Nine years ago, my friend Mary and her husband, James, were fine dining in Buckhead, GA when James had “the most disappointing salad of his life.”
According to Mary, “James has been bitching about this shitty $16 salad for nine years; every time salad is mentioned, actually.”
According to James, he “hasn’t complained about that salad since the incident occurred nine years ago, but it really was a terrible salad, by the way.”
And there it is, folks–marriage.
I mention this because, from time to time, I consult one of those new-age psycho-therapists. His name is “Dr. Neil, PhD”, he lives in LA (of course), and was referred to me by a close friend (also from LA).
Our meetings are conducted by telephone and I tend to call Dr. Neil PhD when I need a non-biased opinion regarding some critical aspect of my life. Since I’ve never met him in person, it’s entirely possible that he also moonlights as a fortune teller or a stripper. But that’s neither here nor there, I guess, as he provides excellent insights and has a soothing Kiwi-accented voice that can talk me off of whatever ledge I’m teetering on.
It was during one of these consultations that Dr. Neil PhD informed me that, as a spouse, it was my job to field my husband’s complaints. He called it “taking out the trash,” and said that I needed to provide a safe and open channel of communication through which my husband could express his frustrations about whatever happens to be frustrating him.
My role was to do intake on that information and promptly dispose of it—not solve it, not internalize it, not analyze it, just toss it. And in turn, my husband would take out my trash. I could have suggested to Dr. Neil PhD that I was paying him, a THERAPIST, to take out the trash, but that didn’t seem to occur to him and it didn’t feel like the best time to bring it up.
However, I can’t help but wonder what sage advice Dr. Neil PhD would give to James and Mary should he overhear the “salad exchange”. And this all leaves me wondering what qualifies as trash versus say, toxic waste. If a salad complaint is “trash” then I must be a Super Fund Site.
Wednesday night is trash night in our neighborhood. Every Wednesday, my husband carefully moves through the house collecting garbage cans and methodically sorting their contents into recyclables and actual trash; a handsome banker in slacks and a button down, dutifully dragging the cans to the curb.
He does this in much the same way that he disposes of my “trash”–dutifully, with care, and without complaint.
This originally published on groundingup.com.