A Valentine’s Week Special: An Open Letter to all the Boys and Men I’ve Loved Before (Part I)
Updated: Feb 10
This blog I think will be the most healing blog entry I have written so far. It will also be the most difficult. As people, we have all had times in our life where we have been hurt.
Our hearts have been broken into a million pieces. I wanted to share with you all my experiences, how I dealt with them and most importantly, what I learned (and what we can all learn) from each of my previous significant romantic relationships.
One thing I’ve realised is that we all hide our biggest hurts and associated experiences and people inside something that people on the internet call, the “hurt locker.” It’s a pretty good way to explain how we just pack all of our hurt and baggage and throw it into the locker and throw away the key.
The hurt locker can contain a certain type of man or woman we are always finding ourselves inexplicably drawn to. That particular ‘look’ or personality or both can get put into the hurt locker. We seek out this person again and again in other people, to re-do the relationship and this time make it right, only for the same romantic narrative to replay itself. Sometimes, if you think about it, we are other people’s ‘hurt locker’ person. That time he dated a girl who looked just like you, or had your name or personality.
Today I am looking back through my romantic history, reaching inside my past, own hurt locker (eek!) and opening my heart to write an honest, raw debrief of every man and boy that I have ever loved in my life.
To share with you the lessons I have learned, the experiences I’ve had, the good times, the bad times, the ugly times, the times we wish in hindsight had never happened. Sharing what I know now in hindsight as an adult.
I’ve had to stop and start when writing this blog. I put it down when it got too emotional then picked it back up to complete it. At one point I thought I’d never be able to finish it haha yet here we are. I vow to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s emotional, so strap yourself in, here we go.
As this blog is internationally public and digital bells can’t be ‘unrung’ each boy or man has been given a faux identity instead of me using their real names. I'll also add photos of me at certain stages in my life (as I'd like to protect each man's identity) and pay the simple respect of not showing their face on the blog. No law suits for me, thank you haha.
Hudson* was my first ever boyfriend in the whole world. He was my first everything.
He use to work at the coffee shop near the clothing boutique I worked at on the weekends. I would go and order my hot chocolate before work and he would just stare at me with his deep, mesmerising brown eyes. If I close my eyes I can still see them to this day. I was 17.
What can I say? He had me at “hot chocolate” hahaha.
I won’t lie, I use to fantasize about him a lot. Do you know how traumatising it is to have to wait seven more days until the next week just to see him again?
Hudson was studying architecture and loved to surf. So he was smart and cool.
One Saturday morning, I went over to the surf shop before I started work because I had seen a beautiful bikini in the window.
Here I am, bursting in the door to set my paws on the bikini and OMG Hudson is standing behind the counter. I immediately wished I could set my paws on him instead of the bikini. Stuff the bikini.
I tried it on and loved it so much that I put it on hold until lunch time. This meant I had an excuse to see Hudson again and maybe just maybe today would be the day he would ask me out.
When I went back to collect it he had written a note on the hold form, “hold for the pretty girl who works at the cafe”.
When I saw it, I knew he liked me too and it wasn’t just one sided and in my own head.
Hudson asked me on a date and I went home, the happiest girl in the world that day.
I really fell in love with him and we had so many happy times. One sticking point for me back then was that he said he didn’t want children. This really made me feel conflicted as I always wanted to have children one day in the future. What was I going to do?
Soon into our relationship the snide remarks and put downs began. It started as a joke, (where you are put in a situation that if you don’t laugh along too, you’re considered uptight, as though you’re not able to laugh at yourself) then after this the put downs became more explicit.
I lost my confidence.
Then, I found out he had cheated on me with a woman who he was friends with. So with a heavy heart, I broke it off.
Let’s fast forward. The truth is Hudson was a liar. Back then he was putting me down because he felt guilty for cheating on me. So he put me down so he could feel better about his decisions. He also ended up having a child.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. His family absolutely loved me which was a plus and my experience with Hudson didn’t stop me from wanting to find love. It was hard parting ways with him and it was tough being cheated on the first time I ever loved someone romantically. But I got through and so can you.
Lessons Learned from Hudson:
We teach others how to treat us, based on our responses. Please don’t laugh along at your own expense in order to people please, (especially if you are a young girl). What should you do instead? Politely and calmly call out bad behaviour then ask it to be explained. For example, “that’s not very nice, can you please explain to me why you think that joke is funny?”
Do not accept cheating. If you are loyal, you deserve loyalty. The note to take from this is that cheating is a reflection on the cheater, not the person being cheated on.
It’s tough getting over and moving on from the first love. We have all been there so you are not alone in this. Find your new personal and romantic boundaries, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and know there are incredible people out there.
Be cautious of red flags such as: constant jokes which always seem to be at your expense, ‘put down’ humour in general (think: are they putting the situation down or are they putting me down?) and make it clear that you don’t accept either. Stand your ground, don’t let anyone put you down. If it’s not ok for another woman to put you down, don’t accept it from a guy.
‘First love’ relationships very rarely last the distance of a lifetime. Look back at your first love as an incredible gift, a learning experience where you were able to find out more about yourself, the world, being in a couple, and a chance to really decide what you do and don’t want in a partner.
Hugh* was the absolute love of my life. I had never felt anything like this before. I would ask myself everyday, “wow, is this what cloud nine feels like?”
I was a flight attendant travelling all around Australia and he was really successful in his field of work and life was so happy and fun. I loved my job and I loved him.
It was a whirlwind romance and everything felt so right.
The funny thing is, the day he asked me for my phone number I almost gave him one digital incorrect. I contemplated doing that because I would also give guys wrong numbers haha. As fate would have it, I decided on a whim to give him my real number.
After three months of dating he asked me to move in with him.
Life was great, he did the groceries and cooking and I did the washing and the cleaning, we were such a great team.
Hugh was tall, handsome as hell, his physique was muscular but lean, his jaw was chiselled, I loved laying next to him at night. He felt like home to me.
All his friends used to say, “you are so good for him,” “you have calmed him down,” “I have never seen him look at any woman the way he looks at you.” Hugh made me feel loved, safe and desired.
I guess you could say it was normal to me and I was obsessed with my own career and busy moving mountains to go forward as a flight attendant. Back then I had my sights set on one day becoming the First Class Cabin Manager at a new ultra chic airline, Emirates.
Now, looking back, from the moment I met Hugh life went from 0 to 100 in the blink of an eye. What goes up must come down.
One day, slowly and subtly, Hugh started to pull away.
The beautiful texts stopped, the amazing cuddles every night stopped.
Hugh was constantly ‘out’ or ‘gone’ and seemed to not have any regard for my feelings or any time for me and us anymore.
There was no more fruit salad awaiting my work lunch box in the fridge. When he was around, he would put me down (especially when I wore stunning new outfits that I loved).
I found out I was pregnant.
I was mentally trying to comprehend this news. Thoughts of my flight attending aspirations, a future with Hugh, what becoming a mother at 24 would mean for me; a whirlpool of thoughts swam around in my mind. When I told Hugh the news, he freaked out. He couldn’t cope. I went to stay at a friend’s house and Hugh vanished. He did not contact me for three days. I had never felt more confused, scared and alone. I really wanted to spend that time speaking with my partner, feeling supported and talking about the future. Just like any newly pregnant woman.
After this, Hugh re-emerged. He came to me and declared his love. He was sorry. He had made the decision that he was excited about having a baby. The relief, knowing we would be a family. Having certainty and hope for a beautiful future as a family unit. I was going to have my guy back and we would have our baby? All felt well. I look back now and think, Nicole, you silly girl. The writing was on the wall. He is not for you and you’re a ‘baby’ having a baby. I play the story back and pretend a friend is telling me the story and asking for advice. In hindsight, oh what I would have done differently.
We broke up and I found out about all of Hugh’s ‘extra curricular activities’ if you know what I mean.
I had originally made a big geographical move to be with Hugh.
Away from my family and friends.
So here I was, stuck in a new city, no friends, no family and jobless. At 24 years old.
I look back and think, when women fall pregnant they just go on maternity leave. I loved flying and the last thing I wanted to do what give it up. I still look back and remember all the graveyard sectors I flew, all the hours I put in, all the big weeks I had worked striving to get my experience and hours up so that I could progress at Qantas then one day live in Dubai and work for Emirates. When you leave flight attending then come back, you literally have to start again with a clean slate. So in terms of my career trajectory, it was all for nothing.
Let’s fast forward. Hugh lives in the suburbs. He has spent the better part of two decades raving till dawn. This has logically taken a toll on his physical appearance. Plus the added effects of natural aging. Remember what happened to Johnny Depp? If not, feel free to Google ‘Johnny Depp then and now’.
Well, without being unkind, the fact and truth of the matter is that the same thing has happened to Hugh. Let me say the words ‘bloated, sagging and puffy’ as a description. But we can all agree that a picture speaks one thousand words. Hugh is a ‘townie’. He has no desire to ever leave his town.
Hugh and I could not be more different in life aspirations, personal goals and business.
It’s like chalk and cheese. It makes me giggle.
Meeting Hugh meant that I was able to think outside the square and create my fashion boutique, Miss Henry.
Miss Henry Boutique has meant that I am able to hire other women, empower other women in fashion and business, teach fashion styling, meet loyal clients who have become lifelong friends, connect with incredible like minded women all day every day and grow my digital footprint internationally. It has meant fashion week, meeting fashion designers, travel (so I still get to be on planes, pre-pandemic and again one day in the future), a brand new concept store, an online store (April 2021) and even a YouTube channel (coming this Aussie winter).
Come to think of it, this big alternation to my life course as a result of meeting Hugh meant that this blog is able to exist.
All in all, I am so genuinely grateful for my life path and future, and had I not had that chapter with Hugh (which is now ancient history) I’d be in Dubai working for Emirates and travelling the world (which pre-pandemic would have been wonderful) but now we can safely say, I’d be an unemployed flight attendant and stuck abroad. Sheesh. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to you, Hugh. Diamonds are made under pressure. And here I am! Here we all are!
Lessons Learned from Hugh:
Always listen to your gut
Don’t give up your life, lifestyle or career for a promise
Actions speak louder than words
You can overcome trauma. Time heals all.
Look for toxic red flags such as gaslighting (in which a person warps reality, telling you that you are doing to them, what they are in fact doing to you) it confuses the mind and makes you second guess yourself.
Good looks and ‘chemistry’ don’t mean the relationship is a healthy one. They are also not reason enough to tolerate poor behaviour.
Make sure the person you’re with has the same ‘heart’ as you (at the end of the day, we will all end up with an “old man”, so fall in love with consistently good treatment, not good looks)
Write your most heartfelt and important values down. For example, mine are: Kindness, intelligence, humour and trust. Does the man you like possess your most valued qualities consistently? He should, so don’t accept less and don’t interchange them for other qualities.
Put yourself first: you deserve consistency, honesty and reliability from a grown adult man
Life redirects us to where we were always meant to be. It often works out even better than we could have imagined.
Give out fake numbers if your gut tells you he’s not for you.
Loyalty in a romantic relationship (or any relationship) does not equate to how much emotional battery you can withstand from a man.