I had a pretty productive day today. Finished some important work for my research and course and edited my book manuscript that I will hopefully publish soon. I have been a hermit for the last couple of days/weeks and either hid at home in my office or at the library to get as much work done as possible. Not much human contact at all besides spending time with Petit Joel. When it was about time to pick him up from school today I thought he would be really happy to eat a cake pop so I headed to the nearby coffee shop. The little things.
While I waited in this humongously long line to place my order I realized the woman in front of me silently crying. She stared at her phone, scrolled nervously through messages, put it in her jacket pocket to just take it out again two seconds later. Out of the blue and catching me completely off-guard, she suddenly turned around and we started talking. She told me her husband fell in love with someone else and she just found out a couple of days ago. “Do you think this can be fixed? Do you think we have a chance? Do you think he will stop seeing her? How can I ever trust him again”, she asked me while I handed her a napkin from the little service counter where you can add milk to your coffee and get a lid for a coffee-to-go.
[Yes, the line was THAT long!] I smiled at her. No clue why, but I did. I reckon, no matter how heartbreaking a situation is I figured what could make her feel better. Maybe a stupid joke (I am good at that, too), something kind, true, funny or wise may help her. She continued talking while we slowly made our way to the counter feeling like I traveled back in time. She went from frustration and despair to hate and back to love. “We have two children! How can he cheat on me? Okay, we haven’t had sex or good sex and conversations for a while but why would he do this to me”, she sobbed. Her tones kept shifting from complete hopelessness back to being hopeful. “This line is very long, eh”, I said while handing her more napkins.
What do I know about relationships, marriages and all that? I am not a genius, I made and make mistakes but it felt I am giving this woman a private therapy session while waiting in line since I gave her this feeling that I understand what she is talking about. It was just fascinating to witness. She told me so many great things, too and it seemed like she figured things out by talking to me. We spoke for about 15 minutes and I want to share some of the lessons that were most memorable to me. She told me that time won’t heal her but actually what is happening throughout this time. She told me how she tries to build trust and affection back up after her husband has been unfaithful by using time and action wisely. She added that she does not want to end her marriage and wants to work on it. “Time will tell, I need time to move forward with him. Time will put everything back in place. I just need to wait”, she said why I silently hoped that this line will move forward. Don’t get me wrong. This conversation was good but I was late to pick up my son and this woman is crying, devastated and this is most certainly not a good, calm place to talk peacefully since it seemed everybody in the café was listening at this point. Besides this, I told her that she has to give the time meaning and a shape to make this work.
She told me that there is a difference understanding her husband mentally and emotionally. It is important to really listen to the other person and have a decent communication and trying to understand the partner. She said, “sometimes I talk to him and I have this feeling he does not get it, he does not understand what I try to say, he does not connect or cares about it. He hurt me and I try to understand”. I told her that it seems they are stuck in some argument and discuss this over and over. Maybe it is time to change the approach and see things from a different perspective that could inspire new levels of honesty? The woman felt understood while we made our way to order cake pops. She said that the weirdest thing for her is that her husband constantly talks about what happened to him and why he “needed” to cheat on her but leaves out what he did to her. “He never said I am sorry or I feel bad for you”, she said now with an angry tone. “Maybe you just need some type of acknowledgment of your experience from him rather than an apology”, I suggested. Who am I? A marriage counselor or what?
Studying linguistics, languages, and discourse I learned how powerful words can be. Sometimes by just changing the tone, language and the way we speak things experiences look different instantly. Sometimes repeating the same thing over and over does not make sense, is hurtful and useless. It is like running around in circles.
While we were about to order our coffees she told me that she just realized something. “I realize that I never listened to my husband anymore. I did not ask what he wanted or even considered his pleasures, fantasies, ideas, thoughts, and desires. He came home every night from work, we ate supper, talked a bit and he was off doing something. He fell asleep on the couch. No conversations anymore; no being truly intimate adding pleasure. When did we stop listening and hearing each other?”, she added.
We ordered our coffees and pastries, paid and she thanked me for listening. Then she left. Just like that. I realized that this quick conversation just scratched the surface of her story but I could see this woman and maybe see myself in her a bit which sparked more room for thought and conversations I must have with myself and my life.