We've all made bad choices, right?
May 17, 2010 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Help me support my wife when I don't really support her decision.

My wife recently quit her job of almost five years. I knew that she was unhappy in her current work situation, and that she'd been on several promising interviews, but was still taken aback when she called me from work out of the blue one day and said she'd handed in her notice.

She now has a month left on her existing contract, and will be eligible for unemployment insurance after three months (we live in a country where, yes, you get UI even if you quit). She has been going on interviews with some regularity, and is a well-educated and highly skilled professional. However, the job market in our area is just as bad as everywhere else and there are certainly no guarantees that another job will come along quickly.

I love my wife, and (normally) trust her judgment. We also keep separate finances and she has assured me she'll not be expecting me to support her financially. We don't have any dependents or serious debt.

However, I can't help feeling that her decision was really foolish and unwise. I'm also somewhat hurt and frustrated that she didn't really discuss this with me before she took the leap. Again, we'd had some conversations about her level of unhappiness with her job, but she never mentioned quitting before she had something else lined up.

The worst part is this - she's now beginning to second-guess her own decision to quit, stressing about her prospects, and expecting comfort from me. Of course I want to be supportive and encouraging, but it's difficult when I have my own reservations about what she did. So what can I do or say in this difficult situation to be the best support I can be to her?

By the way - she reads Metafilter too and knows I'm posting this question. We're trying to talk openly about both our concerns and how to best handle the situation, so this is one avenue we're exploring for advice and support from outside ourselves.
posted by Valuev to Human Relations (38 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Some things that might help to consider:

1) Unless she is habitually impulsive and irrational, she probably had a good reason for quitting. Few people quit a job easily. Even if this reason was "only" emotional, it can still be a good reason. A work situation that wears on you for five years can wear you down so badly that quitting is a matter of self protection. Perhaps it was an emergency - not all emergencies are obvious to other people or even, in the build up, to yourself. Yes, it would be better if she could have waited until she had something else lined up. But if you trust her judgement in other ways, trust her in this one even if and particularly when she begins to mistrust it herself.

2) Make a list of all the reasons why her decision may have been bad. Then make a list why her decision may have been a good idea. When she begins to second guess herself, tell her the stuff on your second list.

3) What have you got to lose by telling your wife reasons why her decision was probably a good one? Nothing, because she has already done it. The milk is already spilt. You can't make it worse. It's not like she'll be a serial job ditcher if you encourage her now.

4) What have you got to lose by telling her all the reasons why her decisions may have been bad? Everything. You will demotivate your wife, make her feel bad about herself,guilty about her decision, and you. When she feels unhappy she won't tell you about it because you will only make her feel worse. She will lose trust in you and herself. You have nothing to win this way.

You have reservations and I understand that. But as a wife of a critical and yet unfailingly supportive husband I can tell you that the sooner my husband says, "quit worrying at it. Not only has it already happened, but this decision was the right one for you. You're only driving yourself nuts by second guessing yourself. I have every faith that you'll find a new job. Also, you are not alone and you can count on me even if everything goes pear shaped. You are my wonderful, smart, resourceful wife and you've always pulled through" - the sooner he says that, the sooner I cheer up and start working at making everything all right again.

It's not your job to tell her how (possibly) she failed - it's your job to tell her that she'll succeed. Because you do believe in her, right?
posted by Omnomnom at 6:47 AM on May 17, 2010 [22 favorites]

In my personal opinion, your wife was wrong to do what she did. Married people need to discuss major life decisions with each other. There are all kinds of reasons for this, and not doing it undoes many of the strengths, including getting support and valuable feedback on one's potential actions.

So, offering support for the act itself would be something I would not readily do. I would offer all the support I could about the process of finding another job. I would offer assurances that things will work out and be alright. I would help develop strategies for finding another job.

I would also likely go sort of easy on the discussions of what I would view as a substantial mis-step in my wife's relationship with me. I'd want to discuss it, but I would likely postpone the discussion until later.
posted by OmieWise at 6:48 AM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

It sounds like your wife has money saved up, she's been on interviews so clearly she's looking for a new job, you don't have kids who will starve if both of you don't work ... I don't see what the problem is. Finding a new job might take longer than she wants (and longer than you want) it might be difficult and frustrating but ultimately life is too short to stay in a job that makes you unhappy. Obviously people who live pay-check to pay-check, with no savings or prospects (no high school diploma for example) are in a slightly different boat, they might have to stay in jobs that they hate due to their obligations, but I don't think that applies to your wife.

I speak from personal experience. I had a job that I hated so much I was reduced to tears of frustration after work on more than one occasion. I felt incredibly trapped, like I couldn't quit just because it was a "good" job. Then I realized I'd rather be happy and looking for a job than miserable and employed. So I made a goal to save up X amount as my own personal Unemployment Fund and when I reached that number I quit, despite not having anything else lined up. I was able to live on my savings while I figured out what to do next and I am much happier now.
posted by blue_bicycle at 6:50 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's over and done with. Don't waste too much time lingering over this or you'll both just continue to be frustrated. Be positive about moving forward and finding a new job, she'll get one sooner or later and like you said she can collect unemployment. Sounds like you're a bit worried about how this decision is going to negatively effect your life rather than how it changes your wife's life or yours together as a married couple. My advice is to move past your own concerns and be supportive, she's only going to feel worse if you don't. Man up, stop whining, and help her out a bit here.
posted by modoriculous at 6:50 AM on May 17, 2010

The worst part is this - she's now beginning to second-guess her own decision to quit, stressing about her prospects, and expecting comfort from me.

That's the worst part?

Sack up, son.

I did find this pretty perplexing; I wonder what kind of relationship you're in that she'd making a big decision like that without at least telling you ahead of time, and saying things like "she'll not be expecting me to support her financially"? That's the part where I said, wait, what?

In 2010, mutual financial and emotional support is kind of the whole point of being married, no? Whether or not you think she made a mistake (and since you clearly do, you should have a good solid talk about what bothers you, how it should be done differently later, keeping each other informed and so forth) is almost entirely orthogonal to what you should be doing right now, which is putting on your relationship boots and getting with the supporting.
posted by mhoye at 6:58 AM on May 17, 2010 [13 favorites]

I would be pissed off beyond believe if my husband didn't very clearly tell me: "I'm quitting my job tomorrow, because of a, b, and z". Those decisions are not taken alone when you are married.


Other than that, there is no way that somebody will quit and keep going as fresh as a lettuce. I think a little bit of nerves is always productive, and I also think you should be supportive. Address the subject of her making decisions on her own when the crisis has passed.
posted by Tarumba at 6:58 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

i have been in your exact situation. I was pissed to say the least. Despite the fact i knew the husband worked for an absolute control freak who was asking him to do some questionable things, I hated that I had no heads up whatsoever on such a big decision. I feel for you. Being blindsided adds to the insecurity of an unknown outcome.

My husband hit it hard and had a job quickly. ON paper it isn't as great as a job as before, but it has been a great thing in the long run. Better hours, less stress. Encourage your wife to be creative and open minded in her job search.
posted by domino at 7:03 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I found "she'll not be expecting me to support her financially" slightly heartbreaking (heart-tweaking?). It sounds like she guessed - rightly? - that out of all things this would be his main complaint. And perhaps she felt that as she would stake no claims on his financial support and would have to pull through without him, she was allowed to do it without his permission.

If my husband quit his job without telling me I would assume that something really bad must have happened, or the straw finally snapped. I would trust him that he would normally inform me about things like that but for whatever reason he absolutely couldn't wait for that.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:05 AM on May 17, 2010 [40 favorites]

I share mhoye and Omnomnom's perplexion. That doesn't sound like a marriage, more like friends-with-emotional benefits.

She is your wife, man up already.
posted by LudgerLassen at 7:10 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can't pass judgement on whether or not she should have spoken with you first (that depends on your relationship, it's not a foregone conclusion when two people are married, IMHO), but I will say that in the long run she has most probably made the best decision. Now that she's quit, a lot of the stress and pressure is already removed as there's light at the end of the tunnel, she knows exactly how much longer she has to keep going there for. That's when all the other doubts come in, because she's no longer feeling all the stress she was before.

Having worked in a nightmarishly stressful job, I can't help thinking that she's made the right choice. Many people have commented on how I'm a different person now that I'm happy in my working life. If it's not going to bankrupt the two of you, then I think choosing happiness and sanity is always the right way to go. I wish you both success in getting this settled between you (the fact that you are both openly discussing your feelings seems like an excellent sign).
posted by different at 7:18 AM on May 17, 2010

For better or for worse, what's done is done. Attitudes like 'sack up' are only going to leave you stuck in the past and create more discord. Wrong or right doesn't matter anymore, because you can't change the past. What you can do is accept it and move forward. Then and only then will will find it in yourself to support your wife. Which is really the only option here.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 7:23 AM on May 17, 2010

Best answer: Given that she's already feeling regretful about her decision, there's really no need for you to chastise her for it. There is, however, a need for the two of you to discuss each others' expectations of what discussions need to take place before either of you make a Big Decision. Quitting her job was a Big Decision, and she didn't consult you before she made it. Maybe she didn't feel she had to, if you keep your finances separate. Regardless, you two need to align your expectations.
posted by litnerd at 7:27 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

If my husband quit his job without telling me I would assume that something really bad must have happened, or the straw finally snapped.

You keep repeating this, but there's nothing in the question to suggest that this was explained after the fact. That would be a very different question that would garner very different answers. As it is, the facts we have suggest that the wife quit, but that there was no acute precipitant.
posted by OmieWise at 7:28 AM on May 17, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, the "man up" and "get to supporting" comments aren't particularly helpful, considering that I have already said that I will support her. I'm simply looking for input as to how best to do that. Also, our marital financial arrangements are our business and aren't part of the question, but of course I'd financially support my wife even as she says she doesn't need me to. I think her saying she'd take care of herself was simply her way of trying to reassure me.

As for why she quit - she had been dealing with months of dissatisfaction on various levels, leading to a specific incident that was the proverbial last straw.
posted by Valuev at 7:31 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have no problem with the separate finances part, in general... I believe in privacy even for married couples... but supporting each other (including financially, if and when necessary) is part of any marriage in my mind, too. Heck, it's part of any friendship to me. Perhaps you meant that long term, you won't be relied upon to be the sole earner, in which case that sounds fine to me, and even nice that she was explicit about that expectation.

I agree she was wrong to not at least discuss what she was planning with you in advance, but it also sounds like it was a dramatic/emotional decision... she may not have been planning to quit when she went to work that morning. If the lost job truly makes no real impact on your finances, I also don't see how it's very harmful to you both, nor how it needs to be an earth-shaking change moment in your relationship. She should have discussed something with you, she didn't... one small misstep.

She has employment insurance, and she'll be looking for another job, so this doesn't have to be a big deal at all. Support her, help her find a new job as best you can, and move on. Ask her to warn you next time she's going to do something significant like that, and just get on with things. There are much bigger dramas in the average marriage, sooner or later.

And a note on "support": you don't need to agree with a decision to support it. Simply help her with the next steps as best you can. Part of support, though is that you're not allowed to keep sarcastically reminding her that you didn't agree with it for the next five years, either, no matter what the long-term impact. This is the reality now, move on with it.

If she accepts that she should have warned you/discussed it first, then I think you have no long-term worries here. If she doesn't, you have some communications issues to work on. Welcome to ninety percent of relationships.

Nothing to panic about, here.
posted by rokusan at 7:31 AM on May 17, 2010 [6 favorites]

Best answer: So what can I do or say in this difficult situation to be the best support I can be to her?

"Too late to worry about that now, honey. Let's check today's paper for jobs together. And I'll drive you to your interview tomorrow so you don't arrive all sweaty and wrinkled. And buy you lunch!"
posted by rokusan at 7:33 AM on May 17, 2010 [13 favorites]

I'm interested by the fact that you don't mention your wife's rationale for quitting. There are lots of reasons for handing in one's notice - perhaps the bosses took a decision she was morally against and she felt she couldn't work for them anymore? Was she asked to do something she couldn't in good conscience do? Sometimes these things blow up quickly at work, and it's not really possible to discuss things with you, even over the phone, before needing to make a decision.

Also, a bad boss can make the work situation intolerable for employees. I have seen situations where employees collapsed at work, or were rushed to the hospital by a colleague, because the boss was driving them so hard the stress was horrendous. I myself have had to go home early with stabbing pains in my stomach caused by stress induced by a crazy boss. Your wife may have been trying to protect her physical and mental well-being by quitting before things progressed to that stage.

I'd really like to hear her side.
posted by LN at 7:34 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a year after a not-dissimilar situation and in the meantime we've had some bad luck and health problems. In many ways we're rather worse off than we were a year ago. My wife is feeling just awful about leaving and I'm kind-of, eh, we didn't know it would come out this way. Now I'm trying to cheer her up while we both heal, and scramble to stay ahead. My advice is this, however it turns out: Hug each other. A lot. As often as you can. You may both really, really need it. Good luck.
posted by wobh at 7:35 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The worst part is this - she's now beginning to second-guess her own decision to quit, stressing about her prospects, and expecting comfort from me. Of course I want to be supportive and encouraging, but it's difficult when I have my own reservations about what she did. So what can I do or say in this difficult situation to be the best support I can be to her?

You're not always going to support the rationale of your partner, nor are you going to like their decisions (even if they consult you first) but you should always, always be there to support them because their well-being and happiness matter to you more than the substance of their choices.

Your partner is going through a trying time; this is not the time to point out her faults, her weaknesses of character or any of the things you're holding onto as important right now. This is the time you set out in your wedding vows that wasn't all rosy-glassed that you stand by your partner, in spirit and in reality.

You should get in the trenches with her, help her out in finding a new job she'll enjoy and express to her that despite the fact your finances are separate, you're a team and as such, you're not going to leave her in the lurch if she needs you.
posted by Hiker at 7:42 AM on May 17, 2010

You keep repeating this, but there's nothing in the question to suggest that this was explained after the fact. That would be a very different question that would garner very different answers. As it is, the facts we have suggest that the wife quit, but that there was no acute precipitant.

OmieWise, as it turns out, it was a straw breaking situation according to the OP's post right under yours.

However, I wasn't saying that this was the case for sure. I was saying that straw-meet-back-emergency is a distinct possibility and that it is the assumption that I, personally, would make about my husband in this situation. Just me. Other people seemed to assume a non-emergency, which never would have occurred to me. Just explaining where my answer came from, I hope this makes it clearer.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2010

Yeah, the "man up" and "get to supporting" comments aren't particularly helpful, considering that I have already said that I will support her.

You didn't actually say that at all. You said you wanted to, but had reservations.

You want to be supportive, be supportive. Help her polish up her CV, fire up LinkedIn and any other networks she might have, encourage her to dig up old contacts and keep looking and stay optimistic after she's had a bad day. Figure out why, for real, she quit her old job and help her either avoid or try to otherwise get past those situations in the future.
posted by mhoye at 7:47 AM on May 17, 2010

She probably was not intending to quit that day she went to work, but then something happened - like she asked to revise a perfectly good document for the eighth time, or do 3 tasks at once right now, or patted on the ass, or whatever.

You weren't there so she made a judgment call and quit. I think she acted perfectly reasonably, and you had some warning and should trust in her.

Think of this as a bonding experience and try to be sympathetic and encouraging and to boost her confidence as best you can. One day it could be you who quits and comes home very rattled and sad.
posted by meepmeow at 7:52 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I see leaving you out of this decision as an extension of "separate finances". This is actually a great opportunity to start building some of the mutual emotional and financial support mentioned by mhoye. If you handle this situation with empathy, help keep her spirits high, and set aside your feelings of hurt, she may look back on this time as a moment in her life when she considered herself too important to settle for an unsatisfying job and you may get the bonus of a stronger marriage.

Think about the worst thing that can possibly happen (but probably won't happen), then think of the biggest benefit this job change will have on her and you as a couple (which probably will happen). Help her stay focused on the benefits to come.

Good luck.
posted by Breav at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2010

I feel that fairly few long-married people are posting here.

Rokusan's is the only answer that works in a marriage which is happy and wants to stay that way. When your wife does something rash or unwise, you help her deal with the consequences with a smile on your face if at all possible. That's love, baby. If OP's wife is already regretting it, well, the learning process has made some advances.

As far as the principle of consultation in advance, it seems to me that if a couple keeps totally separate finances, they get to make totally independent financial decisions -- like quitting a job. When finances are co-mingled and/or one spouse depends upon the other's income, obviously, a different principle should apply.
posted by MattD at 8:11 AM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

As I see it, two discussions need to happen. The first is about how she quit without telling you. She did it, it's done. So maybe you agree that in the future, neither of you will ever make that decision without discussing it with the other first. You are allowed to feel shocked at her decision, and she needs to accept that. (Not to say that isn't the case, but that is part of that discussion.) After that, it's all about moving forward from here. The rest of the discussion is about her job search and how , in practical terms, the two of you are going to get through this next period together. What's done is done. You're both on the same side, and looking forward.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:25 AM on May 17, 2010

As respectfully as possible, is it at all possible that your wife did try to talk to you, but she didn't get the support she needed from you, so at some point she just left off trying? Because unless there was a traumatic event, educated professionals with some smarts don't just hand in their notice out of the blue. It is tough in relationships to have discussions about work, especially if you're not in the same industry.

A couple of years ago, I had an issue at work with a coworker whose behavior at times veered into bullying. One could also have said that he was exacting and a perfectionist and just followed up relentlessly. I had a very very hard time in figuring out how to deal with this individual, and he had, quite frankly, pushed every button and would push and push and push until he got the answer he wanted. Even if you said "I don't know, let me find out and get back to you," that wasn't good enough. I admit to also being stubborn and had been working hard to try to find the best way to work with him.

Now, when I tried to talk to Mr. M. about it, his response was "go to HR". Well, it was a very small company and we 'borrowed' a HR person from the parent company once a month to do paperwork. Culturally, my company was very different than his, and no matter what, I needed to figure out how to work with this guy. But it was very hard, and one day the work dude was just a total jerk in a meeting (I literally ran out in tears, something I have never done), and when Mr. M. came to meet me after work to go to a movie, I was sitting in a park crying and talking to myself like a crazy lady.

His first response was, "Why didn't you tell me it was this bad!" but the thing was, I had! I had talked to him. I had talked to him, a lot, about it. But for some reason, communication fell apart on this issue.

All I'm saying is that if you think about it, maybe this wasn't as much of a surprise as you think it was.
posted by micawber at 8:26 AM on May 17, 2010 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: micawber, yes, you're exactly right. My wife has said that she felt I didn't really take some of her complaints seriously enough, and that I didn't grasp the full extent of the situation and was a bit dismissive of her concerns. On the other hand, she has also admitted to maybe not painting the situation as bad as it truly was, out of a desire not to stress me out (I've been going through my own career issues, and I think she wanted to avoid dumping additional problems on me). We both recognize that we made some major communication mistakes.
posted by Valuev at 8:38 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The most comforting thing someone said to me after I made a huge decision and was second-guessing myself is:

"You made the best decision you could have with the information you had at the time. You're a reasonable person, and I trust the decision you made, even if it turns out that it was the wrong choice. It's like blackjack. You can make the right decision based on the cards you have, but sometimes the deck just screws you."

I think you should deal with the getting a job question part, and when things have calmed down a bit, address the communication problem. Being angry about the decision-making itself won't change anything at this point.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:55 AM on May 17, 2010 [35 favorites]

Yeah, I would say that the two biggest things you can say are 1) "If you quit without discussing it with me first, it must have been really bad. I trust you, and I trust your judgment; I know you wouldn't do something this big on a whim." and 2) "Whether or not this was the most brilliant tactical decision ever made by a member of the human race, it's done, and I have to admit I'm happier to see you no longer in that toxic cesspit. What can I do to help you feel excited about moving forward?"
posted by KathrynT at 9:57 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

You should go up to your wife and say verbatim what punchtothehead quoted. I have been in a job situation that went from kinda-sucks to GET ME OUT in less than two weeks. You did not have first hand information about what was going on. She did, and she acted on it.

You wife is a big girl, and I think you should trust her to do what she has to do. She did nothing wrong by not checking with you first, but it probably would have made you feel more included to have talked with her before she gave notice. Is that why you're upset? Maybe she can keep that in mind for the future, but you really need to realize that she's an adult and she's going to have to make tough calls on her own sometimes. Your input will not always be helpful or necessary. You're two people, and your marriage does not completely subsume those separate identifies.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:05 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had something similar happen with my husband. As soon as I saw the look on his face (he couldn't tell me) I said."we are going to get through this together". Either you are a team, or you are not. But YOU have to commit to being a team.
posted by saucysault at 10:12 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

A work situation that wears on you for five years can wear you down so badly that quitting is a matter of self protection.

This. I was in a situation like this that built up over time and went complete nuclear-critical out of the blue one day. I walked out of there and never went back, it was that bad. I then drove to my (still) boyfriend's house and sat on his couch for a week having what could best be described as PTSD-style panic attacks any time anyone mentioned I might ever have to deal with those people again.

Sometimes it really IS that bad, and even if she was trying to spare you the gory details day-to-day so as not to stress you out, sometimes you do just have to make the decision and leave. You're fortunate in that she can get unemployment insurance, so now you just need to help her move forward and find and new and better job utilizing your joint networks and connections if at all possible. Good luck.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:23 AM on May 17, 2010

Best answer: You cannot go wrong with listening and empathy. Also with the main blade on the Husband's Swiss Army Knife -- shut the hell up.

Listen. Only offer feedback to validate how she feels or to respond to a particular request for advice coming from her. Even then, respond with appreciative inquiry instead of anything that might come off as pedantic. Before anything, try to feel the level of apparent desperation or despair that led her to what seems to you to be a rash decision.

By all means avoid trying to "solve" her problem. Double ixnay on anything that sounds like "I told you so" or "you should have thought of that before..."

Now you seem to have a valid issue about how she made such a large decision without you. It sounds like her decision made you feel invalidated as a partner and you would like to make sure future decisions would reflect more of a partnership. Don't let that go. But wait until she's not in the throes of her job angst to bring it up.
posted by cross_impact at 10:43 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

When you married your wife, you inherently agreed to support every decision she made. Why is this any diffferent?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:53 AM on May 17, 2010

There is no such thing as a wrong decision.

There are only decisions that you make, risks that you take, and things that you learn from the outcomes of those decisions.

Once the decision is made, second guessing it is a very natural thing to do and it's also a complete waste of energy for both of you.

How about spending some time thinking about
- what opportunities have been opened up by this move
- what you can do to make this whole situation less likely to happen again.

Does she have some fantastic business ideas that she's never had the time to put into place? A recession is a pretty good time to be building up the foundations of a business, positioned to take advantage of the market when it picks up again. Or could she afford to retrain for some other career that she would secretly love to have? Would she love to be able to spend her spare time (until she finds another job) working on some writing or art or building a hobbit house, "just because"?

Stop seeing this as a mistake and start seeing it as an opportunity.
posted by emilyw at 11:16 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think she probably should have spoke to you first. It is a big change, and presumably you are both affected by it. That said, life is too short to keep doing shit you don't want to do. It takes guts to just say, "fuck it." That is something you should be support.

She's already quit. Second guessing that choice is a big waste of time.
posted by chunking express at 12:35 PM on May 17, 2010

Best answer: Nobody has yet mentioned that it'll be easier if you separate your issues from her decision. You may never become a perfect supporter, but your discomfort would be expressed less as a judgment on her and more as facts about yourself that happen to be different from her. ("I always plan months and months ahead, and whenever I stop accumulating savings, much less live off them, I start to imagine things like being totally broke like my Uncle Joe was when he was retired. So of course when Suzy quit, I was totally a nervous wreck.")

When I say "issues" I don't mean some deep childhood trauma, just the opinions and beliefs that everyone accumulates as they go through life. Normally these thoughts roll along like a train on a track ("it's smart to plan ahead" "what a dolt, he didn't plan ahead," etc. etc.) until some point when our partner's behavior brings their own train in close proximity to our track, and everything becomes a huge jumbled mess. It might seem like it was their fault, but the collision was just as much about your own train. It helps to separate out which train cars were on which track, and then figure out where each set of tracks is going.

When I read the strong language in this sentence -- "I can't help feeling that her decision was really foolish and unwise" -- that sounds like your issue. I'm curious about this word "foolish:" why do you think it's foolish, what does it mean to be foolish vs. wise, what happens to people who are foolish, and so forth. As you understand it more, I'd guess that you'd stop talking about her decision and start talking about your own feelings.

There are many distracting details, so you have to focus on the ones that relate to yourself. It's really easy to get distracted by thinking about the other person's details. For example, when I go to parties, I think my boyfriend's behavior is "embarrassing." I used to notice, catalog, and question various things he did. Eventually, I started to notice, catalog, and question various feelings I had. Turns out I have all these ideas about the "right" way to behave and what happens if you don't, and it probably came from my parents who each had fears around social occasions. All that detail about myself turned out to be much more useful to me, and it removed all pressure from him to stop being himself.
posted by salvia at 12:29 AM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I deal with this sometimes, too.

The thing is, she's not going to make a decision contrary to her self-interest. She thought that quitting was the best option. You weren't there. You didn't deal with all the crap. Obviously, in that moment, she thought it was time to quit. You may have faced similar situations.

Maybe, given some time, she would have made a different decision. Have you ever made a decision you regretted? Me too. However, this particular decision cannot be undone, so the best you can do is analyze the current situation and move on.

It may be that the issue of "how could this have gone better?" comes up. LATER (right now isn't the time), perhaps she'll address this question and come to a conclusion that is closer to what you seem to believe. If that is the case, it needs to be dealt with as all lessons learned: determine the lesson, make a note how to improve in the future, and (critically!) DROP IT. Relive the event just long enough to figure out what can be learned from it, then stop obsessing.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2010

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