On our overseas trip earlier this year, the Lovely Man and I met up with some friends, a couple who’ve been together about the same length of time as us, F & G.
Like us, they are a few years apart in age.
The guy, F, works in the same industry as the Lovely Man, so they have a lot in common there.
We all share some interests, but although we’ve been on holiday with them before, I’ve never felt that I knew them very well – they were really nice acquaintances rather than close friends.
When we met up with them this time, I went to give G a hug hello and immediately noticed a stonking great rock on her engagement finger. This thing was MASSIVE – when it glittered in the light I felt like I had been beamed, in a kind of “roo in the headlights” way. But it was very beautiful and tasteful. Exquisite, in fact.
I immediately thought:
Aha! Got an announcement to make then, guys?
And, sure enough, a few minutes of my valiantly trying to avert my gaze into the conversation, they kind of wriggled a bit bashfully and went pink and said:
Oh, and we’ve got some news, by the way. We got engaged!
No shit, Sherlock.
G was obviously a bit self-conscious about her new bling but very happy to relate the story of how F had smuggled the ring into his holiday backpack by completely wrapping it in gaffer tape and telling her it was a piece of work equipment he needed to claim a duty refund on while they were out of the country.
They are lovely people, and I really enjoyed spending time with them. But I couldn’t help thinking, looking at G’s husband-to-be and her happiness, that I wished things could have been so straightforward for me and the Lovely Man.
I never imagined, for instance, that well over two years into our relationship, he would still legally be married to somebody else.
As pleased as I was for my friends, it was all too easy to feel a bit wistful by comparison.
One day, though, the Great Blokey Men went off to do Death-Defying Man Stuff together and so G and I headed out to get lost on the mountain have some adventures ourselves.
We were talking about her relationship with F, as you do, and how happy she was, and how great he was, and how they were thinking of having kids soon, and where they were going to go for their honeymoon… when she totally dropped a bomb.
Haltingly, she told me a story that made me quadruple-take and completely cash in my assumptions about their so-called easy road.
While F may not have kids from a previous relationship, perhaps even more bogglingly, he “co-parents” three dogs with his ex-partner of ten years.
As it all came out – the crazy ex, the way she wanders into their house uninvited, the unscheduled late-night handovers, how she uses the dogs to stay connected to his life, F’s inability to set firm boundaries, the huge amounts of money she guilts out of F for “the dogs”, the way she phones constantly and manufactures dog drama to get attention, the threats to take the dogs away and never let F see them again that paralyse him with fear – all I could think was:
G went on to say how the situation had driven her to the edge of her mind, the constant encroachments and feeling second in her relationship to a trio of spoilt dogs and a vindictive, crazy-making ex eventually landing her in counselling.
She said that her friends and family couldn’t really understand, that they tended to minimise the difficulties of the situation and say totally unhelpful things like:
Can’t you just ignore it?
G even said that she felt terribly guilty at not being able to love these dogs that were so important to F.
Yep, sounds about right.
I guess co-parenting drama is co-parenting drama whether the young ‘uns involved have feathers, fur, fins or feet.
And as much as I love dogs, I can understand G feeling ripped off that despite F not even having kids she is still experiencing the joys of stepfamily life, navigating unbreakable ties formed before she was around and dealing with a trouble-making, boundary-free ex with a penchant for encroachment and manipulation.
At least the Lovely Man’s Boys are worth the dramas. I’d have a VERY hard time if we were going through all that for a trio of naughty, floor-weeing canines.
G was clearly relieved to share her situation with someone who all-too-easily understood the emotional toll it was taking, while I got a timely lesson in the grass not always being quite as green as it looks.
And, incidentally, for the first time I felt like we made an emotional connection that went beyond just doing stuff together.
We’ll be going to their wedding sometime next year. I’ll be looking out for something like this: