“Your life is complicated.”
I wasn’t telling my friend about a problem or a headache. Just a simple recounting of latest happenings. The response? “Sounds complicated.”
If you don’t get why this is not the best thing to say, I can explain to you personally. That isn’t my focus here.
But I’m not a jerk.
If I don’t want someone to say a certain thing, I should offer an alternative, right?
After all my life IS complicated. I travel like crazy, I maintain relationships all across the world. I have unusual relationships, such as with my munchkins, that most people would say are doomed to fail and yet which fulfill me beyond measure. That’s not what irritates me.
It’s that all of our lives are complicated in some manner. Complications beget a fascinating complex existence. Yes, I have a lot going on. I have a generous, resourceful, loving support network. But so do most people, and do you go around telling everyone how complicated their lives are? If you do, please stop it.
I have never had someone tell me “Sounds complicated” when they were speaking positively about my crazy, awesome life.
Instead they appeared to be trying desperately to find something negative to bring me down to their own existence. I’m sorry your life isn’t as exciting as you want? If you want me to help you manage your life a little better, I’ll do so gladly. You don’t need to passive aggresively insult mine.
Anyway. The next time you’re tempted to tell someone their life is “complicated,” try replacing it with this:
“This seems like a really exciting time for you.”
Someone told me this recently, as I chatted with them in one of our semi regular phone conversations. I know that the other person probably hasn’t experienced most, if any, of what makes up my life. Didn’t really come up.
The point isn’t what they know or don’t know. What matters is those words made me feel good, unlike being told, “Wow, I couldn’t handle that.” Or “Sounds complicated.” Or “Are you okay?” Ugh. I didn’t even know that was what I wanted to hear, but when I heard it I smiled.
Being told that my life is exciting, instead of complicated? Made me feel warm inside. I heard, “It’s possible that I don’t understand you, but I am so happy you are living your life.” I didn’t feel weird or different. I hadn’t been told how I was “special” or “brave,” either. Which is great. I just want to be able to share what’s happening to me, like anyone else.
I can’t guarantee that everyone will react the same, but at least you’ve tried.
Because life isn’t a template. Maybe they’ll still get mad. Please just don’t use my words as an unthinking, default reponse.
Use your own, hopefully genuine, compliment. “Wow, that is really cool that you are living the life that YOU want, not what other people tell you.” Or “I haven’t experienced that, but I would love you to tell me more about it.”
Please just do not say, “I couldn’t do that.” Nobody cares that you aren’t able to do it. Or worse, “How do your kids handle [your living your life]?” No. Just no. Trust me, no parent will appreciate that judgement. Maybe once you talk to them longer, once they have more trust in you, ask, “I have kids and I wouldn’t know how to tell them about [insert life choice]. Can you give me advice?”