MY SURPRISING FRIEND Meet the unlikely BFFS
Sometimes the strongest relationships are the hardest won, as these stories prove…
‘To outsiders our friendship is strange – but it works’
They met through having the same husband but, over the years, Jane Sherwood Corbett and Shona Kelly have forged a genuine closeness
Our children were just two years and three months old when my husband decided to leave. We were both very passionate people. There was a strong love between us, but also fights and there were often rows, which he felt were too much to cope with. I was heartbroken when he left, and the prospect of looking after two young children on my own felt daunting.
But Martyn assured me that no matter what happened, he’d always be present in our children’s lives, and it was a promise he kept. As time passed, we were able to forge a friendship. I even came to understand that it was the right decision. We were almost too similar for our relationship to work.
Six years later, Martyn met Shona. I had no reason to feel antagonistic towards her, but I still wasn’t prepared the first time we met, by chance, on a night out at the theatre. Shona is 15 years younger than I am, and we were a little wary of one another.
To begin with, my conversations with Shona were very practical: when to pick up Hannah and Jacob, or what they should pack for holidays. As time went on we realised we had a lot in common – we both love the arts, the countryside and horse riding. We read the same books. Most importantly, we shared strong family values, agreeing that the children should come first.
When they had their own children and got married, our lives blended further. I enjoyed her company, and we developed a surprising bond. We began to have weekends in the country together, and it seemed logical to spend Christmas together, to save the children from splitting their time between houses. When I married Iro, he joined our big and unusual family. To outsiders, it might have seemed strange, but it worked. I even nicknamed Shona my wife-in-law!
But in 2006, life changed for all of us. Martyn was out cycling when he had a heart attack and died. We were all shocked, and Shona and I clung to one other for support. She’d often come over for dinner, and whenever Iro and I went to the theatre or opera, we would get her a ticket, too.
In many ways, our bond has grown since Martyn’s death. I feel like she knows me on a deeper level than most people, and our understanding of one another means we can always look to the other for support.
When I first met Jane at the theatre, I felt so nervous I had to hide in the cloakroom to compose myself. But to my relief, she made the encounter as easy and painless as possible.
When I met Martyn, I was conscious of not interfering in another family’s dynamic. Hannah and Jacob were cautious to begin with, so I took a step back to allow them time to be with their parents. I never tried to be their mother. I think Jane could see that we were on the same page and grew to trust me. Our friendship was a natural progression.
When Martyn died, I was heartbroken. With widowhood, there’s a discomfort that runs parallel to the grief. You’re suddenly alone, and when the majority of your friends are in couples, this can be difficult to deal with. People offered their condolences – but it was often just one phone call. It takes a certain sort of commitment to keep phoning, and Jane’s support was unwavering. She always knew exactly what to say to me.
Eleven years on from Martyn’s death, Jane and I remain close. Together, we have formed a happy and loving family unit. True friendship can be found in the most unexpected places.