Things fall apart: Your social life shifts when you’re no longer a twosome
28th May 2018
In the last year, Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
I have become that most clichéd of things. A joiner.
In this case, I have joined a sailing course. Just for one week so far, but I can see something more permanent on the horizon. Actual club membership. This has not been a spur of the moment decision. When I was twelve, the Father, himself in the grips of a joining high after acquiring membership of our local sailing club, tried to persuade me to sign up.
I reluctantly did the theory course and realised most of my fellow attendees had practically sailed out of the womb and all knew each other since early childhood. As a pre-teen, there is little as demoralizingly humbling as younger kids who are physically outmanning you, whilst also showing no interest in your company.
When the instructor told an anecdote about someone getting momentarily trapped under a sail, I saw my chance and faked a terror of the water which I did not feel. One strenuous bout of pretend hysterical crying at home later, and the Mother intervened. I was allowed to give the sailing a miss.
Now though, I’m back. When your life needs to be to some extent re-orchestrated, it requires a careful balancing of the old and the new. The old gets you through the worst of it- immediate family, oldest (or new, but most worn in) friends. The people you are most familiar and therefore most at ease with.
There is no trying or pretending with these people. There is no before or after for them. You don’t have to deal with their reaction to events, because they have been through events with you.
Then there comes a time when the new becomes necessary. You push at the boundaries of your life, like someone moulding dough between their hands before creating a pizza base.
‘I’m going to a party with a friend, I don’t know anyone, I don’t really want to go, but I feel I should. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it,” I tell a friend, also separated. ‘You’ll possibly hate it, but you have to go anyway,’ she says.
I go, and I love it. There is prosecco and new people, and lovely food, and 99’s for dessert, and I stay far longer than the two hours I had promised myself I would stick it out for.
I go with the Life Partner. She is one of my oldest friends. The friend I lived with throughout my twenties, through countless impromptu Tuesday nights out, Marks & Spencer meals in, hungover couch Sundays. She was there long before there was a husband or a marriage. She’s not an actual life partner in the more generally understood sense of the word. On nights out we were regularly asked if we were sisters or life partners, never friends. We’ve been LP’s to each other ever since.
When things were bad, she wouldn’t blink an eyelid when after weeks of not answering her texts I would ring out of the blue and bawl down the phone, whereby she, mid park walk with baby and partner, would silently direct them to a coffee shop and endlessly commiserate down the line with me. I would always feel immeasurably better afterwards.
When you think about it, Life Partner suggests all that you would aspire to with your best female friends. Adored. Beloved. Person you would not want to be without.
Your social life shifts when you’re no longer a twosome. I don’t really drink. When things were tricky, I felt I needed to give myself every chance at feeling the best possible. The two (three) day hangovers of your late thirties do not lend themselves to this, and I pretty much stopped. So I wanted to find something for the summer months other than pub nights. To plan something new.
A natural joiner, the LP instantly agrees to do the week’s course with me.
‘You know they’ve got a marriage out of this course’, the mother says with a naughty gleam not unlike my three-year-old. She herself gave up after a brief foray. Now, she mutters darkly about how married couples should not sail together. Legend has it one wife actually jumped out of the boat mid race, rather than remain with her spouse, so heated had things become.
‘Steady’, I tell her. ‘We’re nowhere near that.’
‘What was the rest of the class like?’ the Work Wife enquires, with studied casualness, also digging along the same lines.
I tell Herself I will be gone every evening, because I am learning to sail so we can go out in Grandad’s boat.
Always ready with a Disney equivalent, she announces she will have her own boat. She is, of course, Moana in this scenario.
‘It’s a brain break’, announces the LP the first evening, as we stand in line on the slip, exhausted, but there. Life is busy. Sometimes you need to force yourself to stop.
I am a meditation bore. The Work Wife, not (yet) a convert, gets the brunt of my evangelising. Recently, I interviewed two very clever men about dealing with stress, for a feature. They both sang the praises of meditation but described it as not necessarily something that involves gurus and mantras. It can simply be being in the moment by engaging with an activity. Washing the car. People watching. Sunbathing.
Getting out on the water for two hours; learning to steer, jumping out of the way of the boom, chasing a boat we think is the Jeanie Johnson out by the South Wall, sailing along the seafront for the first time, seeing a totally new view of the place I have lived my entire life. I am lifted entirely out of the daily stresses.
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