And no, I’m not talking about the Led Zeppelin song.
Imagine this scenario: A married couple have been together for many years. She’s been described by more than a few people as an “overachiever” — someone who sets many goals and then sets out to achieve them. She gets bored easily and is always looking for new challenges. He’s more laid back, generally satisfied with what he has, and often just takes whatever life hands him and makes it work for him.
In the beginning, the differences between them were minor. But as she shifted in one direction, he shifted to the other. After a long time together, she was ready to move on — preferably with him — and he resented the fact that she just couldn’t accept the status quo.
In the later years, she often brainstormed with him, usually on long car rides, about the things they could do together to make a more interesting life that relied less on the 9 to 5 grind he was stuck in. He almost always agreed they were good ideas. She thought they were on the same page.
But they weren’t. For some reason, he kept nodding but he wasn’t really agreeing. Yet he never told her how he really felt or what he really wanted. She never knew.
Then it was too late.
Or think about this scenario: Same couple, but they’re living apart. She’s gone to her summer job for the fifth season in a row. She left early because she likes it there and can do more work earlier in the season. He doesn’t want her to go early, but he never tells her. He keeps his anger and resentment to himself.
She never knows how he feels because he never tells her. Instead, he tells everyone else, making her look downright evil for leaving when he wanted her to stay.
But he never told her. She never knew.
Or this scenario: Same couple. He’s called her to tell her he wants a divorce. She’s surprised at the suddenness of it all — only a month before, they’d talked about him spending the summer together where she works. She’d begun planning, preparing, making room in her cramped quarters for another human being and a dog.
So when he suddenly tells her he wants a divorce, she’s shattered.
Or how about this scenario: Same couple. They’ve talked it over in person and although she’s still shocked by the suddenness, she realizes that it really is over. She asks if it’s okay to wait until she returns home in October to take care of the formalities. He agrees.
In the meantime, he’s called her family members and at least one friend who lives where she works. She doesn’t know about this; he asks everyone not to tell her. The friend gets the wrong message from the call. He tells the wife that the marriage can be fixed. That all they need to do is get together and work on it. She’s doubtful, but he’s so sure. She starts to think that maybe he’s right. That maybe when she gets home they can talk it out and make things work.
But two weeks later, the husband contacts the wife, asking if she’s given the split any thought. She doesn’t understand — she thought they agreed to wait. What’s the hurry? But he won’t return her calls or texts promptly. When they finally speak, she’s strung out, confused by her friend’s advice and the signals she’s getting from her husband. She’s not rational on the phone. He gets angry.
Two weeks later, it happens all over again. Now she’s really upset, especially when she can’t get him on the phone right away to talk and doesn’t understand what his hurry is. And then when she does reach him, he’s nasty and hostile.
And this scenario: Same couple. Not understanding how a man she’s loved for so long can be so hostile and mean to her and unsure of her future, the wife is completely strung out.
When she finds out about the other woman, things come to a head. She can’t sleep. She has no appetite. She cries on and off during the day with the tiniest thing setting her off. She begins seeing a grief counselor for help.
She writes him a long letter trying to explain her side of things and trying to get him to explain why he’s hurting her so badly. He doesn’t respond. This only makes things worse.
In all these scenarios, a lot of pain is dealt out — mostly because of a failure to communicate. When will it end? That’s something the wife would really like to know.