When I held my dinner party yesterday, the couple I had invited unexpectedly launched into a bitter row with both parties threatening to storm out of my flat. I found myself cast in the reluctant role of peacemaker. It reminded me of an incident years ago when I was still living in a bed-sit. My late friend rang me on the telephone in the communal hall to say that her boyfriend wanted to speak to me. I had never met him before, let alone spoken to him. I wondered what on earth he had to say to me. To my astonishment he asked if he and my friend could come around to my house, as they wanted my advice on their relationship. I was flummoxed as to why they would have chosen me but agreed. I could only think that they knew my mother was a psychotherapist and imagined I had somehow inherited her professional flair for counselling. I also thought that they felt they would be able to speak freely in front of me and that the other would be obliged to listen to their complaint in silence. I cannot recall anything about what they said or what I advised.
On Saturday night I had to force myself not to get involved. “I am not a therapist,” I repeated and would only suggest that they seek impartial professional help together.
“He doesn’t empathise with me, “ wailed my friend. “Why can’t he wear his heart on his sleeve like I do and not be so reserved in public?
I had heard similar sentiments voiced by my women friends many times over the years, complaining that their male partners didn't understand them. This time was somewhat different as the feelings were expressed by a gay man.
The couple had calmed down before they left and expressed their profuse apologies for their joint behaviour, casting a pall over an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable evening. I was simply relieved neither had walked out without the other. Nevertheless, I do not need a relationship counsellor myself to realise that the sturm und drang of modern relationships is one reason why I have remained resolutely single.