He came to me when I least expected it. Love is so funny like that. It comes up in the most unusual places, hidden out in the open at crowded bars, appearing seemingly out of nowhere like a magic trick, a magician on the run. Just like that love can appear and disappear, which is why I tell my friends when you have the love of a good man to hold on to it so tight and to keep it close to your heart, to fight for it and cherish it and to never let it go. The love of a good man is hard to find, I know this. I never for a minute forget how lucky I am that I have it.
I had love once before, but it was a different kind of love, a youthful love, one that doesn’t know the bounds love asks of its believers. It was a love reserved for the young, a sweet, short romance that gave me everything I needed it to give me. It taught me how to care endlessly for another person. It taught me how to open up, how to be honest with myself and accountable to another human being. It taught me how to share secrets and feelings and emotions so strong it’s easier to leave them in the pages of old diaries, but more rewarding to talk them out. Most importantly, it taught me love comes in and out like the seasons and that it doesn’t always stay. You can have this whirlwind romance and it can end just like that. Those feelings can change and there are reasons known and reasons unknown for these things, but it won’t stop anything from happening. It taught me that some love does have an expiry date, a rest in peace sign, a cross marked at the intersection of youth and womanhood.
My new love is different. At the beginning, it seemed, it was destined not for greatness but instead a summer romance, a taste of excitement breathing between university semesters that would end when September came and the leaves changed colours. But I quickly learned that nothing is ever as it seems, things either are or they aren’t something. This love was meant for something more.
We met at a bar on Bloor Street in 2007, a defining year if there ever was one. This was the year I moved from Etobicoke back home again and eventually, finally, to the city. This was the year my first love ended and my new love began and between them a few bad stories for good measure. This was the year I became me.
It was also the year we became us. I noticed him right away and it caught me off guard when he approached me shortly after and asked to buy me a drink. I was drinking Tom Collins in those days because I was 20. He was 26. He was older and had sexy hair and a good job and a Guns N Roses belt buckle that pressed into me as we danced into the night. He was messy and the night was messy and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to make mistakes. I wanted to be wild and reckless and so did he. We saw each other at the time as a taste of the good life, but our definitions of the good life were flawed. Both relatively fresh out of long-term relationships, we saw each other as attractive distractions to our everyday lives, which were sadder on the inside than we showed on the outside. We were sadder, but we were never sad when we were together.
We met early in April and by May I knew I loved him, a love that made my heart beat so hard I thought it just might tear from my chest and escape someplace far away. I didn’t know it was possible to love somebody so hard so quickly, but I did and I loved him with every part of my being in a way I had never experienced before. It was passionate and raw. It was terrifying. I didn’t want to be in love like this, it was foreign and I didn’t know how to navigate those waters. I thought I had sailed before but this was different. I was scared of what was happening to me. All my thoughts returned to him, all my nights went to him, my heart went to him, my body went to him, I just let this love wash over me and even if I had tried I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. By the end of May we ended all our phone calls with “I love you.”
This was almost seven years ago now and many people ask me how I have spent the entirety of my 20s with one man and I have told them that when you find the love of a good man it is as though time vaporizes. There is never quite enough. He is such a part of me that I feel his presence in my bones. When he aches, I ache. When he bleeds, I bleed. When he’s happy, I’m happy. He is the kind of man who will make me homemade chicken noodle soup at my earliest inclination of feeling sick. He is the kind of man who treats my nieces and nephews with such love I can’t help but imagine him as the father of my future babies. He is the kind of man who knows everything about me and loves me anyway, loves me even though I can be hard to deal with, hard to live with. He is the kind of man who showers me in this love, whose hugs and kisses embrace my entire body, whose jokes make me laugh, whose touch drives me wild, whose voice makes the world feel alright, who makes me feel alive.
There have been hard times, oh yes, bruises on our hearts from times we were not our best selves, our best us. There were times we would look at each other and feel only despair. But we worked through those times because we recognize that sometimes you have to work for love, you have to fight for love, you have to try and try and try again to make things right because there is nothing more magical, nothing more beautiful, than a love worth fighting for. A good love takes work, it takes dedication, it takes determination and it takes time. It takes effort. When people ask me how we’ve survived for so long, how we still show such affection and compassion for each other, it’s because we make the effort to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, for ourselves and for each other. We put in the effort to do things that couples do when they’re first starting to fall in love. We go on dates, we go on trips, we cook new recipes for each other and we try new wines. We laugh. We touch. We kiss. We care. Our secret is that we try.
When you find the love a good man, appreciate it. Love it. Take a minute each day to soak in its rays. Tell him you love him. Show him you love him. Hold him close like he holds you. Protect it and work for it and don’t be afraid of it. It wouldn’t be worth it if it didn’t make your heart race. Nothing is.
Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. You can follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.