My daughter was in a dance class and I was waiting in the lobby of the studio. I was in the middle of typing up an article about relationships when I overheard some major gossip.
Two other women were in the lobby with me. They were chatting and realized that they had a mutual friend.
Liza. Poor girl.
When they made this connection they immediately lowered their voices to a whisper, which obviously caught my attention.
Apparently, Liza had talked with both of them individually about being very unhappy with her life. She was married with three children. She expressed some regrets and fears that she had married the wrong man. Her friends knew both her husband and the man she wished she had married.
And they had a lot to say about it. Their response to Liza’s unhappiness surprised me enough that I wanted to write this experience down.
They did not react well to Liza’s confession and likely made the situation worse with their “marriage advice.”
1. They Invalidated Liza’s Feelings
Both women expressed that when Liza shared these (very vulnerable) feelings with them, they responded with, “Are you crazy? Jace is an amazing husband. How could you be unhappy?”
First of all…
What does it matter if Jace meets all the requirements for a “perfect husband”?? If Liza is unhappy, THEN SHE IS UNHAPPY. As her friends, it is not their job to point to all the reasons she should be happy. Their job is to listen to why she feels this way and validate how she feels.
Having Liza sweep her feelings under the rug is not going to solve her marriage problems. It will only make them worse!
2. They Were Naive To Some Early Relationship Flags
Apparently Liza was a heartbreaker. She had been engaged several times before Jace and called them all off. All the boys loved her and she could have had any guy she wanted.
But Jace was different. He didn’t seem to fall head over heels for Liza.
The following is an exact quote that I wrote down during their conversation because I was so baffled by the story unraveling in the dance studio lobby.
“And that was a challenge for her. She had never experienced that before. I mean, did he like her? Yeah. But he wasn’t head over heels for her.”
First of all, if Liza had repeatedly ended engagements, it’s likely that she wasn’t ready for marriage. And possibly still wasn’t ready for marriage when Jace came along. But. Everyone agreed that he was the “perfect guy for her” (EXACT QUOTE) and maybe outside pressure finally convinced her to go through with this engagement.
Second, these women just described Liza’s relationship with her husband as “a challenge” and “good for her” because he “wasn’t head over heels for her” (EXACT QUOTES).
Maybe that bothers Liza! Maybe she wants her husband to be head over heels for her! Or even, dare I say, love her. And yes, relationships take work. But they should not be emotionally or physically draining. Whatever it takes to make your marriage work should not simultaneously make you unhappy.
If her friends weren’t so focused on how good of a husband they thought Jace was, they might have been able to listen to Liza’s concerns about why she felt he wasn’t the right husband for her.
3. Their Advice Was Centered Around Keeping Liza In Her Marriage
Much of their advice to Liza was to convince her to stay in her marriage.
It is not their job to keep Liza in her marriage. As friends, it’s their job to sit with her and her feelings surrounding the possibility that she made a mistake. Or suggest that working with a licensed therapist could help her.
One of the women literally said (AND I QUOTE), “As friends, we had to put her in her place. ‘Hon, you’ve got kids…’”
Put her in her place? What place is that? Depression? Denial? The submissive woman who’s trapped in her marriage? PLEASE, elaborate on what you think her place is in her life.
She’s got three kids? So she can’t be happy? She can’t want more from her marriage because she has three kids?
And, I get it. Divorce is tough on kids. No one wants to tear their children’s lives apart! But, why do you think Liza is still in her marriage, even though she’s unhappy? She’s likely only there for her kids.
Staying in an unhappy marriage is not fair to anyone involved. It’s not fair for Liza, because she’s unhappy. It’s not fair to the kids, because their mom is unhappy and that can affect her parenting and emotional availability for them. AND. It’s unfair to Jace. It’s not fair to be married to someone who doesn’t want to be with you. And he deserves to know (and needs to listen to) Liza’s real feelings about their marriage.
Conclusion: This Was Really Bad Advice
When their conversation was finally over, I sat there stunned. As someone with my own marriage struggles, I could not believe the “advice” that they had given Liza.
Essentially they told her:
— — Your feelings don’t matter.
— — You’re crazy if you don’t think Jace is the perfect husband.
— — You should feel guilty for being unhappy.
— — You should feel guilty for not loving Jace: the perfect husband.
— — It doesn’t matter if you don’t find your marriage fulfilling.
— — Stop questioning your marriage and stay in your place.
— — Your kids are more important than you.
So, if you’re struggling with your own marriage (or, if you’re actually Liza and you’re reading this), know that your feelings are not wrong. You have every reason to feel this way. It’s okay to reevaluate your marriage. Especially if you don’t find it fulfilling.
You only get one shot at life. Why spend it being unhappy? The longer you’re in a rocky marriage without fixing it or ending it, the harder it will be to do either.
If anyone has ever given you similar advice, know that it’s not good marriage advice. And you don’t have to listen to them. But I do suggest that you visit with a licensed therapist to work through your struggles.