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Help! My friend’s married a bore. By Charlotte Metcalf

Features | By Charlotte Metcalf

Oh, the joy when friends marry gripping people – and the agony when they end up with shockers. By Charlotte Metcalf

When my best schoolfriend (let’s call her Maria) married many years ago, I was living in Kenya – so I missed her wedding.

I didn’t meet her husband with her until about a year later – and what a night that was. It remains memorable as the joyous, laughter-filled recommencement of a deep friendship that endured until Maria’s death a decade ago.

Her widower remains one of my dearest friends, and the fact that he and I hit it off immediately undoubtedly enhanced my friendship with Maria.

I have met many couples and become – and remain – firm friends with both partners, as I did with Maria and her husband.

Yet the older I become, the harder I find it to adapt to friends’ new partners. We all depend on different friends for particular things, and when a new husband or wife whisks them away, we can be left feeling abandoned and often infuriated.

Why does Angie suddenly have to check with Johnny whether she can have a drink with me next Thursday? Or go to a play with me in January? Surely she can make her own mind up about arrangements? Apparently not.

Aside from these self-imposed restraints, I am also facing the fact that some of my friends have married downright bores. And this is not just about my resenting being abandoned on the shelf, while the bore runs off with my friend into the sunset.

As Maria’s husband demonstrates, there is nothing more delightful than warming immediately to a friend’s new spouse. Suddenly the world seems full of enriching possibilities as we start planning things to do together – sadly unthinkable with a bore.

Bores come in all shapes and sizes. I pride myself on being able to chat about pretty much anything. Yet I’ve been manoeuvred into countless conversational cul-de-sacs by friends’ new husbands when, after drawing out of them every account of their success and every single child’s name, achievement and academic prowess, I’ve not received a single polite enquiry in return.

Sometimes it can work the other way round. One husband was so keen to prove he could blend seamlessly into his new wife’s social life that he set out to charm me with his emotionally intelligent curiosity.

I flatter myself that I’m curious, but this bore’s attempts to engage with me comprised a volley of questions that might have been lifted from the census. How long had I lived in London? How many children did I have? Where had they gone to school?

There was excellent conversation full of amusing anecdotes flowing around us, but each time I was on the verge of drawing us both into it, he would continue on his relentless fact-finding mission.

Another conversation-stopper husbands can resort to when faced with a friend (of the wife) they can’t quite pigeonhole is ‘So what have you been up to lately?’

It sounds innocuous enough, but when they are meeting me for the first time, I simply have no idea where or how to begin.

There is the husband who spends the first ten minutes eagerly trying to discern whom we know in common before slowly revolving away from me when he finds out I am not related to those Metcalfs.

There is the cosy-looking, chatty, friendly but smug husband, whose concerned frown deepens along with his appalled, pitying silence as he discovers my children have not been to a public school and that I don’t have a husband. Being pitied is boring – it leaves no room for fun.

Another boring husband was the patronising wag who started chortling and shaking his head when I displayed a difference of opinion, before categorising me, as a journalist, ‘as a woke, paid-up member of the Islington chattering classes’.

With wives, it can be a very different story. There are those who are probably far from boring, but I don’t have a chance to find out as they are determined to keep their husbands away from their single female friend on the grounds that I must be desperate, predatory or both.

One male friend, whom I have known in an entirely platonic way for over 35 years, is forbidden from seeing me by his partner – she’s convinced I am on an impassioned mission to seduce him. I have another old friend whom I rarely see except at parties.

We only ever manage a brief exchange before his wife materialises at his side and fixes me with ‘Have we met?’ It’s easier to retire than to remind her just how often I’ve met her and been asked the same question.

There have been moments when my friends have been unimpressed by or positively antipathetic to my partners. One person’s bore is the object of another’s adoration; finding someone boring is entirely subjective.

It’s why I try always to feign delight in my friends’ choices, however much my soul wilts at the prospect of another evening spent in the company of their new beloved.

After all, they are probably dreading sitting next to me just as much.

This story was from February 2024 issue. Subscribe Now