Lockdown Love: 'I Reunited With My Childhood Sweetheart In Lockdown. Now We're Moving In Together'
Let's play a game. Start with one hand, and put a finger down if any of these dating situations have happened to you...
1: You've been stood up.
2: You've had to cover the entire food bill because your date "forgot" their card.
3: Your date wore an outfit that instantly gave you The Ick and you couldn't concentrate on anything else.
4: Your date turned up stoned and told you he'd just been released from prison for armed robbery.
5: Your date robbed you while you popped to the toilet.
How many fingers do you have left up? This isn't a pity party, but the fact I have 0 fingers left can't be a good thing, can it?
My dating stories once became the talk of the office, and my colleagues would look forward to me coming into work the day after a date for a debrief, which normally ended in fits of laughter.
My family moved around a lot when I was a child, which meant I've had my fair share of mini heartbreaks - but the one that stuck with me was Damien.
We met when I was 16 and in my last year of school, while he was working in Tesco. Smitten, I would ask my parents if they needed anything from the shop three times a day just so I could "bump into him".
Eventually we started dating. We'd spend out weekends going on mini road trips around the Wiltshire countryside, collecting McDonald's Monopoly stickers and watching films together.
But after three years, Damien joined the Marines at the same time I packed my bags for university so we mutually decided to call it a day. We were both heartbroken, but knew we needed to put our careers first.
The goodbye was tough and there were tears from both of us, but I threw myself into freshers week and tried my best not to think about him. Conversely, Damien kept in touch, and for a while he even tried to convince me that we should be together. But I was having far too much fun at university to consider having a boyfriend again.
Every now and then I would look at his social media pages, as I always had a niggling "what if?" in the back of my mind. I remember feeling sick before checking his account in case an ultrasound photo or engagement announcement popped up on the screen.
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After finishing university and a Master's degree, I decided to move to London from the Wiltshire countryside to pursue a career in magazine journalism and throw myself into dating.
Of course, it didn't quite work out the way I'd hoped. Every year that passed without meeting someone nice, I felt my standards slip - even Crocs didn't faze me anymore - and the moment things began to get serious, I found myself comparing them to Damien.
One evening, when I was visiting my parents for the weekend, I was relaxing on the sofa and my phone pinged. My heart filled with excitement when I saw the long text was signed off by "Damo". He asked how I was and what I was up to these days.
We hadn't spoken since in years, but deep down I instinctively knew in that moment that we would get back together.
Over the next few days, the texts kept on coming and I felt like a teenager again, chatting at all hours of the night. Just two weeks pre-lockdown, Damien asked if I'd meet him for a drink back home at The Ivy in Winchester.
When we met in the car park, I could immediately tell that Damien was nervous. He looked handsome, much more handsome than I remembered, and had grown a beard since I'd last seen him.
As we sat down for drinks the conversation flowed so well - not that it mattered - I knew everything there was to know about him already. At the end of the date, he dropped me home and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
Two weeks later, I visited him in his home near Southampton, planning to head back to London on Monday. He cooked me lasagne (my favourite), we drank lots of wine and reminisced about the old times.
I was packing my bags to leave when Boris Johnson announced the national lockdown and my housemate in London told me he'd tested positive for coronavirus - effectively forcing me to stay at home.
Damien reassured me that I could stay as long I wanted. Of course I wondered if it was too soon - but what choice did I have? Plus, because we'd been together before, we already knew each other's quirks and foibles.
Things progressed quickly from there - Damien asked me to be his girlfriend within a month of me staying with him and I was looking after his French Bulldog Stanley during the days while he went to work at a printing company.
Along with the rest of the nation, we baked banana bread, searched TikTok for new recipes, binge-watched endless Netflix series and found new terrain for our daily dog walks. By summer, I had moved out of London completely to save my rent money.
My dad thought it was too soon, as did most of my friends, but I knew our situation was unique.
Ten months on, we've spent every day together and battled our way through lockdown 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. I know lockdown has been the make or break for many couples, but for us it's been the perfect opportunity to get to know each other all over again after a decade apart.
Ten years on from first laying eyes on each other, we've just bought our first home together in the South Wales valleys. I'll be working from home while Damien has found a new job in print in Cardiff. I can't wait for our future together; we've even spoken about marriage and baby names.
After years of disastrous dates, it turns out what I was looking for was right where I left it.
Follow my South Wales journey on @lifeinthevalleys
Featured Image Credit: Megan Davies
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