« Back to "Policy blog"

When I was in my early and mid-teens I talked to my friends about boyfriends. A lot. Spurred on by it all being new and exciting (plus occasional doses of Archers and lemonade, Salt 'N'Pepa and More magazine) we talked about preferences, kissing styles, what he said, what I said, his clothes, his phonecalls, positions, how/what he smoked, whether he acted differently around his mates...

I realised when I read this article about a woman isolated from friends and family by her abusive partner that it's a long time since I've had a conversation like that. I can't pinpoint exactly when it happened. But as relationships got more serious and a sense of loyalty and privacy developed, the conversations changed.

I also realised this is, not exclusively, but particularly true of my friends who have children. Somewhere along the way, I or they or both of us started seeing them more in the context of parenting than their relationship(s). It hasn't been a conscious decision, but I realise when I reflect on it that I'd be more hesitant asking about their relationship. To intrude on a family seems somehow more invasive than gossiping about being a couple.

I love my friends, and though we spend less time together now than when we were teenagers or in our early 20s, we're still close. So it surprises me to realise there are some topics we've tucked away off limits – apart from plenty of affectionate jokes about who does or doesn't cook, watch too many rubbish films or spend enough time sharing the personal admin. Maybe we collectively worry that to talk more openly and honestly would expose doubts or concerns. After all, weren't we all taught about "happy ever after", in which that's not really allowed?

Maybe it's just me. Either way, I've resolved to change it. I would want a friend to tell me if something was wrong, so I resolve not to propagate the myth that everything is fixed at that moment we stare into someone's eyes and commit to having a baby (or even a sofa) together.