I’m really embarrassed to still be continuing with the 52 weeks of Gratitude Challenge because this was supposed to have been completed by the end of last year! But last year was a roller-coaster of a year and I didn’t blog as much as I’d hoped to, and as I hate leaving things unfinished, I have decided to pick up where I left off and this time I’m determined to get to the finish line. So week seven it is!
This week’s topic is ‘a’ friend that I am thankful for. Talk about a super hard topic! I am incredibly blessed to have so many amazing people in my life who I am very happy to call friends – some of them are more like family – so naturally I’m finding it hard to talk about just one person. So I’m going to cheat a little bit – or a lot – and talk about a group of people.
So I would like to give a massive shout-out to the strong, supportive, thoroughly big-hearted people who came to my rescue when I was going through what was definitely one of the worst periods of my life; when I didn’t feel as though I was emotionally or physically strong enough to overcome my problems. These incredible people listened to me, gave me advice and support and were always there for me whatever time of day or night it was. Even though many of these fantastic people were busy with their own lives or had their own problems to deal with, they always made time for me and never got fed up or made me feel as though I was being a nuisance (which I probably was!) They even shared some of their own painful stories with me in order for me to draw strength and inspiration and to see that things always do get better. Some of these people weren’t even especially close friends at the time, and that makes me feel even more incredibly humbled that people who didn’t have to be there for me, chose to do so which speaks volumes about the kind of people they are.
I don’t think I can ever totally put into words how grateful I am to this exceptional bunch of people who got me through a tough time and got me back on my feet again. Everyone says that you never really know who your true friends are until you go through a crisis and they’re not wrong. We sadly live in a world where its every person for themselves – or at least that’s how it seems most of the time. But now I know that there are some truly amazing people out there and I’m so thankful that I get to be their friend. Everyone should have wonderful people like that in their lives.
Like most people I have the never-discuss -politics-or religion rule, especially with people I know. I have also added parenting methods to that rule too – as well as few other topics. And the reason is, as everyone knows, it is indeed the quickest way to end a friendship.
How I wish I’d stuck to that rule!
It’s all very well having these discussions if the person you’re talking to is tolerant, mature, reasonable and willing to accept that everyone has a different opinion. If you’re able to have these discussions in a non-offensive manner, you can’t go far wrong.
But when the person you’re having the discussion with is the complete opposite of the above, and all they do is preach, lecture, rant, rave, talk at you rather than to you, criticize your own opinions and are extremely offensive with it… It takes a very, very strong friendship to get over it!
I had this very unfortunate encounter very recently with someone I consider to be a very close friend – in fact I hope she still is! Unless you’re a complete dimwit, you can’t have failed to have noticed that our nation is in the grip of Brexit fever. Everyone has some kind of an opinion on whether Britain should remain in or leave the EU. Whether you’re an innie, an outie, or an ummie, everyone has something to contribute to this great debate.
Because we’re very good friends, I felt quite comfortable in breaking one of the few rules I have in life and told her where I stood with regards to the referendum. Boy did that prove to be a big mistake!
My normally mild-mannered friend turned into what can only be described as a raving lunatic. Not only did she stomp all over my political opinions but she tried to ram her own brand of politics down my throat, and to be honest, because she was unable to articulate herself without going over the top, whatever she was banging on about just went over my head – and not because I’m short! I can’t even recall what she said exactly – all I got was a faceful of blah ba blah ba blah ba blah!
I’m sure my friend thinks I’m too thick to understand how politics and the EU work – and maybe I am. But as one of my tutors once said to me the real idiot isn’t the person who admits to not knowing something, it’s the person who thinks they know everything.
Unless we’re directly involved in politics, its not always easy to know what information we hear is accurate and what is just propaganda. My friend has access to pretty much the same information as me. Admittedly she’s definitely more well-read and knowledgeable than me about such matters but is the decision she’s making based exclusively on true, unbiased facts? And have these facts been verified? Well we don’t know – although she likes to think she’s one hundred per cent certain she knows all the facts and they are all true. Things aren’t always black and white as we all know – there’s always areas of grey. And while its always natural to be biased when it’s something we agree with, to go around thinking your views are gospel is just a little too much.
I will be keeping quiet about my own views regarding the referendum – but I’m willing to accept that I may be wrong. The decision I make is based on my judgement of the masses of info we’ve been bombarded with but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily right and I will be keeping an open mind. One thing I will say is that I will be relieved when this referendum episode is over and we find out exactly what is in store for the future of Britain – and I won’t have to hear the term ‘Brexit’ for a very long time.
But when I’m approached with aggression, and spoken to in a bullying manner by a know-it-all, and I’m made to feel that my views don’t count, then yes – I do have a problem.
Of course there are subjects that I feel very passionate about but I’m well aware that not everyone will share my views. I can’t very well argue with everyone so I choose my battles carefully. This post isn’t just about sharing your views but giving an opinion to close friends and family in a way in which relationships are left intact. That could mean not discussing potentially controversial issues or biting your tongue hard when you hear something that makes you want to punch someone! But I think the best thing is to accept that there will always be differences; respect other people’s opinions – even if they do seem bizarre, and although passion is good, aggression is not, so save that for the boxercise class and not for a heated debate with someone who’s meant to be dear to you. Because once something extremely offensive has been said, it can’t be taken back. Hardly worth losing someone you care about just because you need to be right.
It’s not just that I love being married but I love being married to Mr. D. It took him a long time to appear but he was definitely worth the wait. And I also love my fabulous close female friends. These are the girls who have been there for me long before Mr. D had me at ‘Hello’ and who always have my back. And luckily for me, my friends and Mr.D. get on well, so we’re all one big happy ‘framily’! The only slight issue is being one of the few married couples among our friends of mostly singles as at times we can find ourselves on different wavelengths.
My friends who are single are forever telling me about the problems they encounter due to their single status and as someone who’s been both single and married, I definitely know where they’re coming from: being the only singleton amongst a bunch of marrieds and feeling like a spare part; having your mother do a spot of matchmaking with anyone and everyone; sympathetic looks and ‘well-meaning’ advice; the endless questions about why you’re still single and warnings about ending up like Ms. Haversham; everyone assuming that you’re lonely and unlucky… and sometimes you really do feel as though you’re lonely and unlucky. The list goes on and many of my friends forget that I once walked in those shoes so I totally understand.
And the other thing they don’t realise is that you don’t stop having issues the moment you have a ring on your finger. Instead there’s a whole new set of awkward encounters that we have to look forward to. Married life is great, especially if you’re married to the right person, but when the vast, overwhelming majority of your friends are single you could very well end up feeling like a couple of jammy dodgers in a packet of shortbread fingers. And there’s tons of articles and posts out there on the subject of being the only single person when all your friends are married but virtually nothing when the situation is reversed.
So for all you singles out there who think we have it easy, read on:
1. YOU MISS OUT ON ALL THE COOL ALL-GIRL BREAKS
I never got to do the crazy, raucous girls holiday abroad when I was single and I do regret not making the most of my days as a single young woman. Now that I’m married, it’s definitely not something that’s likely to happen. I don’t really have a problem with that because I have tons of fun holidaying with my fab husband but when the girls are off on one of their foreign jaunts, I’m glad that they’re having such an awesome time but I do know that I’m missing out on all the madness. And despite being invited, I would only spoil it for the girls with my constant moping because Mr.D. isn’t there.
But I do look forward to the stories and pics when they get back. Honest!
2. YOUR OTHER HALF IS INVISIBLE TO YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS
Many of our friends extend invitations to the both of us when there is an event or a bash of some kind so we’re quite lucky in that respect. And likewise, if I was having a party, dinner, luncheon etc. I would make sure that my friends knew that their partners were invited regardless of whether I knew them well or not. When someone’s part of a couple it’s the right thing to do.
But some of our single friends don’t understand this and will only invite the person that they were friends with first when they’re having an event. I know it’s not done maliciously but the fact that we’re now a package deal seems to have gone over some people’s heads. Now when it’s a stag or hen do, that’s perfectly understandable. But for all other occasions, I don’t feel that it’s acceptable. There was one occasion where one of my friends hired a cottage in Devon for a week of birthday celebrations. Rightly or wrongly, I’d assumed that the invitation was for the both of us and said that we’d be there and was looking forward to a week of festivies.
But as the date drew closer, I got an email from her which made it clear that it was to be a girls only thing which was the first I’d heard of it. All I can say is that I’m glad she said something before Mr.D. and I booked our train tickets – then I really would have been furious! I accepted that it was her right to host her event as she wished – but she also had to accept that I wasn’t prepared to be away from my most favourite person in the whole world for a week so I very politely declined.
So note to all: if someone’s part of a couple, be sure to extend invitations to both of them.
3. YOU’RE THE ODD ONE OUT AT THE HEN WEEKEND
When all the ladies at a hen party are single and ready to mingle, and you’re the only married woman there, you can’t take part in all the shenanigans. In fact once you’ve finished throwing some shapes on the dance floor, you’ll find yourself sat at the table by yourself minding drinks, handbags and outrageous hen party paraphernalia while all the single girls find a fine looking fella to cosy up to. I don’t mind that I’m not joining in with the crazy escapades. I just don’t like sitting by myself like Billy-no-mates – or worse having to fend off unwelcome attention.
Times like that I could do with a married friend so we can both discuss how glad we are that we’ve passed this stage (although it was great fun at the time!)
4. YOU’LL EXPERIENCE SOME SPITEFUL BEHAVIOUR
When we had to announce our engagement, I was very careful to be sensitive about it despite wanting to shout it from the rooftops as I knew that there were some friends who were going through all kinds of difficulties in terms of relationships. And even though most people appeared genuinely happy for us, I was stunned by the behaviour of a couple of people.
The daughter of my mother’s best friend stopped talking to me and as hurtful as it was, I had to be understanding as her own engagement had hit the rocks. I tried to keep the lines of communication open but wasn’t getting any response. I thought that in time, she’d come round but I haven’t heard from her to this day.
Then there was one of my best friends who’ve I’ve known since we were both toddlers. Within a month of Mr.D. and I getting engaged, she amazingly got engaged to a guy she hadn’t been seeing for very long. This surprised me as I didn’t think she was that into him but as weeks went by it was very obvious that she was being competitive. I saw a not-so-nice side to her character with lots of snidey comments aimed at me; losing her temper because I couldn’t go on a shopping trip with her; I wasn’t invited to her engagement party, and despite me asking her to be bridesmaid at my wedding, instead of following me down the aisle, she was seen sitting among the other guests – in her bridesmaid’s dress! When I asked her why she had done that, she said that she had forgotten what she was supposed to do! Seriously, you couldn’t make it up!
I know deep down that she never wanted to get engaged to her fiancé (now husband) and she was mad at me because she felt I’d somehow forced her hand (?) We’re still friends but I think it’s safe to say that we don’t really regard each other as best friends any more and don’t meet up as often as we used to.
A real pity.
5. YOU GET ASKED THE INEVITABLE BABY QUESTIONS ALL THE TIME
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!
Or so the playground song goes anyway. And it would appear that most of our friends – single or not – agree. Admittedly it is something that everyone’s going to ask but I can’t help getting annoyed – both by the question and from having to answer that same question all the time. And it seriously peed me off when at a recent dinner party, a close, single female friend asked across the table in front of everyone if we wanted to have kids, if we were trying and when it was going to happen. Oh wait, let me just grab my crystal ball…
Yes, kids are part of the plan but I’m not sure when the time will be right. But I absolutely resent being asked something so personal in public – even if she is a close friend.
After all, I don’t think she’d have been too pleased if I’d publicly asked her why she’s still single or when was the last time she had sex… but it might help to get my point across!
6. YOU LOSE FRIENDS
I had very few friends get married when I was in my early twenties but I soon learnt something – that the last time I’d ever see my friend again would be on their wedding day. It’s a good job I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have been blubbing so hard, the guests would have called for Noah and his ark! But it was true – once my friends got caught up in their newly-married status, new home and the kiddies that eventually came along, they found that they had less and less in common with their single counterparts and we inevitably drifted apart despite my efforts to prevent that from happening. And of course they formed new friendships with other married couples who they felt that they had more in common with. I decided that when I got married, I wasn’t going to let my marriage have such an impact on my friendships even though I knew that things would have to change a little.
Unfortunately it seems as though some of my single friends didn’t get the memo and instead opted to spend their time with other single friends. True, I couldn’t go out on the lash with them but that didn’t mean that we’d turned into Mr.and Mrs. Pipe-and-Slippers now that we’re married. We still liked to have a laugh, great fun, and a fab night out. I know other married friends have experienced this problem too. I’m glad that I haven’t technically lost any friends – no one has actually ended the friendship – but we hardly ever keep in touch.
7. EVERYONE THINKS MARRIED LIFE IS LIKE LIVING IN DISNEYLAND
Married life is what you make it but you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice if you expect it to be perfect all the time. It’s definitely not like ‘in the movies’ and there are times you’ll both get on each others nerves. However this seems to be lost on many of my single female friends who seem so eager to settle down, I’m pretty sure they’ve already got the long, white dress hanging up in their wardrobe!
They perpetually drone on and on about how awful it is to be single, how they wish they were in a relationship and how they hope to be married by the end of the year (even if it’s November!) Then they ask you about married life and look so hopeful and expectant that it would be cruel to shatter their dreams. So I don’t tell them about how Mr.D. drives me mad with his excessive video game playing, or how fed up I am that he doesn’t seem to know where the bin is for his empty crisp packets and coke cans. Neither do I tell them that my nagging (his word not mine) annoys the hell out of him and that he wishes I’d stop stressing over things that don’t matter.
So instead I tell them the truth (or part of it anyway.) I tell them that married life is wonderful when it’s with the right person but that it requires a lot of work, effort and respect on both parts, but that they really should enjoy their single life while they have it because one day their prince will come and then they’ll never have this time again.
Somehow I doubt they’ll be taking my advice.
8. YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS DON’T ACCEPT THAT YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE
A friend who’s in a relationship with two kids, recently put up a post on Facebook ranting at friends who expect her to drop everything to go out and party with them. She also made it very clear that it was unacceptable for friends to keep texting and calling at all hours of the day and night as she has a family to care for and they are her priority now.
I understood where she was coming from but I do know that a lot of other people wouldn’t. And it’s the attitudes of these people that really grate on me. If we all did as we pleased after we got hitched, what would be the point in getting married? I’ve had people try to convince me that taking a teaching post abroad would be a brilliant idea, very conveniently forgetting that’s it’s a decision that also involves my husband. I’ve also had single friends who’ve kicked up a massive fuss because they think I run around after Mr.D. too much – when he’s ill!
Whenever one of my friends got married, my mum would always remind me that their priorities in life have changed and that I have to respect that, give them their space and accept that they’ll have new ways of doing things now. And now that I’m married, I hope my single friends will be as understanding.
9. SINGLE PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE SMUG
Do I think I’m happily married? Absolutely. Would I call myself smug? No – but then I don’t have to as I have other people do that for me! I’ve had (single) friends tell me that Mr.D. and I are absolutely ‘nauseating’ and I even had one friend delete both me and Mr.D. from Facebook because he said (yep, this one’s a fella!) we were just too lovey dovey and he’s not big on romance. He clearly didn’t know that he could have just unfollowed us! And yes – we’re still friends. Just not on Facebook!
From the way people carry on, you’d think that we were re-enacting the Karma Sutra in public. Admittedly we are affectionate in public (not sickenly so in my opinion at least!) And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think that marrying Mr.D. is the best thing I ever did because it makes other people feel better. But smug marrieds will make out that their marriage and their lives together are perfect and that they never have any problems. That’s not something Mr. D. and I would ever want to do. We both know that we’re not perfect as people but we do think that we’re perfect for each other. And we’re the first to admit that it’s not always wine and roses behind closed doors – and anyone who’s ever heard either of us moan about the other will know what I’m talking about.
And besides, I always think that being too smug about your relationship is like tempting fate. And if I wanted to tempt fate, I’d get a tattoo of Mr.D’s name!
10. MR.D. IS THE ONLY GUY AMONG A BUNCH OF SHRIEKING, OVERLY EXCITED GIRLIES!
Mr. D. often comes along when I’m meeting the girls of dinner. And as none of them are in a relationship, he often tends to be the only man there and has to put up with our non-stop chatter, shrieks of laughter and and general over-excitement.
Hang on, what am I talking about? The only guy among girls – Mr.D. LOVES that!