Buyer’s Remorse

Posted on September 14, 2016


In my college days, back before the electric lightbulb and indoor plumbing (well, okay, before the IBM PC and compact discs), I had a suitemate, John, who lived in the room next door.  John had a crush on Holly who lived on our same floor.

In the dorms, there was an annual tradition called “bed-buddies.”  It’s not really what it sounds like.  I think the name was mostly chosen mostly for some shock value and sense of rebellion.  It was really just a sort of secret sweetheart that was chosen by name draw.  During the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, the idea was to send small gifts and notes to the person whose name you drew.  Identities were revealed at a floor party.  On the whole, it was a meaningless amusing distraction to break up the academic year.

Now John managed to arrange so that he could have Holly as his “bed buddy” (remember, it does not mean what you think it means[1]).  One thing you need to know about John is that he was a major Steely Dan fan.  In fact, during the year we lived together, we had a custom of greeting each other with the first half of a line from a Steely Dan lyric which the other was obliged to complete (or admit defeat).  They had only made seven albums to that time so it was a pretty easy to remember all of the songs.

During the course of “bed buddy” week, John sent Holly a note telling her that Steely Dan was his favorite band, and inquiring if she liked them too.  She replied indicating that indeed she did, and that she had one of their albums which included the song, “It’s Sad to Belong.”  John was bewildered by this reply.  He showed the note to me wondering what she could mean.  I quickly identified that Holly had Steely Dan confused with England Dan and John Ford Coley.  This error was, of course, blasphemy to a Steely Dan fan.

That story has little to do with anything other than bringing to mind that insipid song (with apologies to any surviving members of Dan Seals’ family).  The refrain from the song is “It’s sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.”  The song is about meeting your perfect mate after having married someone else, and how sad that is to keep your commitment and pine for the one who was really right for you.

This thought that you married the wrong person is both very common and entirely wrong.  In fact, the idea that you married the wrong person is one of the enemy’s favorite lies.  It goes something like this, “These is someone better out there for you, and you deserve someone better.  You would be much happier with (insert name here) from the office than you are with your current spouse.  Your partner really doesn’t treat you very well.  (Name) would be much more pleasant to live with.”

If this is the brain worm that burrows its way into your thoughts, we need to call it what it is, a lie from the pit of hell.  It isn’t true, and here’s why.  When my girls were little, they would sometimes say that our family was weird.  I never denied it, but rather observed that everyone is weird, and if you think someone is not weird, you have just never had to live with them.  I can say with confidence that your partner is weird in ways you never could have imagined before you got married.  I can say it because everybody is.  If you left this partner and married someone else you just trade in one set of strangeness for another.  And here is the real kicker.  You bring your own weirdness into the next relationship.  (Let’s face it; you have not been a picnic to live with either.)

If your partner is not treating you well (and I am not suggesting that one should endure abuse or affairs), there is probably a dance that the two of you do that leaves you both feeling not loved and valued in the relationship.  The solution is not to change partners.  The solution is to recognize what is happening in the dance and work together to change the steps.

Buyer’s remorse is a very common part of the marital experience.  Most of the time it wasn’t about a flaw in your selection process which can be corrected in the next go ‘round.  It is about the tough adjustments of learning to be married, stay connected, and love each other.

A final thought on this.  The research has found that there is an average of seven years between the time one partner says, “we should get some marriage counseling” and the time that a couple actually enters marriage counseling.  It is better to get the help and make the adjustments early rather than accumulate injuries to your attachment.  That other person who seems like they are the right one, isn’t.  It would be a different dance, but you would still be bringing your two left feet into that partnership.  If you want to dance better, take the lessons with the partner you have.

[1] To quote Inigo Montoya