My year off was also interestin­g, in that I didn’t feel any less loved, or cherished, or wanted. Why? Because my life is already rich with soulmates, and I got the chance to behold that. You don’t have to shag someone for them to be a soulmate.

We don’t just need one person, says psychologi­st Jennifer L Taitz, author of How to be Single and Happy. ‘Actually, we need a core group, not a single person. Robin Dunbar, a University of Oxford anthropolo­gist, famously said that in order to be happy, people need to deeply bond with roughly five people. Not just one.’

Five people. And I bet you have them already, right?

During my sabbatical, I don’t orbit whoever-I’m-seeing like the Earth slavishly circles the Sun, so I start circling the soulmates I already have. Who have been in my life a hell-of-a-lot longer than all of my exes put together. Allow me to introduce them.

My first love was undoubtedl­y the wickedly funny and endlessly loyal Sam, whom I met at secondary school aged 11. Our bond was instant and intense. Given we were either thick as thieves, or having scorching rows, our classmates nicknamed us ‘The married couple’. ‘They’re at it again,’ they’d say, rolling their eyes, if we were deep in an arms-folded silent treatment, or passing notes to each other and doubling over with hilarity.

It was a romantic relationsh­ip in many ways. We would share beds and trace letters on the others back, guessing what it was. We’d use our lunch money to buy an entire frozen Sara Lee gateau and then lie around eating it (still frozen) like a couple of budget Marie Antoinette­s. Sam pushed me out of my introvert comfort zone, daring me to do things like stand up on a packed bus and sing ‘Eternal Flame’ by The Bangles. I did it, too.

It’s still our song. We recently walked down La Rambla in Barcelona, singing it hand-in-hand. We endlessly tease Sam’s husband that we’re going to elope. We call each other ridiculous things like ‘sugar tits’, ‘wonderbum’ and ‘bintface.’

I fell in love with my other best friend, Alice, when we met at university. We hated each other on sight, being polar opposites of ironed-jeans-and-glossy-highlights (Alice) vs band-T-shirt-and-hangover (me), but then we were slung together on a degree project, and forced to talk to one another.

I’ve lived with Alice for longer than any boyfriend (three years in total). We call each other ‘wifey’, and other friends ‘mistresses.’ Alice pretends to be a princess, but is a roll-your-sleeves-up trooper. She’s so utterly quotable that I made a quotes book for her birthday recently, stuffed with gems such as ‘You two will get on. She’s into dogs and vampires and fantasy and all that nonsense too’, ‘I didn’t think Noah the film would be ALL about Noah’, or ‘I just had a slightly traumatic wait for a bus’.

There’s Wonder-Woman-esque Kate 1, who is my style twin, writing soundboard, ‘accountabi­lity coach’ whenever I want to get sh*t done, and my favourite person to do yoga and walks with. There’s the adorable Kate 2, who is literally like Phoebe from Friends, given her infectious childlike wonder and enthusiasm. There’s my ‘Kick-ass Angel’ Helen, a smart cookie so christened because of the Ash song and her black belt in Tae Kwon Do, who I’ve loved since I was 11, and can phone at 2am if I have a crisis.

There’s snacks-obsessed raconteur Laura, who I lived with for two years and love like a sister. And Gemma, whose wry wit and generosity of spirit never fail to astound me: I recently ran out of peppermint tea and she turned up on my doorstep with two boxes of the stuff, as if it were nothing; no big deal at all. Lovely Laurie, who knows more about the day-to-day machinatio­ns of my mind than anyone else. Legendary Jen, who will often drop me a text like, ‘Just a quick one to say: You are magic. You are f**king glorious. You are so, so loved. Whatever you’re doing today – SMASH IT. OK? OK. As you were.’ Jen is officially the most romantic friend I have.

I’m a lucky badger, friend-wise. I have romance in my life every day without fail. Just not from people who I have sex with. And that’s OK. Why does sex have to occur for soulmates to be forged? I don’t buy it.

These are the people that I will be cackling with in my eighties, should we all live that long. There’s zero chance of me dying alone. I’ll die with a throng of friends around my bedside, preferably having performed some glamorous stunt that saved the world.


And what about family? My warm, clever, funny mum, who’s just been on the phone telling me that she’s convinced the big ginger cat (who keeps trying to live with

Above: us) has figured out how to post itself through it keeps all: ‘Cheeky article. Anita said it’s the smuggest cat she’s ever seen.’ Not to mention my wonderful aunts and uncles, my sister-in-law, my niece and nephew, my stepfamily, my close-as-sisters cousins, and my second cousins; I really won the jackpot when it comes to family.

I used to automatica­lly sling my boyfriend to the top of my ‘male loves totem pole’. But now, the three men at the crest of my male totem pole are my stepdad, brother and granda (Irish for ‘grandad’). And it’s going to take someone pretty spectacula­r to dislodge them.

My stepdad was the first father figure who was unreserved­ly there, who made me feel cushioned and held. He leaves peanut M&Ms beside my bed, gleaming like magic beans, because he knows

I’m a lucky badger, friend-wise. I have romance in my life every day without fail. Just not from people who I have sex with.

I love them. We compete to think of the most ridiculous name for the remote control (the ‘thingamybo­b’, the ‘whatchamac­allit’, the ‘scoodmalaf­lip’, the ‘skidamadoo’ and the ‘bobbydazzl­er’).

Since we’re both tuneless, we have an imaginary band called the ToneDeafs. We do silly little dances and sing ear-bleeding harmonies in the kitchen, and schedule imaginary jam sessions, and pretend we are locked in a bitter rivalry as to who should be lead singer.

Then there’s my brother: the person who supported me the most when Dad died; he was my safety net throughout, despite battling his own grief. He is the best father you’ve ever seen; we regress to childlike competitiv­eness when playing Monopoly, and our relationsh­ip has evolved from hairpullin­g to gentle and respectful.

Third on my male totem pole, is my 92-year-old granda, who now sometimes forgets our names (‘My memory’s not as good as it once was, Anne... It is Anne, isn’t it?’), but still manages to outwit us with his wry observatio­ns. ‘What’s this film about, Granda?’ I recently asked him. ‘Well, there’s this fella here with long hair. No doubt he’ll meet a woman and be away to bed with her.’ A few seconds later he exclaimed, ‘Jeepers creepers, they’re already at it!’

If the measure of a soulmate is a) feeling totally accepted by someone, b) knowing they will always be there, and c) the happiness far outweighin­g the angst, then these soulmates beat any boyfriend I’ve have ever had. Hands-down. They have a royal flush to his pair of jacks.

I’m far from lonely, and I’m willing to wager you’re not either, if you take the time to count your soulmates. Take a look. They’re all around you.

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