Things Fall Apart: Surviving my first dinner party since the split

When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves...


“I’m having a supper club,” I tell the Work Wife.

“How much are you charging?” she replies.

“What? I’m not charging.”

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It takes us a few minutes to clarify that I am really just talking about a dinner party.

“Oh you mean an English dinner party,” she says. “Where not everyone knows each other.”

Re-learning to enjoy life again

When things are difficult, it is possible to lose sight of what you love to do. The more celebratory side of life. If the load is heavy for a while, there is too little time, too little energy, too little of you, to be spent on gatherings, on nights out or in.

When there is stress, things that are usually enjoyable can become simply another cause of stress. And so they get abandoned.

Related: If your marriage is ending and your world
has fallen apart, this letter's for you

Afterwards is the time to breathe life back into that part of your world. To throw open the windows, blow away the dust.

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In the case of separation, it is necessary to relearn how you do these things, now that you are the only adult living in your house. How to enjoy them, rather than get through them.

Starting small

I start small; a dinner with immediate family for my birthday. Easy. We get a takeaway. I try not to burst out crying when my little one comes out proudly carrying the cake ablaze with candles, feel my face go into all sorts of contortions which everyone kindly ignores.

Myself and Herself, my four-year-old daughter, take to throwing birthday breakfasts for family, and I remember how much I love hosting. Together, we adopt the approach that I have always favoured; heavy on the accoutrements, not so much attention on the actual food.

Related: I’ve cracked the code to weekends
as a single parent 

I loved throwing dinner parties as a young teenager for my gang of girls. Their parents would send them off with money for pizza, knowing full well it was possible I would have abandoned any effort to cook, in favour of focusing on the dressing of the table, choice of music, outfit decision.

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Now, my four-year-old and I make paper chains and birthday banners with which to festoon the place. Food is made, but it is low maintenance and laid out on the table beforehand; help yourself.

A bit of encouragement

“Go on, do it,” a friend who has also had a bit of a tricky time urges over wine. We are at her first party since her own difficulties. “You used to love having people over, and your parties were always such fun.” Her flattery works.

Months after the conversation with the Work Wife, I have my first dinner party for adults to whom I am not actually related.

Related: The importance of surrounding yourself
with like-minded women 

Awhile in the planning, there are several false starts. A notion to invite people I don’t really know, but simply follow on Instagram, or know vaguely through work. Thank god the Work Wife gently talks me out of such madness. What I need are well-worn people I know will gel with, rather than worrying about whether people are languishing in awkward small talk.

“What are we having for dessert?” the Work Wife beams.

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“Prepare yourself,” I tell her, quashing expectations. “I’m doing shop bought.” A food person of professional standards, she makes a valiant effort at disguising the look of disgust that passes over her face, before announcing she will make two desserts. Her husband will make the rice (my culinary skills, such as they are, faltering at the thought of rice for twelve).

Don't be intimidated

Things to be aware of when you host your own dinner party for the first time in quite a while?

Doing the shop on a Friday night in Lidl is not optimal. There is something end-of-days about it. Persevere though, and you will realise the scary looking youths hovering around the door are in fact not gearing up to kill you, but will jump in and help when your trolley jams.

Related: I'm learning new ways to manage my stress

You will then find boxes of the €5.99 prosecco everyone is raving about, as well as Burger Bites which you instantly decide will be a starter, and you will feel delighted with yourself.

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It is inevitable that shortly before your guests arrive, panic will set in and you will wonder why the hell you thought this would be a good idea. It is a good idea, push through.

Finding support

A wingman is essential; I had two, the aforementioned WW and her husband, and they were superlative. Ours is a friendship built on a mutual acceptance that lateness is always tolerated. “This is the one time you cannot be late,” I had told her, and they arrived early, bearing desserts, getting stuck into rice making, and serving drinks.

Related: Just because I'm a single parent,
doesn't mean I'm alone

Do not worry about people not coming. Nobody turns the first-post-separation-dinner-party invite down. This is an extreme form of looking on the bright side.

This is not the night for mixing it up, throwing together new, unacquainted friends. Invite your oldest, easiest friends. The kind of people to whom you can say, when they admire a cake stand, or a wine glass, “wedding present,” and they will laugh with you, not awkwardly. Because life goes on.

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

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