TESTIMONY: our mutual friends ...

You marry your husband for better or for worse. But do you have to take on his ghastly friends as well? Elizabeth Bergheim sincerely hopes not
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Indy Lifestyle Online
they are a delightful couple; chatty, warm-hearted Northerners, and old friends of my husband. I hate them. I feel particularly guilty about it because they are nice people. I don't think they like me much either, though. We just don't click.

On the (mercifully fairly rare) occasions when we coincide in the pub, conversation tends to run something like this:

Her (casting about desperately for a topic): "So, what are you writing about at the moment?"

Me (not tuned into impenetrable Yorkshire burr): "Sorry?"

Him: "What are you writing this week?"

Me (going scarlet): "What?"

Her (slowly and clearly, as to an idiot): "What - are - you - writing - about? You - know ... at - work?"

Me (flustered): "Oh, you know, nothing much ... erm ... how about you, selling any good houses?" (She is an estate agent.)

Her: "Oh, nothing exciting."

It's painful. They must go home and wonder to each other how on earth their good friend got hitched up with such a stupid and boring woman. I can't help it: language barrier aside, these people and I simply have nothing to say to each other. But as we share a mutual interest in my delightful husband, our paths keep crossing. To make it worse, they don't live far away. It's very hard to say to your spouse, when he says "Let's meet Catherine and Andrew (not their real names) for Sunday lunch in the pub," to scream, "I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I never want to see them again." He loves them. He will not understand.

Especially as they have never done anything worse than attempt small talk over the odd pint. How I wish Andy would make a drunken pass at me while Cathy rifles through my handbag and nicks my Access card: that would be a bloody good excuse to cross them off the Christmas card list.

We had them round to supper recently. It was me that invited them; it just somehow slipped out. "Great!" burbled Andy. "I'll bring my fiddle!"

"Right, yes, wonderful," I answered, going rigid with horror. Fiddles mean music, music means singing, he was going to try and instigate some kind of after-dinner singsong, oh GOD. Lots of people would no doubt be delighted at the prospect of a jolly communal warble over the post-prandial coffee. Not me. I plied them so assiduously with red wine that by the time the meal was over, they were nearly asleep and had to go home.

Narrow escape, though. Nearly as narrow as the time that he appeared brandishing barge holiday brochures. Faced with the prospect of cosying up to Cathy and Andy in a space the size of a wardrobe for a week, I would have thrown myself overboard within 10 minutes. Thank God all leave had been suspended at work, what with the office move coming up (ahem).

Avoidance tactics are few and far between (deleting their answerphone messages, and then forgetting to pass them on is limitedly effective; a touch obvious if you do it too often, though). This is unfortunate, because once you have allowed yourself to suspect that at least one of your husband's friends is not perfect, you start to notice the problems with all the rest of them. The one who is obviously secretly sneering at everything you say. The one who was rude about your mother. The couple who come round regularly and drink their way through your wine stocks, and never, ever bring a bottle. The one who goes right back to primary school days and has evidently not made much progress since then.

Sadly, though, there's not much to be done about it. Even the teeniest criticism of any of the above sad specimens gets a very frosty response. It's understandable. Criticising anyone's friends is a definite slur on their own good taste. Once I breezily asked my husband if he would care to join me and my friend Maria for a drink that evening. He said that he would rather stay in and watch television, on the grounds that he didn't like Maria one bit - and never had, because in his opinion she was not only snivelling and drippy, but also irredeemably stupid.

For days afterwards I thought "Surely I am not the kind of person who has snivelling, drippy, thicko friends?" In the end I decided that he was simply misguided, if not totally deluded. But it certainly held me back from laying into Andy and Cathy.