I used to think wistfully that once you married all your friends – yours and his – would merge into one happy tribe and you’d all party off into the never-ending sunshine of the Coke ads.
Imagine how disappointed I was when I realised that doesn’t happen.
I guess I just assumed that if I was well-matched with my partner, then surely his friends would like me and I them. Birds of a feather flock together, after all! And obviously, his friends would not only like me but my friends also, and bingo we have a whole friend ecosystem going on.
I hadn’t planned on that ecosystem being deeply rooted on the Lord of the Flies island.
Because the uncomfortable truth is, that it’s not all that usual for his friends to like you, or for his friends to like your friends, and as for his friend’s partner.. well for them to both like both of you, is as rare as a sunny day in England.
And that’s in normal circumstances, when you both come from the same place!
When you move to a new town, or country, it can be really difficult to make friends and whilst it’s natural to cling to your partner’s friends, it’s not always helpful. For one they might not like you, for you, but include you only for him. And second, you might have nothing in common with them at all!
Obviously you don’t want to demand that your husband or wife ditches her old friends, you don’t want to tear them away from the people who have history with them, you just need an addition, and there comes a time when you don’t want to be included and made to feel like a third wheel. What you need is some shiny new couple friends. Cue the excruciating couple dating process.
I’m not talking about dubious parties with keys left in the fruit bowl. Nor am I talking about practises that would be more usual in a free-lovin’ g-string and mankini wearing commune. I’m talking about the vetting and interviewing of likely couple friend candidates.
But how do you go about picking up friend couples?
When I first moved in with my boyfriend in this little town in North Hampshire I struggled to make friends, not helped by a strong accent that the locals found difficult to understand, and an expansive world experience that I couldn’t fit into the constraints of a small English town. My (now) husband had a number of good friends he had made in the town but they weren’t necessarily accepting of a strange Kiwi. They continued to invite him out and after a couple of uncomfortable false evenings they stopped including me. I sort of understood.
Finally, I came across one of the kids’ friend’s Mum and as eagerly as a company-starved Labrador, invited her and her family around for dinner on the very next weekend.
I was a nervous wreck by Friday and by D-day Saturday I had managed to polish off half a bottle of wine before dinner in nerve-steadying pre-dinner drinks. I don’t remember what I cooked, or how the conversation went over dinner. Perhaps I should have. Then I would know why we never saw them again.
I do remember her wide eyed expression, and my Englishman’s embarrassed chuckle, so I can only assume that my dinner conversation was colourful to the point of high viz! That would be the Kiwi thing again, and my unfamiliarity with English manners and behaviour. I also remember the burnt rice and the rather excessive spraying of air freshener to remove the smell and his red eyes and snotty wheezing.
‘Allergies’, he said gruffly, not at all apologetically.
He wasn’t drinking, his wife was. Quite a bit. That caused some problems too I recall.
He wasn’t smiling, his wife was. Quite a bit. More problems.
We enjoyed her company but that enjoyment highlighted how we weren’t enjoying his. But perhaps the biggest elephant in the room was simply their mismatch as a couple. She was outgoing and friendly and flirty and a little bit sozzled. He had less personality than a marble statue. She was attractive and easygoing. He was judgemental and critical and way too serious. I suspect he bawled her out all the way home for being too flirty and fun.
Why did I think her partner would be as lovely as she was?
Why did I think we would all have something in common simply because our kids got on?
Should I have learnt my lesson from my single dating years? You never have dinner on a first date! Drinks, yes. Movies, ok. But never, ever a meal.
Next time I move towns/cities/countries I’m going to take up a couple’s sport. Like tiddly-wink doubles, or hiking. At least then there will be something we all have in common to talk about. And surely it will be easier to make couple friends when we have them ensnared in a mountain hut, with any alternative civilisation at least three hours away down a rocky trail! Though on second thoughts, with my luck, that could be an issue. My new friend is likely to be married to Frankenstein’s cousin.
How do you make new couple friends when you move to a new place? Suggestions below please.