MY SUR­PRIS­ING FRIEND Meet the un­likely BFFS

Some­times the strong­est re­la­tion­ships are the hard­est won, as these sto­ries prove…

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Front Page -

‘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

Jane says...

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.

Shona says...

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.

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