We celebrate Valentine’s Day every year and I wasn’t even sure why we celebrated until I researched it, it’s funny how we do things out of habit.  But, this year I wanted to delve a little deeper so now I can tell you that Valentine’s is a celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day and is officially a feast day.   Different religions and different parts of the world celebrate it in many ways and we each celebrate love in our own unique way.

Whilst reflecting on this, it started me thinking about what ‘Love’ actually means, I began reflecting on what love and marriage in my case means to me. Love is a word that can sometimes get overused and it can mean different things to different people, some people say it all the time and others rarely say it but, perhaps showcase their feelings for someone in other ways.  Some say it out of habit and others say it almost ritually before they go to sleep at night or before the leave the house. Some who say it out of habit can say it without true meaning too and it can sometimes lack sincerity and in time it can become meaningless as it’s forced by habit and not desire. We can all fall into that trap can’t we?! As we’re so busy living our lives but, I have to be honest and say that when I say it I genuinely mean it.

Whilst looking into the meaning of Valentines I started to explore my own beliefs and values around the meaning of ‘love,’ and it’s hidden meaning. I used to think that love meant meeting your Prince Charming and living happily ever after but, 12 years later of meeting my soulmate, best friend and husband I know that it’s not all sweet smelling roses and happily ever afters.

When Richard and I took our wedding vows we meant every word of our marriage vows but, over the years these vows have been tested and we’ve tested practically every single one of them; to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.

When your newly married life is amazing and your still riding high on the waves of it all together but, then the buzz fades and everyday life sets in.  For us, we were married and had a newborn baby who was only 10 weeks old so we were really in the thick of sleepless nights, feeding, weaning and nappy changes so we didn’t have much time for romance.  You see, we always wanted a family and we talked about this on our 3rd date, yes that’s right 3rd date! Looking back, I’m not even sure about how the topic changed to such a serious, long term topic but, it did and we were excited at the prospect of spending the rest of our life together.  But everything happened at once for us, we wanted a family and we wanted to get married, we just didn’t think it would all happen within a year of one another.

Richard proposed in 2008 in Paris and it was the romantic night of my life, it was so unexpected and at the time we were visiting the Notre Dame cathedral on a cold winters night.  The cathedral was alive with the choir singing and the music playing and it was filled with lit candles everywhere.  On our way in we lit a candle for two of our loved ones who we’d lost that year and I began saying how grateful I was for the life we lived and how lucky we were to be there in Paris, just days before Christmas.

Richard said, it was at that moment I knew this was the right time to propose, he’d been carrying the ring around with him during the trip trying to find the right moment to pop the question.  Whereas I was completely oblivious to all of this, I was merely enjoying a surprise Christmas trip to Paris.

Once we arrived back home, we celebrated with friends and booked our wedding venue, Wynyard Hall for 18 months later.  This gave us time to save for our wedding and time to try for a baby, as we didn’t want to wait.  We fell pregnant and the baby, Thomas was born 10 weeks prior to the wedding, we were overjoyed.  The wedding took place and little did we know, we’d be falling pregnant again 2 weeks later with our second son, James.  It was a surprise but, we were happy and knew that by having two boys so close they’d grow up together and have such a good relationship and they do get on so well, they have their moments like all children but, do everything together.

Due to having two boys close together and not a lot of support around us, the next few years, probably 5 years if I’m honest were busy.  Richard and I worked full time and in these years together our relationship has taken a back seat, wrongly really but, when your so busy with little ones there’s not much time for anything else.  Since having the boys we’ve been through a lot (and I mean a lot) together, both emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. We’ve had good times, great times and bad times and some awful times and we’ve made some pretty bad decisions along the way but, we’ve worked hard to come through it all and I’m so grateful we hung on in there together.

There has been times where he has driven me nuts and I know I drive him crazy at times too but, since having the boys we’ve developed a friendship and partnership much deeper than we ever had before – we’ve had to! We work with and for one another all day every day, we share the chores, we share the child care, the cooking and everything else that goes with being a working parent whilst raising children and yet everyday we can truly say, ‘I love you and mean it!’

He puts my needs before his own and vice versa and even when we’re exhausted we’ll still offer to bath the kids whilst the other one rests. It’s relentless, challenging, worthwhile, amazing and exhausting all in one but, along the way we’ve developed a great relationship and some amazing memories that I’ll cherish for life. Putting someone else’s needs before your own is true love in my eyes.

We’ve also looked after one another in sickness and in health and that’s meant the other one picking up the slack when they’ve needed too. We’ve loved each other whether we’re richer or poorer and looked at ways we can cut costs, save up or plan for our future together as a family. We’ve also made mistakes, some big ones and some little ones but, we’ve come out of the other side and I’m so grateful for that. Both Richard’s parents and mine are still married even after all these years and I’ve seen first hand that marriage and partnership is about working through things and sticking together.

So after 12 years together I’m happy to say we’re still going strong, in fact we’re stronger than ever and because of everything we’ve been through and for me that’s the true meaning of, ‘love.’

Love isn’t all, ‘happy ever after’ and life can throw some challenges at you when you’re least expecting them but, if your strong and you know that you love each other and you’re willing to work together to work through things and overcome obstacles then that’s, ‘love!’