“This is the problem with dealing with someone who is actually a good listener. They don’t jump in on your sentences, saving you from actually finishing them, or talk over you, allowing what you do manage to get out to be lost or altered in transit. Instead, they wait, so you have to keep going.”
A friend just told me she and her husband have recently considered separating.
Since my own Separation, many people have shared their problems with me. I have heard a lot of heartbreak from people I previously thought led perfect, worry-free lives, filled with luxury SUVs and private schools and summers on the Vineyard. But like everyone else, these friends struggle with all sorts of marital problems: infidelity, alcoholism, fighting, verbal abuse, unsavory Internet issues, loneliness, and deep-rooted feelings of insecurity and emptiness.
So I wasn’t surprised to hear another story. I was just surprised that this particular friend was telling me this story. Because I love her. I love her husband. I love them together. Let’s just face it: I’m in love with her family – or at least my image of her family.
So I confess. My first instinct was to stand up and start shrieking, “NO, NO, NO. You are making a HUMONGOUS mistake. Your marital problems are not NEARLY as bad as mine. It’s too hard to be divorced. And think of your CHILDREN!!!”
Thankfully I didn’t actually say any of these things. I just sat there, silently. I tried to remember the comfort I received from friends who just sat with me and listened to my divorce story without judgement.
My friend started out broadly. Big and vague. Then, like water pouring down through a funnel, her problems narrowed as she talked. Finally she described a plan. She did not ask for my advice or approval. She just talked.
I don’t know the ultimate ending to her story. I believe in my heart that this is just a small bump in the road for a long and happy marriage. But it’s not my decision. I just need to be here for her if she wants to talk about it again.