Careless Words Hurt

Years ago I worked with Marge, a woman who had moved to our city after her divorce. Her children were grown and she lived alone in a cute condo, working in a nonprofit and living off her pension. She had left her husband, an alcoholic, after a long marriage. A salty old broad from Maine, and I write these words with love and respect, her comments about her divorce and ex were always wry and sardonic.

One day I made a breezy, off-hand remark, something like, but “You’re divorced, you wouldn’t understand.” I don’t recall my exact words or their context. I do recall the enormous look of hurt on her face and the tears filling her eyes. I had wounded her.

Flash forward to my own situation. The young marrieds surrounding me regard my relationship with my ex as a colossal failure. I know now how Marge felt. For twenty-one years my marriage was a success. Bob and I were wildly in love and happy, holding hands and not getting enough of each others’ company. Only when my husband became restless did our relationship begin to unravel. Frankly, I could have twisted myself into 3 pretzels, I believe now that nothing I did would have changed his mind. He wanted new pastures, a new woman, and to go in an entirely new direction than we had taken.

I feel awkward when my comments about marriage or my ex are discounted as meaningless. It feels like half of my life is being negated. Just this week an old friend of mine told me that a friend of hers had thought Bob strange. The words hurt. I didn't think Bob strange at the time I was married to him. What did her statement mean? I felt a distinct twinge of pain.

Oh, Marge, wherever you are, I apologize for my careless words all those years ago. If only I knew then what I know now - that thoughtless remarks not only hurt, they are demeaning.

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FI0NA said...

Maybe it was OK for Marge to make tongue in cheek remarks about her marriage, but not for others, I think it is often that way, people take liberties with one's self deprecating humour because they don't understand. Love your blog. Compulsive reading!!!!

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I remember when a friend was having marriage troubles and I was feeling happy and secure in my own -- what snotty, condescending comments I made to her. Now that I've found my own marriage different from the perfection I thought it was, I regret not having been able to see the complexities of her situation. Sometimes we just don't know until we've been there.