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When I met my partner ten years ago, we were working at sister-spa’s in two different towns and she happened to be a casual therapist for us one weekend. We worked very well together despite trying to ignore the undeniable spark between us. We concentrated on our work and not too much on one another and I warned myself: Don’t you dare, she’s taken. We had one short conversation in which I blurted out that I was gay, more for getting a reaction than anything else, but that was that.

In the week after that a parcel arrived with an overnight courier. It was addressed to me and contained two of my favourite things: beautiful writing paper and liquorice toffees. I walked around with a huge smile for days.

The next time she arrived for work was a weekend probably two weeks later. I was studying for my Psych 1 exam and was again determined to focus on that. It was important to me to do well. I had to know the inner workings of the brain off by heart before then end of the weekend. I didn’t stand a chance against the charms of the person who was determined to pursue me though.

Because of the intensity, the beauty and the meaning in what happened during that weekend, I’m going to keep it to myself. Let’s just say that when she asked me to move in with her soon after that, I did. I quit my job, moved to her town and moved into a small garden cottage with her, until we could get a bigger place.

I’ll never forget the day the bus dropped me off and she came to pick me up and take me home. The cottage was dimly lit and I just plonked down my few earthly possessions right inside the front door. She locked us in and then I saw the rose petals on the bed: strikingly beautiful in dark red against the white bedding. (To this day through a few different sets of bedding and curtains, our bedroom has remained dark red and white.) Again, I won’t go into the intimate details, because they mean too much, but it was and is still enough to make me very, very happy.

Romance, being romantic, can’t be dictated. There are no definite rules and no key ingredients. Yes, sure, flowers and wine and music usually play a role, but these days, after being together for almost ten years, the romance is in the day to day things, even smaller and to an outsider more insignificant than the gesture of petals on a bed. I’ll surprise her with a cake I baked with our youngest son. She’ll arrive home with a new pair of shoes for me. I’ll write her a love letter, in the old fashioned way, on actual paper. She’ll invite me to share a bath with her so I can wash her back and just sit quietly against her. It really has much less to do with sex than with love. It’s not a trade, like this for that and keeping score. It’s spontaneous, unplanned, fun and it shows love, care, support. It’s making sure we never run out of teabags and milk no matter how many cups she has a day, even if I have to drive to the nearest all-night shop at 4am before she gets up. It’s buying me the specific foccacia I love eating and giving me ten minutes of absolute peace without any interruptions to enjoy it.

These are the things that make a relationship not survive but blossom at the end of the first decade. My first time being romanced properly ended up being my first real relationship. I believe it will also be my last one.

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