Sunday, 14 January 2018


Although the romantic in me has been guilty of looking at them through rose tinted glasses in the past, when I hear people talk about Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, I do sometimes roll my eyes a little.  Having met on a film set in 1964, the two movie stars fell madly in love and went on to make up and break up a multitude of times over the course of many years. They were deeply in love and thanks to an inability to ever really stay away from one another, ended up marrying twice. Although eventually settling apart, they were never able to truly let go, and only days before his death at 58, it's said that Burton penned one final love letter to Elizabeth. Elizabeth was eventually buried with the letter.

The reason I roll my eyes isn't because they weren't in love. I truly believe they were. Madly. The reason I roll my eyes is because in the interests of fairy tale romanticism, people these days tend to conveniently forget the harsh, bitter truth to the story. That their relationship was toxic and dysfunctional. A rollercoaster of fights, break ups and drink fulled rages. 

We want to believe it was the greatest love story ever told. 

Because we want to believe in love. 

A relationship like that is one I can relate to. As I spent nearly two years in a similar cycle. And I think that anyone who has been in that situation can relate to the dark and frustrating patterns that emerge from unions like it. Despite loving each other, we just couldn't make it work. For every magical weekend spent away together, playing pool, exploring Scotland and lovingly waking up in each others arms, there was a weekend of not talking to one another, avoiding each others phone calls and angrily batting emails back and forth to each other. For every open road we drove together, singing loudly to songs together, holding hands and sipping Starbucks together, there was soul destroying fights with one another, wild accusations and passionate proclamations that we never again wanted to see one another. And for every passionate night spent in bed together, naked and wrapped around each other, talking about our desires, dreams and wants for one another, there was nasty heat of the moment insults thrown at each other, drunken tempestuous rows and jealous challenges chucked in the face of one another. The relationship was probably the most passionate and intimate of my relationships to date. But it was also one of the most stressful, frustrating and emotionally weakening experiences I have ever endured. 

There are many theories thrown around by psychologists as to why people stay in these kinds of relationships. Many get off on the drama, feel alive being close to the conflict. Some are too scared to leave, too fearful of being on their own. For others it comes down to low self esteem or a lack of courage. But for me it was none of those things. For me it was love. It's taken me a long time to come to a point where I could write about it. Because before I write about anything I need clarity and that is something that can only ever be yielded through time. But almost two years after the demise of that particular relationship, I can look back with open eyes, searing honesty and an absolute certainty as to why I stayed. Why I went back. And why I never really wanted it to end. 

I was in love. And where there is love there is hope. And that is the simple truth of it.

A relationship so turbulent, toxic and chaotic changes you. It makes you a different person to the one who originally entered it. Even almost two years on, while genuinely happy with my life, I know that it has left marks on me that will never go away. I'm wary now in a way I wasn't before. When I do meet someone I often feel like a bystander, like I'm not viewing the interactions from within.  I cautiously watch from the sidelines, almost like I'm watching a movie, interested to see which way it will go. 

When two people who still genuinely and passionately love each other cut ties, there's an indelible mark left on you both. You carry around a secret. You carry around a knowledge. A knowledge that makes you different. Nowadays when I speak to someone who is going through a similar thing or I see the turmoil in the eyes of a friend who is keeping things a secret, I am careful to let them know they can come to me. I am careful to look them in the eye and to tell them that I am there. That I won't ever get sick of the stories or roll my eyes at the incessant break-ups. That I will listen. That I have been there. And that I know what it is like.

A year before her death, in a wheelchair but still mentally alert, Elizabeth told a journalist "Richard is the only one I truly loved and still care about. I shall miss him until the day I die". She was then buried the following year, along with that last love letter he wrote her.

It's easy to tell someone they should walk away. It's easy to tell yourself the same thing. But it's not always that easy to actually do it. In my opinion love is love and love is real. If I learned anything from my passionate, turbulent and bittersweet encounter it's that love does exist. But that love is harsh, hard and sometimes unforgiving. That love is not always the movie style fairy tale we all so desperately wish for.

Just like Elizabeth and Richard were to discover for themselves, love doesn't always work. And recognising that, smiling even when it sometimes still hurts and having the courage to accept it is all we can really do. It's accepting that no one was right and that no one was wrong. 

It's accepting that good things still happen. 

That love is real. 

And that in the end, everything always ends up ok.

'If you bring two bar magnets together, there are two things that can happen: if you bring a north pole and a south pole together, they attract and the magnets may stick together. If you bring two north poles together, or two south poles together, they repel and the magnets push each other away'.

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