One of the seemingly simpler things on our bucket list is to spend time with people we like as a couple. Coming together at this stage in our lives means we inevitably have different friends and social circles, and we’ve agreed it would be nice to be able to socialise with people we both like and can forge new friendships with, together.

This has been a challenge over the past year, as we’ve struggled to integrate and maintain existing friendships when the dynamics have so obviously changed. For in finding ourselves in love and openly displaying that, it seems to have thrown the proverbial cat among those damn pigeons. We’re fully aware that in daring to make difficult decisions and pursue our own happiness, it can hold up a mirror for others to look at things that, in their own lives, may feel a little too uncomfortable.

To cope we’ve inevitably turned ourselves inwards for a while – partly from the shock of discovering that not everyone feels quite as delighted about us as we’d hoped, partly because processing our shit together and having four kids to consider on top of work is a full time job in itself, and also because we adore spending time together…yep even doing the mundane shit like food shopping!

This weekend, however, we turned outwards and bucket list-wards, and had friends over for dinner. Joy, is a mutual friend who has known us separately, and Jo is one of Lea’s friends, and who is now also good friends with Joy, a fellow illustrator. We were flattered that Jo would choose to drive 3 hours on a Friday afternoon to come up just for the night – which was all the rest of us, as mothers, could spare (especially when she does cool shit in her spare time like go to Echobelly gigs! Jealous, me? Yes!).

Given my recent discoveries about the many defences I use to not be seen, I was nervous about the evening…

I had only met Jo once at Lea’s birthday, when I got drunk, played the loudmouth fool and didn’t really allow anyone to see beyond the ‘clown’ exterior. I’ve often felt intimidated by Joy, so I’ve tended to keep her at arm’s length in much the same way or become my Sid James-esque alter ego as a way of lifting myself up at someone else’s expense/discomfort. All to divert attention away from what’s really going on for me – feeling inadequate and not good enough.

A slight misunderstanding via messenger prior to their arrival didn’t steady my nerves and I went into the evening sure I wouldn’t be able to relax and allow the ‘real’ me chance to ‘come out’. However, Lea and I were in a very connected place, we’d spoken about me trying to relax into being me, she spent most of the evening physically connected to me in some way – so I felt loved and cared for and seen and held – and I’d had a big glass of Prosecco!

We spent a relaxed 5 hours together – eating, drinking, talking, laughing, playing guitar and various ridiculous percussion instruments, singing, eating some more and sharing quite personal and intimate things about ourselves and our lives. No unease, no sense of needing to hide, no feelings of needing to dilute my relationship and happiness with Lea to rescue anyone else. Just frank and honest conversations where we were all able to see each other and be seen in return – and accepted and cared about.

Given that this level of connection is something that I am always seeking, it was quite astonishing to find it so easily in two people I didn’t know that well and it was a relief to be able to allow myself to be seen, which is a credit to both Jo and Joy.

It was also interesting to have others see us as a couple and how, as part of that couple, we are seen differently than perhaps people expect to see us – with Lea, the dominant one, and me less so! Having others see us together – and how our roles are actually more fluid and interchangeable than that – feels like the reality of who we are is being seen more fully and showing more of each of us in our entirety.

After a year of feeling like we’ve had to water down and even hide our lemonaid, tread carefully on many fronts, and generally feeling unsupported in various quarters, the evening was a really important milestone for us.

It’s reminded us of all the messages of love and kindness we’ve had from less obvious places and, that as Joy herself so beautifully put: “Some people you inspire and some people get jealous. I shouldn’t worry about the jealous ones“.