Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"Call Me In Seven Years"

This week, near the end of the day, a co-worker said, "Heather, I have a headache."

"Oh, I'm so sorry."

"Yeah, I hate my husband."

Oy. And again I said, "Oh, I'm so sorry."

She smiled a toothy smile and replied, "It's okay. I just try to focus on his good qualities. He just has so many bad qualities." Another big smile.

I never know what to say in these situations, particularly with the language and cultural barriers standing between us.

She continued, "He's so frustrating." Laugh. "He doesn't listen to me!" Smile. "I stay for the children."

Don't we all tend to chuckle awkwardly when we're grasping at the end of our rope? We are without hope. We don't know what to do next. We've gotten angry. We've gotten sad. Now we just try to smile the pain away.

And now walking out the door, she said, "You talk about your good husband, Jeremy. You have been married for two years. I have been married for seven. Call me in seven years. You will be miserable like me."

And then she smiled. And chuckled to herself. And walked away.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

It pained me to see her so desperate. So unhappy. So hopeless. And also, at the same time, it was hard for me to separate what she was feeling from what I was feeling. I don't think my co-worker meant any of this to be unkind. I don't think she was trying to hurt my feelings. However, this kind of conversation always feels like a bit of a jab.

I've lost count of how many times an older, married woman has told me (essentially),
"You're happy now, but just wait. He'll change. 
Then, you'll be unhappy like me."

And I don't know what to do with this.
I don't know how to respond.
What is the appropriate reaction?

Am I supposed to be unhappy?
Am I supposed to see misery as indefinite?
Am I supposed to prepare for the worst so it doesn't hurt so much?

I don't know. But how I want to respond is:
"Hey, I'm sorry you're unhappy, but what are you trying to accomplish by telling me this?"

Because I feel like this kind of comment comes from a place of discontent. These women are not trying to offer me helpful advice. I feel like they are saying, "You're happiness makes me long for what we used to have and the thought of that absolutely breaks my heart."

And for that I'm truly sad for them.

Maybe I'll feel differently about marriage in seven years.
Maybe I lack "credibility" now because we're only 22 months into this thing.
But frankly, it's not worth arguing about who's right.

Because regardless of the state of my marriage years from now, I will never tell a newly married couple--all rosy and joyful in their glee--that "This is temporary and it's all downhill from here!"

Because our lives are our own.
They are built out of our own decisions.
Made painstakingly every single day.
The words we say. And don't say.
The behaviors we repeat. And those we let go of.
The beliefs we hold on to. And the ones we let slip away.

And today, I am choosing to celebrate the love that we have right now.
And the love that will carry us through.


Carley Brown said...

You always write the best stuff. Thanks for sharing this conversation. I hope no one is able to steal your joy.

KendraKay at said...

This is so sad because it sounds like this is an accepted state of things for these women. I'm sure it's discouraging to hear so often, but Brian and I are coming around to our 14th year this summer and it's still truly wonderful. You aren't mistaken. :)