“The kids are grown. They have their own car. One’s in college. The other is going next year. Why don’t you get a job? We could really use the money.”
“I want to. But not just any job. I can’t go back to what I was doing. I need coworkers I can stand being around. And I need to keep doing something meaningful. I am not sure I could stand working in an insurance office again.”
“For the last 19 years, I have gone to a truly ordinary, not-so-meaningful job every day, even worked overtime, for you and the kids. I wanted to go into business for myself, but I could not take the risk. Now, all I am asking is that you help pay these college bills.”
“I will get a job. Really, I will. I might need to go back to school first, but I will get a job. I am just looking for something I can enjoy doing.”
“We’re not getting anywhere.”
No, they sure are not getting anywhere. Each one is defending a position, a story about what is fair, what a loving partner ought to do. They do this politely. They do it without raising their voices. But with each affirmation of their opposing stands, they pound a dividing wedge into their relationship.
It hurts to learn you will not get what you expected your mate to provide. To stop the pain, you can make demands — and harm your relationship. You can out-debate your partner — and harm your relationship. You can whine — and harm both your relationship and your status as mature adult worthy of emulation. Or you can choose to let the expectation go. Let all your expectations go, except one.
You have a problem, whether it is taking a risk on a career change as your kids go to college or finding your way back into the full-time work force after 19 years out. If no one had your back, if you had to do this on your own as a widow or widower with no one to love you, you could do it.
But you are not on your own. You are loved. You are loved by someone with remarkable strengths, different from your own, strengths to help you solve this problem. You are loved by someone who will make great sacrifices for you, some more easily than others. You are loved by someone who wants to show you love, but finds it harder to do so when you ask, over and over, for just one particular way of showing it.
Working a job is not the only way to bring in money. Your current expenses are not fixed in stone. Money is not the only way to put kids through college. Going back to school is not the only way to launch a meaningful career. Working a dull job is not so bad if you come home to support for your dreams or even to a great meal and a massage. And starting your own business is a lot less risky if someone else is pouring heart and soul into it with you.
When you do not get want you want, listen for that little voice in your head that says, “If you loved me, you would…” It is almost always wrong. You were expecting something other than love.
Think back to all the times you received love far greater than anything you expected. That is love. Expect love again. And get to work on solving your problem while you wait for it to surprise you.