For over a year and a half, Metro.co.uk has been on a quest: to find out what ‘true love’ means in this day and age.
In our weekly series, Love, Or Something Like It, 84 people have shared their experiences of sex, dating, love and loss, covering everything from infidelity and illness to unrequited feelings and manifesting a husband.
As the series comes to an end, what did we learn?
Firstly, the search for love has, for better or worse, been inexorably changed by dating apps. In the series’ debut piece, dating app founder Dan Monaghan was still single despite racking up 15,000 matches on Tinder yet he was still optimistic. ‘I don’t think that finding love “online” is a lost cause – or that romance is dead,’ he wrote. ‘I just think the quick wins have blurred people’s focus on what they were originally looking for.’
Widower Stephanie also disproved the idea that dating apps are just for millennials as she described swiping after the death of her husband. ‘I jumped out of my skin when the phone pinged with matches. There were men out there interested in me? It felt good that someone had thought my profile intriguing enough to match with me.’
Many of our writers, however, found apps fickle at best – and harmful at worst. This was especially true for some members of the LGBTQ community. As a bisexual, Sharan Dhaliwal wrote that her ‘preferences are not taken seriously.’
Kieran Galpin struggled with the categories app users are forced to choose: ‘In a perfect world, my sexuality or gender wouldn’t matter, but unfortunately, we live in a society where labels hold substance,’ he wrote.
And as a fat Black woman, Cheyenne M. Davies, highlighted the discrimination still faced by millions of online daters. ‘I am statistically at a disadvantage when it comes to being successful,’ she wrote. ‘Black women are considered the least sought after on these platforms, and my weight only makes me less of a candidate.’
For those writers who had found love – online or otherwise – it often wasn’t what they had envisaged.
‘I began to see that the person I always thought I wanted to be with – the go-getting guy in the sharp suit – wasn’t actually the person I needed,’ wrote Katherine Baldwin in a piece about marrying ‘below’ her expectations. ‘In reality, I need someone gentle, kind, solid and supportive, who will help me heal old childhood wounds.’
Rianna Walcott was dismayed to discover her polyamorous relationship ultimately didn’t meet her needs.
And for Phoebe Harper, a previously loving relationship was only saved when she moved out of the home she shared with her boyfriend. ‘I no longer feel like I have to subscribe to a structure that only caters to a steady upward progression, celebrating milestone after milestone,’ she wrote.
Lasting love was not on the agenda for everyone. Many of the stories told in Love, Or Something Like came from single people exhausted by the trials of romantic love – some, like asexual aromantic Yasmin Benoit, didn’t need it.
Discussing the joys of self-imposed ‘man ban’ Brenda Olmos talked about the importance of loving yourself first, while Tola Fisher explained that she had stopped holding out for ‘the one’: ‘These days, I confidently go into relationships knowing that they could well end, but enjoying them as if they will last for a lifetime’.
In contrast, Almara Abgarian was still hopeful about finding true love – but being single had proved invaluable in her search. ‘Having lots of sexual partners has taught me that I’m comfortable with who I am and unwilling to compromise on how I should be treated.’
Unsurprisingly for a series about love, marriage proved a popular and enduring topic, but it was rarely straightforward.
Cécile Beauvillard Burman had initially been daunted by getting engaged but tying the knot became the ultimate thrill. ‘I felt an immense sense of relief and pure joy. Every time I looked at him, I smiled. Every time we mentioned on our honeymoon we were newlyweds, I wept with joy. I felt as lucky as I was scared to have found true love.’
Another author, writing anonymously, told how the arranged marriage she had avoided for decades, has now given her ‘that connection I had yearned for’.
Not all marriages equated to happy endings, though. Matrimony was supposed to save Rosie Peat’s relationship: ‘Any doubt I had was overridden with relief at having found happy-ever-after, I’d held it all together long enough to reach my “happy ending”‘. Instead, it signalled the beginning of the end.
As Love, Or Something Like It delved into the more unpredictable nature of love – see Sam Wilkinson’s experience of falling for his female housemate, despite identifying as gay and Amy Toldedano’s story of proposing to her boyfriend – so the world became more unpredictable, too.
At the start of January 2020, Covid-19 swept across the globe, taking lives and livelihoods in its wake and impacting the way we look for and maintain love. Some couples, like Dan Hackett and girlfriend Jeanne, only just made it.
Others, however, found lockdown provided the perfect conditions for romance to thrive. Immy and her long term friend Tom fell for one another during conversations over Zoom.
A tiny lockdown wedding helped bride Nicchi to understand the true meaning of her vows.
Even Nilofar and girlfriend Amal – who had only met once before being separated by the pandemic, as well as their religious beliefs – made the most of the distance. ‘We have had to build up trust from a distance, dig deep into who we are and peel our outer layers. We’ve had to become more open and say exactly what we think, while bringing down the walls we’ve had.’
Inevitably, adversity has, and will always be, intrinsic to love.
After Sharon’s husband Dave was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, she became his carer – ‘something that if I’m honest doesn’t come easily to me’. Yet rather than push them apart, Dave’s illness made them adapt. ‘In some ways, our love is deeper and we are more connected on a spiritual level. We value the little things more, like a kiss and a hug, or my hand on his while we watch TV.’
Graysen and partner Gwyn stayed together despite both transitioning. ‘We don’t dwell on the fact that neither of us is the same person as when we first met,’ wrote Graysen. ‘Instead, we embrace the people we have both become.’
Still, true love can be nurtured in even the harshest conditions: one couple both left marriages to be with one another and a decade on, they continue to make it work.
As a new year begins, Love, Or Something Like It is coming to an end.
Thank you so much to each an every writer brave enough to share their love story, and to you, the readers.
If we have learnt anything, perhaps it’s that true love takes persistence to find, and is even harder to hold on to, but it is almost always worth the effort.
‘However well you plan, however well-matched you are as a couple, there’ll always be hardships that arrive unforeseen,’ wrote Dan Hackett.
‘What defines the couples that last, however, is their willingness to work at it, and to face those challenges together.’
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