One of my wife’s high school friends—I’ll call her Becky—came to dinner, and because she and my wife stayed up late talking, Becky spent the night. Three weeks later, she’s still here. Becky went through a nasty divorce and my wife feels badly for her. I don’t. That divorce was five years ago. After her spousal support ran out, Becky says she tried to get a job but no one would hire her. She’s unemployed, estranged from family and roams the state couchsurfing. I think it’s because she actually prefers mooching to adulting. How do I get Becky to leave without pissing off my wife?
Your wife’s compassion is extraordinary. She recognizes Becky’s suffering, and is willing to suffer with her friend by tolerating the inconvenience of an additional person in the house. The flip side, of course, is that your wife’s generosity could interfere with Becky’s motivation to reinvent her life. Couchsurfing, as a lifestyle, does work for some people. But Becky’s choice isn’t fueled by a passion for adventure or an ascetic vow. The wound of her divorce blinds her to the gift of her divorce. Every crisis invites opportunities. But until we tend our wounds through reflection and a therapeutic process, we can’t apply the salve of renewal. If Becky is traveling from friend to friend, retelling her story, she may never get bored with her own suffering. Each of Becky’s friends, hearing the story anew, supplies her with empathy or sympathy or compassion. Those emotions feed her brokenness. Clinging to the story prevents freedom from the story.
You can inspire Becky’s shift toward evolution by gifting her with a copy of Spiritual Divorce by Debbie Ford. Also, please share my column with your wife and invite her to talk about it. But before you do, let yourself fully feel the beauty of your wife’s heart. Tell her how her compassion for Becky has opened your eyes, and taught you so much more about friendship and love.
My twin boys are graduating soon and I’m dreading it. The boys want a party with both parents in attendance. My ex-husband is now married to the girl (she’s barely 30) he had an affair with while he was married to me. She’s a complete idiot who blabs endlessly about herself and gossips within earshot of the people she’s gossiping about. My ex seems oblivious. My boys are not. They don’t like her but they love their dad. Do you have any suggestions about how to keep things civil at graduation and the party?
Yes, as the author Alex Haley once said, “Find the good and praise it.” Start here: You are no longer stuck in a marriage with a cheating spouse. Yay! Now celebrate this: You are conscious enough to notice that your ex-husband’s new wife is insecure and self-centered. Huzzah! Make a leap to this: You have a new family member. Yes, it’s true. This annoying young woman is related to you through your sons. She’s likely to be in your life for a while. More importantly, she is in your sons’ lives. So use the twins’ graduation and party as a showcase. Show your family how fabulous you are. Let your sons discover how a classy adult woman behaves in a difficult social situation. Let them watch you rise above the pettiness. Yes, be spectacular, like a goddess among the sunbeams.