How much is too much togetherness? I thought I was actually enjoying my husband’s company until last month when it was pointed out to me that Barry and I were spending too much time together.
We were on vacation, visiting friends and family, when one of our hostesses felt compelled to give me some unsolicited advice about my marriage. In the middle of an interesting conversation we were having about something totally unrelated, she took the liberty to suggest, “You and Barry spend way too much time together. My gosh, you even finish each other’s sentences!”
What I would normally have considered a compliment, I quickly realized was a put-down. Caught off guard, I couldn’t come up with words to express my thanks for recognizing our closeness and acknowledging our successful marriage. Instead, I replied weakly in my own defense, “We each have our own interests and don’t spend that much time together.” Then I changed the subject back to our original topic.
I kept her remarks to myself until we got home, then Barry overheard me telling my best friends about the caustic comment. Needless to say, all of my buddies, who are also in long-term marriages and in retirement mode, validated my point of view:
“We also enjoy one another’s company and like doing things together.”
“I still find my husband interesting and feel lucky that we’ve lived this long and stayed married so we can share experiences.”
“When you’ve been married since the age of 22 and gone through so many things as a couple for over 40 years, of course, we finish stories and sentences the same way.”
“I’m comfortable with my husband’s predictability—if every conversation turned into a challenge or confrontation, I could never have been married this long.”
Even our daughter concurred that she and her husband, coming up on only their fourth wedding anniversary, love the familiarity in their thinking and they often finish one another’s sentences. She, too, thought that was a good thing. Wouldn’t most people?
I wasn’t quick enough to articulate any of those responses at that moment. “You’re envious of our closeness because you’re divorced” would have been equally appropriate, but unkind. I can be judgmental, too, but not to the person’s face.
What made the conversation even more upsetting was the unsolicited advice came from a family member who I was visiting. What makes a relative feel entitled to offer an opinion on something she knows nothing about? What gave her the impression that my 43-year marriage or I needed fixing?
We were clearly having a wonderful time on our vacation, sharing a great trip, making new memories together. In my experience, for some reason families often don’t recognize social boundaries that friends do. Why should friends deserve our care and respect, but when it comes to family, people tend to forget their filters?
Since we’ve been home Barry and I have taken note of how often we’re on the same mental wavelength. I’ll be thinking about doing something or calling someone or remarking on a subject and he’ll beat me to it. Or vice versa.
Even the greeting card companies are on our side. The Valentine Barry gave me just a week ago substantiates our position: “To the One I Love—It’s nice to have someone who knows what you’re thinking without having to tell them because they’re thinking the same thing.”
And we’re thinking that how we’re thinking is nobody’s business but our own.
Sherilyn Krell, of Olivette, is a professional volunteer, who enjoys tap dancing, cooking, baking and travel. She and her husband have one married daughter.