Recently, I was in New York City. My wife and I were going to the symphony with another couple and we planned to go out to dinner first. My friend’s wife was supposed to meet us at the restaurant, because she had to work late.
Just before ordering, my friend got a text from his wife saying that the car she was driving had broken down just before the Brooklyn Bridge—lots of cars honking and traffic. After telling us what was going on, he simply texted her back and then started to order.
“Aren’t you going to do something?” I asked.
“I am. I’m helping her decide what to do next.”
“No, I mean, aren’t you going to catch a cab and go help?”
“So we can both be stuck?” He asked. “Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know, but if that was my wife, that’s what I’d do,” I said. “Aren’t you worried?”
“She can handle herself.”
“But it’s getting dark and I’m thinking there’s a lot of traffic and…”
“Look, she’ll do what she needs to do. I’ll just order something for her in case she gets here.”
“But, but…are you still planning on going to the symphony?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yeah, why not?”
“It’s going to take a while for her to get towed,” I explained. “She might miss the concert!”
“Then we’ll meet up with her afterward.”
“Look, the only person who seems distressed is you,” my friend said. “I’m telling you, she’ll be fine. She’s a grown woman; she can handle herself.”
We ordered and ate our dinner, but I gotta tell you, it took everything I had not to say anything else. We finished dinner and I worked hard to not ask how she was doing. By the time we finished and paid the check, his wife still hadn’t come, so we went to the symphony without her. At that point, I had to physically clench my jaw not to say anything.
After the concert, we went to their apartment and there she was cuddled up on the couch. He went over and gave her a hug and kiss and we talked about her experience—the assholes who beeped, the police, the tow truck, and where the car was now. All seemed fine. Actually, all seemed better than fine. We talked and laughed over the next two hours before saying good night.
I learned a really valuable lesson that night, but honestly, it’s probably something I should’ve known all along. And that’s that people are much more capable than we give them credit for. Since that incident, I’ve decided that I’m going to work on waiting until family and friends come to me for help or advice instead of rushing to everyone’s defense and rescue. I realized that most of my helping family and friends has more to do with my uncomfortableness with their difficulties in life as well as my thinking that somehow I can fix things they can’t.
So, my advice to you—even though you’re not asking—is to chill out, sit tight, and understand that those around you can handle their own life. And if they can’t, it’s up to them to come to you when they need help. And I know that might be hard, but supporting your loved one’s independence creates more satisfying relationships in the long run.