Sunday, November 21

Losing The Right To Complain

People say that I am a patient person; in fact too patient at times, they say. People also say that I am a good listener; that’s why people and problems flock to me, I’m told.

But this weekend, I was neither of these. My friend stayed over the weekend. And what she had to say (not the first, second nor third time for me to hear) triggered a tirade from me. Why? Here’s why.

Your husband cheats on you. Painful. I get it. I got cheated on as well. Twice. So, I get it. Question is, what do you do next?

First time she told me about it, she sounded like she wanted to fight for him. She wanted him back. Fine. So, I supported that. I can understand. They married right out of college, had a baby, immediately migrated to and started a life from scratch in the US, had another kid (a special one) and stayed married for the next 23 years.

But I told her: “You’ve got to drop it. No more mention of the cheating. Forgive and forget. You can’t keep bringing it up.”

She agreed.

Two months later, she called again and ended spending the night over. Turned out, she caught her husband again. With the same woman. I tell you, I’ve never seen such a woman scorned in real life. She talked my ears off till 3 am! The following day, we parted ways with a list of her “things to do” to get her domestic affairs in order.

Several phone calls later, she’s back at my place with the same rants. Then I asked her: “Where are we on the list of ‘things to do’”?

The answer I got: “One.”

All these months, she had done only one item on a list of 12. She’s still working on the 11 others. She’s still “analyzing and planning” how. In the meantime, she allowed her husband to move back in. She’s still scheming. And ranting! Over the same things! We are where we first started. We are going in circles!

And she had the gall to tell me: “You don’t understand. You’re not married and you don’t have kids.”

I wanted so much to blurt out: “Then why are you coming to me? Why don’t you go talk to someone who’s married and has kids?! Go waste somebody else’s time!” Thank God I was able to hold these thoughts in. 

What I did tell her is:  "Look. We've swung from one end of the pendulum to the other.  You wanted to work it out and I supported you.  You wanted to leave him and I supported you.  I feel frustrated because we're neither here nor there.  You've barely made a move and yet here you are complaing about your husband!  What about you?  What are you doing to make things better; if not for the two of you as couple, at least for yourself?"

Geeeez! All these months, all those talks, all those rants! I can only be patient and help so much! The rest must come from the actual person herself. It’s not very motivating to help someone who will not help one’s self. I don’t think anyone who chooses to find reasons – no, excuses – and remain in a miserable situation has the right to continue complaining.

I may be wrong and judgmental, but I believe that one loses the right to complain when one chooses to stay miserable when there is a reasonable opportunity to make things better and be happy.


719Laura said...

Hi Sam,

I hope you dont find this intrusive but I wanted to offer you some wisdom in this. I was that woman in your story once upon a time..Although the man I was married to didnt cheat on me I was facing the dilema of leaving or staying and having a child who I had to put through the decision I made.

My best friend used to listen to my endless sob stories and supported me through various mood swings and torturous rants. One day she finally told me basically to shit or get off the pot. Needless to say, that did not go over very well and she lost my friendship and trust as a result.

I realize how frustrated you are and how your patience is wearing thin but your friend although seemingly insane right now with the inability to make a decision is really feeling alone.

She comes to you for emotional support and strength because she trusts you. Her feelings are fragile right now and it isn't just herself that her decision will affect, as it will also affect her child. She has many vulnerabilities that you may not see or understand, she may have a sense of financial stability, which is keeping her from leaving and she may really just want what's best for her child but isn't sure what that is.

When she comes to you what she is needing is for you to create a diversion. Do something unexpected, take her to lunch, or to a movie, or do something that both of you enjoy. Tell her she has 10 minutes for a pity party and then the two of you will just enjoy the day/evening doing something that doesnt involve letting her be a drama queen because believe me, She doesn't want that either.

There is nothing better than a great friend to cheer you up when you're down and no better place to go than to a friend who can do this without passing judgement or interjecting their personal feelings and making you feel bad for being in a terrible situation. Be there for her but be her friend...not her sounding board.

Better Man said...

Hey Sam, I can see both sides of the story here, your post and the comment above. I can really understand your point. My mother in-law has problems with depression and she will say she feels sad or she just doesn't have the motivation to do anything. My wife and I always listen and try to support her. I have suggested that maybe she should go to the doctor and get something that may help her get back on feet and when she is better to go off them, but she will say that she doesn't have depression or that she will just ignore it. So we just keep encouraging her with some supporting words, but she continues to have down days. I once lost my patience with her told her that if she doesn't want help then stop complaining. After I calmed down I went and apologised for loosing my cool and once again I kept encouraging her.

I know that what is happening with your friend is different, but I can fully understand why you lost your cool.

Yes what 719Laura said is true as well. Distracting your friend by going out and setting rules about how much time she speak about it can work as well.

Don't worry about loosing your patience, we are all allowed to blow off some steam. A comment Robin Williams once said is that he is expected to be funny all of the time, he even has people walking up to him in the street asking him to make them laugh, but when he say that he just doesn't feel like doing it they think he is depressed. So you are the same. Yes, people come to you with their problems and you have great patience and care to listen to them, but you are allowed to take a step back and think about yourself.

Love is such a hard thing to deal with sometimes. You see women get beaten up by their husbands but they stay because they love their husband. Love can lead a person blind and they don't see or want to see the problem. You do what you feel is right, but let your friend know she needs to take a step back and have a look at her life and where she is going with it.

SAM said...

Hi Laura, I greatly value and appreciate your comment. And I agree with what you said that she needs me to be her friend and not her sounding board -- something that I am trying hard to do. But I think that's also why I get frustrated. I try to give her some diversion and fun, but she always finds a way to reference and get the conversation back to her husband, his other woman, his "stupidness", her "goodness", etc. So much so that I get tempted to practice "tough love" -- that as much as I empathize with her, she needs to know what she's doing wrong. But I promise you, I will not give up trying to be that friend. I will not give up trying to muster more patience, restraint, and empathy. Thanks again for reading my post and taking the time out to share wisdom.

Hi BM, thanks too for your own sharing and for the slack you're giving me for my weakness. Hope all is much better at your end.

Cheers, Laura and BM!

Better Man said...

I hope that did not take my comment as offensive? We all need to step back and look after yourself. It is great that you are continuing to help your friend. She is lucky to have a friend like you.

SAM said...

Hey, BM. No worries! No offense taken :-)