Maeve Haran, bestselling author of Having It All and The Way We Were, shares the things she wishes someone had told her about love when she was eighteen years old. 

In my latest novel The Way We Were, all three generations: wilful 18-year old granddaughter Rachel, harassed mum Catherine, 39, and grandmother Lavinia, 63, all find themselves faced with the opportunity to fall in love.
So what advice would I give to Rachel, starting off on life’s romantic road, gleaned from my own experiences of love, bad behaviour, and a thirty year relationship.
Life’s a long process
It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes when you’re starting out. Looking back, I went out with some ghastly men. I even remember accepting a date with one because I liked his sports car, which is rather shameful, and not at all the sort of thing Rachel, with her green leanings, would ever do. I grew up in a small town and at one time dated the local stud, who was thick as a brick but good looking and considered quite a catch! He used to write to me at boarding school and his writing style was that of a five year old. He was quite sweet though in his way.
Don’t let yourself feel cheap because someone tries to make out that’s what you are
My daughters talk of ‘the walk of shame’ which I think means turning up to work in the clothes you wore the day before because you’ve unexpectedly spent the night with somebody! Why shouldn’t you experiment with sex? I can’t actually remember the number of men I’ve slept with – but then I was a bit of a Sixties Hippy-Dippy chick – and that was perfectly acceptable then. My generation was post- Pill and pre-Aids. We were very lucky! Just before us you got ‘a reputation’ if you just got home two hours late.
Romance still rules ok!
Men have changed a lot, which I think is an entirely good thing but sometimes I’m not sure they know how to act any more. I think women appreciate small gestures – making you a cup of tea when you have a hangover, emptying the dishwasher – as much as a dozen red roses. Though the red roses have their place too – as long as they’re not apology flowers! The ideal man for me wouldn’t be Mr Darcy (too moody) but someone strong and funny…and kind.
Which leads me to….
Never underestimate kindness
Of all the qualities a man has maybe this is the best, and yet of course it isn’t glamourous like being tall, dark and handsome. But it does last a lot longer and when the tough stuff comes along – two a.m. feeds, post natal depression, ageing, there’s nothing like kindness.
Marriage is still a good thing
Ok, there’s a lot of divorce around but marriage can also be, as one relationship expert put it, ‘the most nurturing, healing and fulfilling area of a person’s life’. We got married in a Scottish castle after seventeen years and three children and I am very glad we did. I’m a happy endings writer. That doesn’t mean all my books end at the altar, quite often female friendship is at the core of my writing, but I am an optimist.
Love’s the greatest thing, as Blur put it!
I do think we are all looking for love: love of children, love of dogs, love of nature. It all makes us happier people. And of course the eternal search for that one other human being. And the lovely thing is, you’re never too old to find it, as Lavinia discovers in The Way We Were!

Maeve Haran's The Way We Were is out now.  

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