I find that people can be offensively curious, and we live in society that has become unapologetic about asking the tough questions that would have once been saved for quiet contemplation outside of one’s presence. “Why are you single?” is one of my favorites, and over the years I’ve crafted a whole bunch of responses I’d like to give to that particularly obtuse question. “Because I hog all the covers.” “Because I killed my last husband and everyone I’ve dated since that time has found that to be pretty intimidating.” “Because I have huge, malodorous lesions all over my private parts and no one can seem to get past it.” The responses I concoct in my head get more and more crass as the years pass by. I keep them to myself.
My second most favorite obtuse question, which is actually in the same family as the first obtuse question is, “Why did you get divorced?” Which is really just a slightly more polite way of asking, “What did you do to screw everything up in your marriage?” Or at least that’s what I hear. And to that, I do have an answer that doesn’t involve any snark or defensive deflection. Of course, it’s taken me the better part of 11 years to perfect my snark-free answer, but that is beside the point.
When asked this question (which I must add, you might be surprised as to how often it is asked) I say that I married a man who was a lovely man but who was also a people pleaser. And day after day, year after year, he made a habit of letting people (namely, me) make all his decisions for him. So much so, that we would go to a restaurant for dinner and when asked by the waitress what kind of dressing he wanted on his salad, he would reply to her, “I don’t know. You decide.” I mean really! Who does that? There are many things in life I don’t care about or even have the required knowledge to have formulated an opinion. But salad dressing? Please. We all have a favorite salad dressing.
So anyway, as the story goes, this very lovely man spent 13 years letting others (namely, me and the occasional waitress) make decisions on his behalf and stuffing his opinions (if he had any) deep inside. And conflict? Forget about it. If there was conflict or even the foreshadowing of conflict, he did what any good, stoic man of Scandanavian descent would do: He swept it under the rug. And after 13 years of sweeping his garbage under the rug, lo and behold he came home one day and there was a ginormous, insurmountable, irritating-as-all-get-out mountain under the rug. Right there in the living room.
And that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan.
Yes, as I say, after thirteen years of seemingly not caring about much of anything, he suddenly cared a whole lot. Because he had had enough of others (namely, me) bulldozing him and making his decisions for him and he couldn’t take it for another second. Once he achieved this realization, it didn’t take long for things to unravel. Not only did they unravel, they unraveled in such an unpleasant way. As I have looked back and have tried to take the lesson from it all, I know this for sure: That mountain is a dangerous thing.
It’s a dangerous thing, but it’s an easy thing to contribute to. As you start a new relationship – when everything is bright and shiny and you are determined to put forth your best self – it can be hard to assert yourself. But to deny your voice, in the beginning, the middle or the end really, is a dangerous thing. Because to deny your voice is to contribute to the mountain. I can’t tell anyone else what to do, but I for one have made a commitment in all of my relationships – especially those that matter the most – that there simply won’t be any mountains. I’ve been there, and in spite of what people might say, the view just isn’t that great.