The one that fights every night out – and all the other annoying couples you will know
By the time you are in your mid-twenties, you have observed many relationships. You have possibly endured several yourself. Their normal trajectory goes: fun – fine – fucking awful – finished.
But this standard trajectory contains room for deviation. For example, for some, the fun stage will be fleeting; others will still be shagging on the reg and sincerely enjoying each other’s company for several years after lift-off. Others will seemingly exist in the limbo of near break-up for half a decade.
You watch all these people slack-jawed, a little horrified, totally baffled.
The unbalanced one
She is engaged and engaging; she is conversational and interested. She’s quite fit – not bewitching, but certainly distracting – and she’s a lot of fun. She is undeniably a catch: she has a filthy laugh and a nebulous but undeniable sex appeal. She’s clever. She’s quite cool, she has a job that isn’t that interesting, really, but gains something intangible in her retelling.
He is fine. He’s quite good-looking – bit short, maybe, but nice face – and has a job in something that sounds like it should be interesting. He doesn’t sell it well. He doesn’t sell much of anything: he is quiet. You realise he’s been on the fringes of your social group for several years, but he has never once suggested a plan. Invariably, she makes the plans or pledges attendance to the suggested plan on the group WhatsApp and he slopes along too. You have a secret fear of ending up next to him at the pub.
But mystifyingly, she really, really likes him. She spends all her time with him; she puts him on her Instagram. She could do so much better, everyone is thinking – everyone except her. At some point, after they’ve been going out for a few years, he dumps her.
Thank God, everyone is thinking – everyone except her.
The boring one
They text religiously at the same time every late afternoon to start pitching suggestions for dinner. They have a repertoire of seven to ten meals. They have a viewing schedule of four or five shows they are watching on Netflix. They visit each others’ families relatively regularly. They have really perfunctory sex. They have started to look a bit like each other.
The one that tries to pretend they aren’t boring
We can see you WhatsApping him under the table, about midnight-ish, to say you’re about to skip out on the pub/party/group dinner/night out and head to his in an Uber (‘smiley face’). You hope that because you’ve been out for the early, PG part of the evening, you will manage to delude the group into believing that you’re still a laugh – as much of a laugh as you were when you were single. We’ve all noticed. Everyone has noticed and they are rolling their eyes so hard you could hear the swivel if you hadn’t already run towards the plush seats of your escape Uber.
Occasionally, the other one comes out. Maybe they do something really wild like get drunk or take some drugs. You know that they’ve been planning this: that they have had a conversation about how they’re ‘going out tonight’. It feels as forced as it is and you resent them all the more for it.
The one that has a fight on every single night out
She wants to stay. He wants to leave. He wants to stay. She wants to leave. It’s the same thing, they are having the same fight, it doesn’t really matter. They are standing in the corner of this house party, or the smoking area of that club, or outside the front door of the bar where your other mate is having their birthday drinks, hissing at each other – which amplifies rather than muffles the sound of their altercation. One of them is more drunk than the other. You do not understand why they cannot just go home separately. No one understands why they cannot just go home separately.
Invariably, they both leave. As they make an exit, the one who wanted to stay will toss a loud, resentful comment at your group about how they “don’t want to leave but have to” and the other one will roll their eyes and huff loudly and half walk off in the direction of the waiting Uber.
You do not have to. You can go home separately. No one understands why they are still having this argument and no one sympathises.
The one that includes one of your housemates
At first, you loved your housemate’s other half. She got drunk with you all on that languid summer’s day and when you were heading to pick up the pizza you ended up walking with her. She was wry and funny – you reckoned your mate had done well for himself. You could see yourself happily including her in some of these future, halcyon household plans.
You do not have a choice: she is always there. She is always included. You are not happy.
Wednesday evening: she is there, at the kitchen table, making desultory criticisms of his method for chopping the vegetables. Friday night, she is there: late, and drunk, falling out of her heels on the doormat. Saturday morning she is there, wearing one of his jumpers and wailing on the sofa about her hangover. Sunday evening she is there, wearing one of his jumpers and wailing on the sofa about the ‘Sunday night blues’. You say something chippy about how you love your job – it’s not true – and she peers at you askance.
You do not understand why you behave this way. You do hate your job; you also have Sunday night blues. The contrariness derives from a place of resentment. You do not want to share your home – your only haven, and it isn’t even very nice and is very expensive – with her every single evening. You do not want to make small talk with her. You do not know her and yet you know things about her that you do not want to know and you did not ask to know. You’ve seen her a bit naked after a shower and the sight of her flesh made your skin crawl. You despise her and the strength of your own venom frightens you.
The one who always brings her boyfriend
Technically, this is a type of friend, not a type of couple. But these days the friend is indivisible from her status within the couple. You text her and suggest a catch-up drink: she agrees and you’re thrilled because you’re upset about something – or specifically, someone – and you’re really relishing someone who will unpick it all with you. She turns up with her boyfriend and instead you sit, silently swilling a pint, as the pair of them perform for you. Or – even worse – she manages to get it out of you and then suggests that he help you work through it (“hey, good thing we have a man’s perspective!”) and he tries to get all chummy with you and talk to you conspiratorially like you’re mates. You’re not mates.
Three pints in, you’re pissed and go to the loo and have a small weep before returning to the table. You buy cigarettes for the first time in four months.
The new couple
You haven’t seen either of them properly for weeks. When you do one of them has a lovebite. You are both disgusted and a bit jealous.
The really together one
They never have a fight on a night out. Sometimes they leave together; sometimes they leave separately, but they never argue about it. They spend evenings together – but not every evening. They share the load evenly between houses – which is irrelevant because their other half’s housemates love them anyway. They are sociable and do not spend all evening glued to each other’s side. They go on holiday together but they also go on holiday with their separate mates. They do not text each other all day; nor do they try and pretend that they dislike each other when they have company. They are just comfortable.
This couple shouldn’t exist – no one is that together – but by the time you’re in your midΩ-twenties, you know at least one. Curiously, you think you hate them more than any of the other annoying couples you know because you honestly do not understand how two people can be this quietly, unobtrusively happy.
The one that’s just having so much fucking fun
They’re always out. They’re always laughing. They’re always drunk. They’re always at a festival. They’re always on holiday. You can’t say for certain but you suspect they are always shagging. Their lives are like a high-octane, sexed up One Direction video.
The hearty one
They go for walks. They go for bike rides. They have trained for and run a marathon together. You have unfollowed them on both Facebook and Instagram.
The one that broke up
It was, of course, horrible at the time. But the time was two years ago, and frankly, you are all rather tired of tip-toeing around their not-especially-weird situation. People break up. Deal with it.
And so you invite them both to everything; you are sick of getting a text from the one you are closer to five minutes later expressing their misery that the other one is coming. Yet you observe that they spend the entire evening watching each other, or chatting, or buying each other a ‘drink’, with a wry, fondly indulgent smile. You observe that they are still considerate of each other – he orders an American Hot and then nips to the loo as the food arrives. She knows it’s for him and makes sure it reaches his table. This is a pseudo-relationship.
They carry on like this – and it could be for years – until one of them finally starts going out with someone else and the other is heartbroken, again. You suspect that this time, lacking the crutch of the pseudo-relationship, they will not recover.
The one that never got together in the first place
For years, your friend has been shagging this person. And so for years, you have had to hear about this person. They have been sending each other texts loaded with (unsubtle) subtext, or casting each other intense looks: you have heard all about it. They do ‘nice’ things for each other: you have heard all about them. They shared a ‘moment’: you have heard all about it. Twice. You are told, earnestly, regularly, that they ‘just get each other better than anyone else’. Thanks, you think, and wondering why, therefore, it is you who is listening to this tortured monologue about why they can never be together.
They will never be a real couple – it would have happened by now. You know this, though you cannot tell them this, or even suggest it, for fear that it will send them plummeting further into this self-made pit of rank self-obsession. You wonder if their crush is also doing this with their mates. If so, they definitely deserve each other.