The boyfriend and I have had our first ‘almost’ row. Row would be too strong. It was more a disagreement; a divergence of views. But in a fledgling relationship this is a precarious moment.
Despite thousands of WhatsApp messages between us, multiple mini breaks and a whole lot of dinner dates, a squabble brings the fragility of it all into sharp focus.
Yes, I’m emotionally invested, but were it all to end tomorrow the only tangible thing I’d lose would be the £1.99 toothbrush stashed in his bathroom cabinet.
There are no friends to divvy up, no cheese knives to fight over, no pooch to claim custody of. That lack of shared domesticity means the relationship feels exciting, but also exposes its insecurity. And the latter means I have a natural temptation to play down disagreements, gloss over differences and suppress any niggles.
Six months in and we’ve jokingly critiqued one another’s driving styles and teased each other about certain items of clothing (I think midi dresses are chic, he thinks they are passion-killing) and been mildly disparaging about certain physical features (my sizeable feet, his undercut).
But I have learnt from the disintegration of my marriage that pointed petty digs are the route to relationship ruin. I actually like that we are different personalities with differing views. That our work lives are worlds apart. That he thinks a lemon in his G&T counts as one of his five a day and that a shoot is something you do with guns not cameras.
Then one night, while we were having a WhatsApp chat from our separate sofas, our political differences became obvious. We are not exactly opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m not a card-carrying Corbynite who is superglueing herself to the M25 and neither is he a climate change denier who hero-worships Nigel Farage. But there’s still a big enough gap.
We teased each other a bit, then some more until it took on an undertone of irritability, then maybe even exasperation. The upshot being a cessation of communication. A deafening silence. Zero pings.
The next day when we met we were both clearly ruffled. The tension was palpable and neither of us knew where it was going to go.
We shared a smile and a hug; our open body language and a willingness to move on meant it was over quickly. Thankfully it transpires that we are fairly row-compatible. I am a ‘thrash it out, get it over with’ person who doesn’t like to sleep on an argument. But he could have been a sulker, a shouter, a stonewaller. He could have been defensive or defeatist.
No matter how good your relationship, sometimes arguments are necessary to clear the air. Until the death throes of my marriage I had always voiced my opinions and believed getting your grievances out was essential. But as the relationship crumbled I always tried to keep the peace.
In the first few relationships I had after my divorce, I would suppress any upset rather than say what I was truly feeling.
Now I’m getting back to my old self I’ve realised that while staying schtum feels safer, it is actually the opposite. It’s so much better to speak up than to mentally check-out on your partner.
I’ve also learnt that being comfortable with holding differing views is important, as is the ability to reflect and apologise. It’s only taken me until 47 to get here.
I’d go so far as to say our first argument has been a relationship plus for us because we discovered that we both want this enough to work it through.
There is, however, one subject that’s proving tough to navigate: Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. He has a dislike of her that borders on loathing; I quite admire her disruptive style. We are not aligned on this.
But actually I’m quite happy about our differing opinions. In fact, sometimes I poke the bear deliberately – then look forward to re-bonding in the time-honoured way.