Things Fall Apart: The greatest loves of your life don’t always come in the shape of a husband

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...


A friend and I discuss break-ups with friends. And how much worse they are than break-ups with boyfriends, in a strange way. For being that bit more surprising. Unexpected. Good friends should be people you are indivisible from. Husbands should be too, but they are not always, unfortunately.

There are degrees of divisibility, it turns out.

Your fundamentals

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But some people become your fundamentals. Your indivisibles. People who are of your flesh in the way that a mother is. "She is fundamental to you", someone once told me after they had lost theirs and were describing their struggle to even comprehend that she no longer existed.

In the same way, a daughter is fundamental to you. Mine (my daughter that is), is my most indivisible person.

Related: It’s a gift when friends love your children as their own

She goes to her grandparents for a slumber party, and after my friend leaves my house, I am hit by a bout of missing her; ridiculous really, as I will see her the next day. But her conspiratorial belly laugh. The proprietary way in which she throws her arms around my neck in her sleep. Knowing I will not wake up to them in our home, going about our life; I miss her.

It turns out certain friends can become fundamentals. Indivisibles.

Part of me

I still clearly remember the first time I saw my best-friend-from-school. We were 12; it was the first day of secondary school and the introductory assembly.

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She was in the row behind me. For five minutes I thought she was annoying – this purely because she was having such an obvious laugh with the girl beside her. I was jealous, obviously. It was (platonic) love at first sight. I quickly realised that she outstripped anyone in the vicinity as the person of most interest; someone I had to know. It’s how I still feel about her.

"Their presence causes you to instantly relax. The guard goes down on things you may not have even admitted to yourself you were feeling."

When things were difficult, the sight of this friend, or her voice down the phone, could undo me, when I would not have realised the extent to which I was feeling at sea.

Some people become like close family members. So solidly a part of your life; known since you were kids, all the bumps and knots of a relationship ironed out years ago; and as adults, you are just happy to see each other. Their presence causes you to instantly relax. The guard goes down on things you may not have even admitted to yourself you were feeling.

Mother-like support

She’s younger than me (three months, but these things count when you are 13), but represents the kind of solidity I associate with my mother. A person just there for you; in your corner, on your side – wherever it is you need them to be. And so while I might have hidden, even from myself; upset; I was unable to in front of this friend. The sense of safety she provides my undoing. Someone whose strength allows you to show weakness. Provides a sort of shelter for it.

"Seeing your daughter getting to know your oldest friend’s little girl is one of life’s great enjoyments..."

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She comes home for a visit, and we take our girls out for the day. Throw everything from pancakes, to train rides, to crisps, ice-cream, every kind of berry going, and a picnic on the beach at the kids so we can eke out a proper catch-up.

The littlest girl takes a tumble, and the other puts her arms around her, in one of those staged, gingerly tender hugs small children perform when they are minding a smaller child. Seeing your daughter getting to know your oldest friend’s little girl is one of life’s great enjoyments.

The greatest love of all

After the picnic, and the paddling, I go to collect the car where we have unnecessarily parked it half a mile away. Clothes and shoes have been discarded by our children, and the post bribery treats come-down has begun; making them walk any distance would be unthinkable.

I turn the car key and Baby, I Love Your Way blares from the radio. Our song, I think, and I drive quicker than planned to get back to her so we can enjoy it together. It’s from our movie, Reality Bites, the entire soundtrack of which is really our song, loved since the teenage years.

The great loves of your life, your fundamental, indivisible people, who will become the people you have known for more of your life than not known, do not always come in the shape of a husband.

Photo by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash

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Read more: I survived marriage separation with thanks to my friends

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Read more: Things Fall Apart: My daughter is my happy ending

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