5 Things You Should Never Say To Long-Married People
They seem to be fair game for microaggressions. And here's the proof.
Tiptoeing around others’ marital status is not new. There are lists of “things not to say” out there pertaining to those who are widowed, divorced and single, because the presumption is that their uncoupled standing in society makes them vulnerable. The most innocent of questions — such as “Are you dating?” — can be construed as a soul crusher.
Yet married people, in particular we who have celebrated many anniversaries, seem to be fair game for microaggressions. Here are five examples.
“What’s your secret?”
If only we had a dollar for every time this bit of antagonism has been lobbed our way. The implication is that the espoused has mastered the art of the institution and knows something the rest of the world doesn’t. The asker knows there is no classified information. It’s as though they’re just trying to see if the query will be taken seriously and what platitude we’ll share: It’s all about communication; mutual respect; we’re soulmates; etc. Then, there are those such as myself who let the inquisitor know we will not be playing along and announce: There’s no secret. People who want to be married stay married — for better or worse. Think Hillary and Bill.
“In all that time, you don’t think your husband/wife has ever looked at another person or maybe had an affair — even in his/her mind?”
Well, if they did and we’re aware of it, that’s probably a pretty painful memory. Since we’re still together, it most likely means we’ve worked through it. Why would we want to relive it during a casual conversation to satisfy someone’s morbid curiosity?
“I’d get bored being with the same person for that long.”
OK, that’s you. And it’s good you know that about yourself so you don’t get married. It’s not for everyone. But, clearly, it hasn’t been a problem for us.
“I know someone who was married even longer than you and her husband just left her.”
Wow, way to keep us humble. This gratuitous info is usually meant to fend off those referred to as “smug marrieds,” when we dare to take pride in having kept our relationship together for as long as we have. The passive/aggressive warning here is: Don’t get too comfortable, it could still happen to you. Thanks for the heads up, but trust me … we know. We see it play out among our friends/relatives, and, of course, in the media. (Arnold and Maria, anyone?) No matter how much we want to believe it could never happen to us, well, we know.
“Sounds like it’s time for you to have an affair.”
Really? It sounds like it’s time for us to break the vows we made decades ago to love, honor and cherish our significant other? It’s time for us to betray the trust of someone who has been by us in sickness and in health? Disrespect the life we’ve built together and children we’ve raised for the sake of some “stranger”? Speaking of our kids, when exactly is it the right time to have them be ashamed of us for being disloyal to their other parent and possibly destroying our family? What part of any of this sounds like a good idea?