Have you ever driven through a neighborhood and wondered about the lives of its occupants? I do. It is a never ending source of fascination to me. One house can be completely dilapidated leading one to believe things aren’t good. While the biggest, best maintained property emanates an air of prosperity and happiness.
Then, it hits the fan and one discovers the folks in the big house have more problems than anyone could have imagined.
The paper does an expose’ on the older couple in the little house. They are happy as clams, but can no longer maintain the house.
Most of us are somewhere in the middle of this. The point is appearances are deceptive, and one can’t make judgements at a glance. At least they shouldn’t.
As I look at our life from the point of view of others it is frankly difficult to understand what the problem is. And so I practice patience when someone says to me, “He seems like a good enough guy.”
Well, der I married him. “He is a good man. That’s not the problem.”
Here’s where people want explanations, I wouldn’t give, because:
A. I’m still trying to sort it all out, how am I supposed to verbalize what I don’t understand myself.
B. If I launch into what I perceive as the problem, without proper background information, he starts to sound like a pathetic human being. And , or I start to look like a self-centered, cold person who doesn’t deserve him.
And then comes the well meaning, yet completely clueless suggestions.
1. Have you talked to him about this?
2. Maybe a weekend, just the two of you, would help.
Okay, here’s the deal. It’s past all of the simple stuff. I appreciate the concern, I really do. But you have no idea what’s been going on and I’m not going to launch into the history of our marriage with you. Some I will, most I won’t. Why?
It’s too complicated.
It’s too long.
I’m sure to forget some important tidbit that will leave you with bad feelings about one or both of us.
Most importantly? It’s our business. Only we can work it out or not. Who we are in the relationship may or may not be who you see.
So what should a person do when friends are having marital problems?
Listen – There is nothing as therapeutic than getting out so it can be seen in a different light. At some point action has to be brought up, nothing is as irritating as whining for whining sake.
Offer support – Relay an experience or two of your own which may offer solace.
Admit you’re clueless – It’s okay, really it is. I don’t expect someone to have all the answers or to fix this for me. Truth be known if someone tried to fix it we’d both, in all likelihood, unceremoniously kick them out on their ear.
Remind them of who they are when anger threatens to out weigh common sense. Humor helps here, really it does. “You want to kill him? Do you suppose the body would decompose in the septic tank?” “So, where are you going to run off to? Can I come?”
Divorce, separation, marital discord are impossible to understand from the outside of the relationship. Don’t try. Trust me, you don’t want to know. It would induce a headache you’d never forget.
It is as complicated a situation as there could possibly be. The older the marriage the more complicated it gets.