I was eighteen the last time I was single. My girlfriends are all neatly coupled off now, but their reactions to my recently acquired single status speak volumes of what might lie underneath the clean surfaces of their lives.

—Whatever you do, don’t go for a Bergener next time. Men here are disgusting.
—How about another Australian? They’re much more friendly than Norwegians.
—Stick closer to home, next time, won’t you? I hate it when you travel.
—You’re so lucky. If I were single I would never, ever live with a man again.
—I think you should get yourself a tall, blond bloke who lives round the corner. Have you really not met anyone yet?

and the one that I find the most hilarious of all:

—Oh, Jill, this is so exciting! I can’t wait to hear what you do next! Tell me exactly what happened! Let’s go dancing tonight!

8 thoughts on “untidy reactions

  1. jon

    I’ve often noticed that when one relationship breaks up in a close-knit group thre’s a kind of knock-on effect. Some people are really supportive but others freeze you out. It’s almost like they are afraid your “failure” is a sign of what is to come for them. Other couples start to reevaluate their own relationships and you can get pushed to the side.
    I got divorced about 2.5 years ago and it really felt like some of my friends around me didn’t give a damn. (No one suggested going dancing!) Suffice to say they’re no longer close friends.

  2. Jill

    I think that a lot of people in couples feel threatened by breakups and divorce. Other people in couples are almost frighteningly excited by them – and it doesn’t take much to assume that they’re the people who are less than content in their relationships.

    And there are a lot of people who just have no idea how to react or how tough it is to go through a divorce or breakup.

  3. Rorschach

    That or it forces a self (relationship) evaluation. Two people who you thought were getting along just fine, weren’t. This is a very uncomfortable thing for a lot of people.

    Another problem is the whole point of reference thing. What do you say to someone who has just had their heart ripped out? “Uh, golly. I’m sorry to hear it.” It sounds trite and insubstantial. “I know what your going through and it’ll get better.” Bull shit. No one has any idea what your going through and is probably worse than the first one.

    You wrote a piece a while back on what *not* to say to someone who had a miscarriage. Any hints for relationships?

  4. Jill

    Actually the people around me have been much more helpful and supportive around the breakup than they were (were able to be, I think) about the miscarriages I had before my daughter was born. I think that more people have experienced breakups of some kind, and I think that breakups are just more visible and so we handle them better.

    Noone’s said anything really awful. My male friends mostly stay carefully away from the subject, but several of these have been very supportive in other, indirect ways: asking me to the movies, or dropping by or ringing, and sort of being around in a pleasant unchallenging way. Once I realised that that was actually a male way of being really supportive and caring I’ve appreciated it a lot. Girlfriends ask now and then. One of my girlfriends is obnoxiously curious, it’s like I’m a soap opera, but that’s just the way she is.

    In fact the “it’ll get better” line is one of my favourites. I love hearing the stories of people who’ve dealt with difficult breakups and who have gotten through it and who are actually happier than they had been before. There are a lot of those stories, and you know, if that many other people have survived and found better lives, it seems likely I will too, wouldn’t you agree?

  5. Elin

    I agree:-) And you know why. Breakups are actually almost with no exceptions the best thing that could happen to you – in retrospect~!

  6. Elin

    – and by the way, while we talk about untidy reactions.. my mum deserve a high grade for this one:

    “Oh well. I think it is time you realize that you are not relationship material. You’re far too independent. Give up the men and stop dating.”

    Yes – she was absolutely serious!

  7. mcb

    When I broke up with my last partner I left the house we were sharing with a change of underwear and little else. It was a terrible time, but I am soooooo much happier now and I am so thankful that it ended when it did. It’s amazing how a little time gives you some perspective. I thought I was going to be miserable forever. But in 6 months I was in a much better relationship and was generally much happier as well.
    So, it does get better, I fervently believe it!

  8. Jill

    Ooh, thanks, girls! And Elin, I think you should cast someone with your mum’s response as the villian in a story sometime…

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