If Long Term Relationships Were Explained on First Dates We Might All Be Serial Daters.

Nobody teaches us how to be in long term relationships but we sure get judged if we fall out of them, for not knowing how to do it any more. We even get judged if we seek help for not knowing, as if it’s something we’re meant to instinctively know how to do.

After one divorce and fifteen years into my second long termer, I’ve finally figured something out about relationships. Well, I didn’t figure this out by myself, a wise relationship whizz gave me a gift last year after lockdown that helped me figure it out. And as we’re all in another wave of lockdowns here in New Zealand I thought I would pass it on.

The whizz explained that when we’re in a relationship it’s not just us in one corner of the ring and them over there in the other corner.

We think this is what it is.

Them and us. Him and her. Her and her. Him and Him. Me and them.

It is the two of us, or the two of you, but you build something in between you that is the relationship. It’s separate and it has a life of its own. It’s like a sphere or orb that exists between the two of you.

Some days it feels as fragile as a balloon and some days it’s a comet hurtling out of control but here’s the rub. If you hurl stink things into that relationship orb with the intention of it landing on them, your partner, it doesn’t land on them. The orb is a reflection so the stink thing comes back to whack you in the face.

It might not be the same stink thing you threw in but the intent comes back because the relationship orb has its own ecosystem, if you feed it with garbage you get garbage back.

If only they explained this stuff on condom packets.

Because, let’s be honest, it’s hard to be nice and considerate and kind to each other every single moment. Especially in lockdown! Sometimes you’re peeved about the used tea bags in the sink FFS, but if you keep getting irritated the relationship orb gets irritated and then next minute they’re irritated with you for putting onion skin in the worm farm.

And you know what happens then.

You can’t believe your life has been reduced to a fight about tea bags and worm farms and surely it’s about bigger, more galactic, more important things like love!

Relationships are challenging and if anyone tells you it’s all bliss and kisses, then they’re in the first 11 months so tell them to shut up and come back in 11 years. They are work but throwing good things into the relationship orb, like making them a cup of tea instead of straight to the couch with yours, or saying how you really feel when you would prefer to have a long sulk, feeds the orb with goodness. It makes it healthy. It makes it stronger. It makes it better.

It helps the relationship withstand bad times, pandemics included.

Now, when I have an urge to fester because sometimes I am ten years old and I don’t feel like behaving nicely because I’m hurt or disappointed or worried, then I think about the orb. Crap in. Crap out, I tell myself. It’s like an insurance plan for what’s around the corner. You don’t even have to do it for them, do it for future you. It’s the best kind of selfish.

It’s annoying it’s taken me 50 years to figure this out but better late than never. I’m so glad this guy’s in my orb (maybe not my bedroom while I’m trying to type this while the kids are spread out in every other room of the house though).

All the best out there.

Thank you Victor Huang for the photo, taken in Mendocino, CA.

PS. I haven’t sent out a blog story since 2018. Regular is not my middle name. Mostly, I’ve been interviewing people who are way more interesting than me.


  1. Great metaphor Angela. I’m rolling with the orb – it allows space for imperfection and for there always to be a new chance too to throw in some nourishing light. xx


  2. Thanks Ange. A good reminder. Think it was Khalil Gibran that wrote, ‘Give your hearts but not into each others keeping …’etc etc…
    build it together. x


  3. Angela Barnett! Who the hell is Angela Barnett?! So great to see you posting again and especially these beams of insight, this orb metaphor. It’s really good, and expresses what I sometimes think about mine, this “us,” that’s truly unique and arguably bigger and better than either one of us, when you put the two together. Thanks for sharing and re-emerging during these hard times. Hang in there, happy memories of California and more to come some day. Best, Bill


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