmed. 
  • And if there is no deceit, then there is a clear obstacle in the way that needs to be navigated (usually a husband, wife, fiancé(e) or partner, a geographical divide, or a societal gap (rich/poor, prostitute/businessman, black/white, guy/guy, girl/girl)) before “true love” can materialise!

The problem is, no matter how much we love these Hollywood fables, we start to believe that this is reality. Unrealistic, fantastical expectations about love are created and then transposed into the real world. To find “true love” one must experience hardship, drama and tears. It needs to conquer all, with the promise that all the pain will be worth it in the end.

The drama that was my love life

Needless to say, my own love life mirrored my Hollywood love education, leading to 20 years of romantic chaos and drama. It provided the source of much entertainment for my work colleagues & friends. I always had a story to tell about some ski chalet shenanigans or “Gorilla in the Mist” exploits. The constant newness of the beginning phase of the relationships was exhilarating. It held so much potential. “Maybe this is the one?!” But the dizzy highs were met with devastating lows.

  • From the high of feeling my knees buckling under me as the “man of my dreams” strode up to me, took me in his arms and kissed me in the elevator, to the crushing realisation that three years later he was in a relationship with my colleague. 
  • From the high of a forbidden glance, a touch, a breath against my ear, to the desperation of waiting for a call on my birthday that never came. 
  • From the high of a long-distance romance that started in the valleys of the Dordogne, to a broken engagement and a wedding dress that, to this day, hangs unused, never to be worn.  

Hollywood’s romantic drama infused my life. But, that promise of a “true love” phoenix rising from the flames of pain and suffering, never did transpire.

When Reality Bites

Unlike the single blow experienced by the protagonist in a romantic movie (which can seemingly be resolved by a makeover montage and a few cutting words which make the intended realise what he’s about to lose unless he comes to his senses), the reality of constant drama repeated in one relationship after another begins to wear you down. 

  • You begin to question yourself. Your choices. Your self-worth.
  • Your confidence takes an almighty blow. 
  • You start to lower your standards and accept things because you feel like you have no other option. 
  • Your insecurities come to the fore. 
  • You start behaving in ways you never imagined. Where did this neediness and desperation come from?
  • You pretend to be someone you’re not, purely because you start to believe that you – “just as you are” – are not good enough.

It’s a recipe for disaster, and one that inevitably ends in heartbreak. Compounding the pain realised from the break-up before. 

And yet, with this hope of true love still residing deep inside you, somehow you manage to stitch the broken pieces of your heart back together again. Willing it to just keep on searching for the one. He has to be out there somewhere. Just a little more effort. 

And so you go out, you search, you find, you repeat your pattern, you experience that giddy, all-consuming high…

And then you feel the tug. Something is off. The drama starts again. And soon that piece of string holding those fragile pieces of your heart together is yanked away like a rip cord, spiralling you back down to that familiar pit of despair and confusion.

There’s your Hollywood drama. Just not the intended romantic comedy type.

Finding love – Re-writing the fairy tale

Fast forward 6 years, and here I am in love and in a healthy relationship. As I sit down to write my vows, I realise that I’m none the wiser about how you find “true love”. Is there a method to the madness? Is it fluke? Can you intentionally go out and “find” it? Or is it just destiny?

I’d be a hypocrite to even think that I could tell you the formula for love, despite having eventually found it.  Why? Because I think love comes in many forms, and my understanding of love will be very different from yours. 

What I can share with you though are a few lessons I learned along the way, which I’m pretty certain put me in a better position for love to find me.

Sort out your own sh*t first – Our choices in partners are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves, what we think we deserve and what we’ve learned from our environment (whether that be Hollywood movies, Just Seventeen, parents or friends). Challenge your beliefs. Challenge the stories that you tell yourself about how loveable you are. Challenge society’s notion of what is acceptable in love. Do the hard work. If you do not love and accept yourself, how can you possibly expect someone else to?
Identify your patterns – We all have patterns in relationships. Maybe you are someone who only likes bad boys or people you can fix. Maybe you only date people that earn more than a certain amount of money. For me, it took a couple of years of therapy to work out my pattern. My internal story was that: “all men would leave me”. So, I dated people who were attached / unavailable because I subconsciously knew that they couldn’t commit to me. If they couldn’t commit to me, then they couldn’t hurt me when they left me. The rationale was logic enough. Needless to say, the reality was quite different. 


By identifying your patterns in relationships, you can change your internal narrative.

Break your patterns Linked to point 2 above. Identifying your patterns is one thing. Breaking them is quite another. When Justin and I met, I had worked hard at quashing the drama-filled notions of romance that had dictated my early adulthood. I was 37 years and I’d had my fill of piecemeal, uncommitted relationships. So, as I quit my job and jet-setted off around the world on my gap year, my new “men” rule book was being strictly applied (irrespective of how good looking they were): no married men, no attached men, no ar$eholes, no divorcing men, no needy men, no letharios, no men that could only speak basic English, no men more than 5 years younger than me, no men more than 10 years older than me, no French men (I’d just had enough!), no men that I needed to “save”. Trust me, I had experienced them all. In fact, for a good 6 months of my year out, men were completely off the cards.  


By breaking your patterns, you can start making better, more conscious choices. A whole new world opens up to you, and you’ll be amazed at what you can find.

Enjoy being singleThere are sooooo many advantages of being single. You can do what you want, when you want and with whom you want. There are no obligations or commitments. Life is cheaper, freer, more spontaneous and a heck of a lot of fun. Once I embraced my independence, I lost the notion of needing to “find someone”.  And then, when I did, I still took that independence into the relationship. We’ve not lost ourselves in each other. We still know who we are and that we can, perfectly happily, live on our own if things don’t work out between us. 


Ignore the well-meaning (and slightly patronising) advice of your married friends – here is just some of the advice that I’ve been given about finding true love:


  • Weddings are the best place to meet your future partner.As they surreptitiously pop you on the dreaded singles’ table! Just because your friends met their beloveds in a particular way, doesn’t mean that you will follow suit. 
  • “I have a single friend – he’ll be perfect for you.” Why? Because he’s single? I’ve been on some terrible dates purely because of our shared status!
  • “You don’t have to be attracted to them initially to fall in love with someone.” Do you know, that’s probably true for some, but not for me. 
  • “You’ll never find true love with someone who you sleep with on the first night. He’ll just think you’re easy. – Sorry, also a myth.
  • “Don’t punch above your weight. Good looking men are always self-centred.” – A double whammy. Not only does this one absolutely shatter your own self-worth and self-confidence by suggesting our looks dictate who we should or should not be with, but it also suggests that someone’s looks will determine their morals and values! Again, not true! Good old Hollywood movies influencing all our thinking it seems.
  • “Are you still single? Tick-tock. Tick-tock” – I’m not sure how well-meaning this advice was, but it was certainly not helpful in finding true love. I’ve seen many a friend walk down the aisle with the wrong person because of this biological and societal pressure to have children. Choose your partner for love, not because the time for having children is running out.
There’s a difference between love and lust Good sex can be like kryptonite. It messes with your brain. It cripples your rational senses. It convinces you that it is love. But, sex is only one part of a relationship (granted, a rather fun part). Long-term, relationships last and love strengthens out of so much more: shared values; morals; communication & compromise.
Know your limits & make sure your partner knows them too You have to be aware of what you’re prepared to compromise on in a relationship, and what is an absolute “no go”. Boundaries are essential and communicating those to each other is vital. For me, if you cheat on me, I’m out. I’ve been there before. I’ve no interest in going there again. It’s my hard line.
Create space for the tough conversations This romantic notion of arguing and then incredible make-up sex is very Hollywood. Constant bickering is exhausting. Not saying what you want to say in case you cause and argument or they leave, damages you and the relationship. Walking on eggshells in a relationship is not fun. It impacts your self-worth, your self-confidence and your self-esteem. Healthy, loving relationships allow you to express your needs, desires, discomforts, concerns and frustrations to your partner without fear that the relationship will collapse as a result. They also require you to listen and take on board the needs of your other half. Healthy relationships create the space and respect for the tough conversations to be had.
Despite what we’ve learned from Hollywood romantic movies, love doesn’t have to be hard or scripted or complicated. It doesn’t have to be full of drama, pain and suffering. It doesn’t have to conquer all.

Love, in many ways, should feel easy. I’m not saying that relationships won’t face their difficulties, but the “love” part – that’s the straightforward part. It’s a strong, positive emotion. It allows you to be yourself in a relationship. To maintain your identity. To be part of a team. To feel supported. To have a voice. To be vulnerable. To feel safe.

That, in my humble view, is love … actually.