2022 – Three marriages taught me what true love looks like – a cup of tea, cheese and onion chips | Saima Mir

I I have been married three times and I would like to believe that this enabled me to differentiate between love and lust. Most of us realize that we fall in love in the most unromantic situations. For me, that was when I was heavily pregnant, had severe dizziness and just dropped into the doctor’s office.

“I got wet,” I declared a few minutes later, embarrassed and weeping in the passenger seat of my husband’s prized black Volkswagen Golf, confident he was ready to get off the ship.

He whispered, “It’s okay, baby,” leaning forward to tie my stomach to the seat. In that moment I knew this was really love. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him before, but age changed my view of things. I’ve said it to someone else before and it didn’t work, and I was wondering what this elusive glue has kept couples happy together forever.

I was 39 and he was 48. We were together for three years and got married seven months after we met. We both have relationships that have changed us. They shaped us into people who can build a life together.

My husband and I come from a similar background: our mothers grew up in Karachi and we grew up speaking English and Urdu and struggling with what it means to be of Pakistani and Muslim descent in the UK. Despite these similarities, we chose different ends of the life spectrum as starting points. He carried the backpack on to the world in his twenties. i got Married.

He used to describe himself as a “liberal liberal” who is open to all life experiences. I was a nervous and conservative Muslim woman who was once called “the runaway bride” because she was married twice. He’s spent his life avoiding girls like me, and if we met sooner, it would never work. Ironically, the things I thought would keep anyone away from me are the ones I love: I had a thrilling past, I lived, albeit grudgingly, on the edge of the agreeable, and had nothing to hide.

I often ask him what made him follow me. “I thought you were cool,” he says. You always smile, because who wouldn’t want to be wanted? “I never thought how nice it would be to be with someone who speaks Urdu,” he once carefully added.

“Love is a vessel that contains both safety and adventure,” says Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity. It was the bridge between lust and love.

Single friends ask how I knew I could trust this time to be different, and how I knew he was “the one”; The answer is I didn’t. I just knew what I wanted my life to be and I could see that he wanted the same thing, so it was worth the risk. So I made myself vulnerable. Life has taught me that whatever happens, I will deal with it.

I always feel extraordinary love for my man in the most ordinary moments. Like Valentine’s Day after the birth of our first child, when I was lying in bed and breastfeeding, exhausted from motherhood. Bring me a cup of tea, a box of cheese, and onion flakes – my favourite. I cried. It was an affirmation that he knew me, the little things about me like the way I drink tea or the fact that I don’t like raisins in scones or the kinds of things I watch on TV.

Nani used to say that it takes 20 years to fall in love and laughed about her process and joked about whether she really loved her husband since she became a widow at the age of 35. But she always smiled when talking about my grandfather. Their marriage was arranged when she was 18 years old, so there was no long distance relationship.

I now understand that she taught me true love, and that it grows with years of growing kindness. It’s a lesson I remember every time my husband gives me a cup of tea at the end of a long day.

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