Recently one of my friends started dating again, and it’s been a bigger adjustment for me than I was expecting.
We’ve been close since university, and our lives (until this point) have always felt like they ran in parallel. We had similar jobs in similar industries, even when we lived on opposite sides of the world. We dated musicians at the same time, changed our careers at the same time. We have always understood each other on a soul level.
This has meant that we are accustomed to sharing everything. But recently I’ve discovered that there’s one thing I don’t feel comfortable talking about, and that’s my husband.
Talking has always been a cathartic experience for both of us
We are both big talkers. We like to muse on the bigger questions in life, and workshop the challenges in everyday life. Whether that’s what we want out of our careers, how our children are coping with school, or a particular challenge with our partners.
My friend has now been separated for two years. I’ve noticed in that time that work-shopping the challenges I have with my husband is not the same as it was.
Once it was a shared challenge. After all, most monogamous relationships face similar hurdles (particularly after children). How you negotiate time for yourself, who does the homework and cleans the toilet. But over that period of time, the cracks I was trying to mend in my own relationship became gaping chasms in hers.
Even though she would never say it (or even think it), I started to feel uncomfortable - I was complaining about things that had led to her own separation.
And then my friend started dating
For at least two years, my friend remained single. She was dealing with the separation, trying to help her children adjust to their new lives, and finding somewhere to live.
Sometimes I wondered when she might start dating. She’s vivacious, beautiful and enjoys the company of a partner. I wanted her to be happy again.
At the start of the year she decided to give Tinder a try, and started dating again.
Given it was something I had hoped for her, I’ve been surprised at how challenging I’ve found it.
Suddenly our lives are very different
To be honest, it’s not just that she’s dating that has made it difficult to workshop relationship challenges.
For starters, when she has her children now, she can parent how she likes. Learning how to co-parent is one of the more challenging aspects of raising children with another human being. While she still needs to talk with her ex-husband and negotiate different details, the day-to-day disagreements aren’t there anymore.
The irritating parts of her husband are no longer something she needs to learn to live with. For me, it’s part and parcel of my relationship that I have to suck up (as my husband has to for the irritating bits about me).
Turns out that dating and long-term relationships are worlds apart
Overnight, I was whisked back to where we were at twenty. The first swoon of love, the excitement of meeting someone new … the anticipation. As we sat over coffee, it was all very familiar. But I felt out-of-place and a bit uncomfortable.
You may be one of those lucky ducks who has retained the first flush of love over several decades.
I’m like the majority of the population, where love mellows into something more akin to a deep and binding friendship. Where you need to work hard in order for two very different humans to live together well.
While I love my husband deeply, I don’t talk about him the way I would a new beau. I did that sixteen years ago. But it also felt strangely disloyal to not speak about him in the same way.
In the past, my friend and I could relate to each other because our relationships were at a similar stage. Now, we are worlds apart.
Is your relationship worth saving? Listen to Kinderling Conversation:
I’m in new territory, so it’s time to change
My friend and I have been through many changes.
This is just a new part of our friendship.
Becoming a mother and having a long-term partner has been pretty all-consuming for the last six years. My children are challenging and changing me every day. To keep evolving with my partner, I’ve had to face up to some difficult truths. While my focus has been on our little world, the one outside us keeps on moving.
It’s time to move with it. It’s been challenging to adjust to the new reality of my friend’s life, but that doesn’t mean it’s insurmountable.
Accepting that we are now on different paths when it comes to our love life, doesn’t mean we are no longer compatible as friends. But I think I needed to acknowledge that difference before I moved on.
Part of that acceptance is understanding that talking to her about my husband is no longer appropriate. At least not for the time being.
Now I can enjoy her experience of new love without comparing it my old love.
And that’s made all the difference.
Red flag: Your marriage won't take care of itself
If you want your love to last start by treating your partner like your children, writes Shevonne Hunt.
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