Things Fall Apart: Learning to find value in non-romantic relationships

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.

When your marriage breaks down, you value romantic relationships less. Maybe because you know how possible it is to have a full, happy life without one (once the dust settles). Maybe because you know there are no guarantees, even with all the white dress/big day/I do intentions in the world.

This is hard to see from the vantage point of 'happily ever after', I know. But from the other side, you can perceive all the other people that make up a life.

When your marriage is no longer the most important relationship – the one around and upon which all else is built – you place your value elsewhere. There are different cornerstones to your life than a spouse. Your family of origin. Your closest friends.

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


We have spent the last week on a family holiday in an old country farmhouse in Kilkenny; a place we have been every year for the last four years, for essentially the same holiday. All that has changed over the years are Herself’s ambulatory abilities. It is a magical spot; all wisteria creepers and old stone exteriors, wooden beams and thick walls dotted with low-slung sash windows looking out over the surrounding green fields.

Every year we have come here, the same group of us, more or less. Grandparents, Herself, brother, sister-in-law to be, the aunts (or the ladies, as even my four-year-old now calls them), and various cousins.

Re-establishing a routine

Every year, we fall into the same rhythm almost instantly. A morning walk down the lane in pyjamas and wellies, coffees in hand, to stand on the fence and moooooo like the city idiots we are at the nearby field of cows, who come close and stare back in menacing bafflement.

Lazy mornings drinking more coffee, watching the sun make its way across the herringbone wooden floors of the old conservatory, playing table tennis or pool in the games cottage, or visiting the ladies in their guest cottage across the courtyard. A ramble in the orchard, a game of football on the tennis court. Evening-time everyone fits around the large wooden table for curries and chillies, followed by a splintering of the group; some like a sing-song, others prefer Scrabble. Or more pool.

There is the yearly pilgrimage around our favourite local hotspots. Mount Juliet for a walk down to the horses, a go on the zip line in the playground, and a ramble through the walled garden, then tea and scones on the lawn.

Thomastown for lunch at the Blackberry café; sausage roll for Herself, sandwich and coffee for me, always. A look around the local second-hand stores and a meander down the main street.


Inistioge for lunch at the Old School House River Café, and a browse through their second-hand books piled on tables in the hall. A wander down by the river, where we contemplate swimming then spot the fish (some tiny, some not so tiny), and as always, wimp out. Then ice-cream in the town square.

Woodstock, nestled above the Circle of Friends village, for a hike up the hill. A pause to hide under the branches of the same massive tree each year, Herself’s 'house', then through the walled garden for more coffee and cake at the orangery.

More to life than marriage

"In a way, it’s worse than losing a parent because at least you expect that", a friend mused about the break-up of a marriage. She was right, to an extent. For a time that is true. But then that passes. Everyone gets out of this alive, after all.

And actually, you will find there are all sorts of relationships which bring value to your life, once you adjust where you, yourself, place value.

This year there is talk that our holiday house is up for sale, that this might be our last year here. I don’t believe it, I’m sure they said the same thing last year. I secretly believe we will be back here next year, to celebrate the family wedding we are talking of holding here.

If not though, that is fine. For the cornerstones of your life are a moveable feast.


Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

The image newsletter