Another one of my friends is getting divorced, and I am so angry that I don’t want to talk to her. I am 43 years old, never married, and find it difficult to meet someone I can imagine spending the rest of my life with. She met a great guy, married him and now wants a divorce. She says she has changed, and they just don’t fit well anymore. Isn’t that a stupid reason? She has something I want—a life partner—and she just throws it away. I know that it’s crazy for me to be so affected by this, but I am, and need some help to understand it.
So you’re coveting your friend’s unhappy marriage because any marriage beats none at all? Honey, your envy is out of control. You have unrealistic ideas about what marriage is and an unappreciative attitude about the single life.
Let’s level your hierarchy. Marriage is difficult. Once wed, you wrestle with stripping yourself free of barriers to intimacy and enter naked—emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically—into a union with someone who is struggling with the same process. Most couples give up and settle into their egos, gradually growing apart. Often they divorce. Just as often they remain married and celebrate 30-year anniversaries publicly as married but privately as roommates.
Yes, there are warm, loving, honest marriages, but less (far less) than half of the married population is in one. So stop idolizing marriage and let your friend live her life. Recommit to yours by engaging in all the pleasures of being single. When you do, envy will melt away. (P.S. You know a “great guy” who is now single!)
I’m in high school, and my mom is pressuring me to apply to UC Davis so I can live at home and save money during college. She says that my younger siblings need me and that if I go away she will miss me too much. I feel really bad, but I don’t want to go to Davis and I don’t want to keep living at home. I am scared to talk to her about it because then I will have to live with her being mad at me for the next year. She always says I’m her best friend. I don’t know what to do.
You know exactly what to do, and you are doing it: seeking insight from adults in the community. Congratulations for honoring your internal compass.
Now, let’s examine your fears. If your mother is angry or disappointed because you choose to shape your future, it’s OK. She has a right to express her feelings. But when she does, please don’t believe you must attend UC Davis. Instead, understand that your mother is afraid of change. Rather than confronting her fear, she is trying to manipulate you. It’s unlikely that she realizes how controlling she is because her need for self-protection blinds her. That’s why she is tossing out hooks about how much your siblings need you or how much money you can save. She’s fishing for an excuse that will initiate so much guilt that you are too burdened emotionally to leave home.
Again, please understand that she is unaware of her motivations. She is just afraid of loss. Have you ever experienced a relationship changing? Did you get over it? Of course, you did, and your mom will, too.
One more thing: You and your mom may be very close, but if you’re best friends, that’s unhealthy. Think of it this way: If I said my best friend was a teenager, wouldn’t you wonder about my maturity? And wouldn’t you worry that the teenager was being coerced to grow up too fast? Yes, sweetheart, go away to college, far, far away.