Since I became an adult a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been wondering a couple things about the behavior of my fellow grown-ups when it comes to the foundation of personal happiness.
Why do adults stay in bad marriages?
Why do adults stay at miserable jobs?
Seems to me that employment and matrimony are two cornerstones for happiness or misery in day-to-day life.
I’m known my share of people in unhappy marriages, along with folks who hated their jobs, and the constant poison they absorbed kept them, at best, miserable. When I would ask why they didn’t get a divorce or change jobs, their answers always seemed more cliché than truly factual:
I don’t want to get divorced because of the kids.
I have bills to pay.
My financial situation is complicated.
This isn’t a good time to be unemployed.
My religion doesn’t allow for it.
Things at work are going to get better (as weeks turn into months turn into years)
If I get a divorce, I may not find someone else and I don’t want to be alone.
I’m not in love with him/her anymore, but the situation is tolerable.
Tolerable? Tolerable is a few extra dandelions in your nice lawn. Tolerable is the jerk slow to put his cell phone away after the movie starts in the theater. Tolerable is watching a movie starring Rachel Welch instead of Ann-Margaret.
Marriages aren’t easy at their best, but the difference between a good one and a bad one is like the difference between fresh ground beef and the old gray stuff with the putrid smell. I understand getting a divorce is a difficult process, maybe even more so for children, but staying in a relationship with questionable emotional commitment is a tragedy. Yet, sadly, gobs and gobs of people choose to tolerate this kind of situation every day.
We’ve all eaten slightly stale bread, but none of us deliberately pour ourselves a glass of cold, spoiled milk to wash down our Oreos. So many couples hold onto the crumbs of their marriage with a death grip because by the time they pick off all the moldy spots, their slice of man and wife bread is all but gone.
And trouble at home tends to infect our professional lives like the flu. Some jobs are just not user friendly, while others aren’t a good match for our individual personalities. Sometimes it’s a crappy boss that can make an otherwise decent gig a daily walk to the gallows. Funky co-workers are much more amusing on sit-coms than in real life. Lack of recognition, low-ball pay, impossible situations at the work place, bad benefits, a horrific commute, a toxic work environment…Why stay at a place you absolutely despise?
Folks, most of us work more than one job in our adult lives. Putting together a new resume and going on job interviews isn’t a day at Six Flags, but, unfortunately, it is part of the process. Looking for a new job is like dating: it can be as fun or as soul-sucking as we allow it to be, but when we’re successful at either, our lives dramatically improve.
Hey, I’m not here to start a divorce movement, but as adults we ought to know what love and happiness are, and just how important they are. Stress affects appetites. Stress affects quality sleep. Stress affects our emotions and how we interact with the important people in our lives. Heck, stress kills. But outside of our health, and the health of our loves ones, nothing causes more stress in our lives than a hellish job we choose to crawl to every day, or the empty marriage we return home to every evening.
I’ve never heard anyone say in reflection, I shouldn’t have left my husband/wife. Nor have I ever heard anyone say I should have never, ever, ever left that crappy job where I was under-paid, under-appreciated, and my boss was always looking at me funny. Not funny, ha ha, but more like a clown looks at a kid who won’t laugh at their jokes.
I realize being new to this adult thing has me at a distinct disadvantage, and I don’t know everything about everything, but I’ve been fortunate in my relative youth to wallow more than once in the professional happiness a really great job can bring, and I do know what it’s like to be in a relationship where passionate love is shared like an endless ice cream cone.
I want those things for everyone, but grown-ups have to do what they have to do. A couple of things parents don’t do enough of is discuss with young people that there’s more to a “great” job than a big salary, and just how encompassing a commitment saying “I do” is, considering nearly half end in divorce, but a whole lot more simply fail.
It’s not that hard to be happy at home or at work, but sometimes making it happen is inconvenient.