Witnessing a young couple’s marriage in distress, veteran motorhomers call upon their own relationship in an attempt to help.
By Bob & Claire Rogers
“You don’t care about me!”
The exclamation came from a young woman sitting inside a car beside “Turtle,” our motorhome. “You don’t treat me the same way you did before we got married.”
A young man stood tall beside her window, hands at his sides. He displayed an outer calm. “It’s not me. It’s you,” he said evenly.
His tone and demeanor seemed to make her even angrier. The recriminations continued. Hers were shrill and emotional; his controlled, but uncommunicative.
In our view, one of the best things about RV travel is parking our motorhome in places where life happens in the open, sometimes raw and uncensored. The interactions we watch day-to-day are often pleasurable, such as a parent showing love and care to a child. Other times, they take on a sad twist. Mostly we watch and mind our own business (especially when it comes to domestic situations, which can be dangerous even for the police). But sometimes we have to become involved.
As the increasingly vitriolic argument unfolded near us, we looked at each other, tears in our eyes. It was our 20th anniversary, and we were witnessing the beginning of the end of a young marriage. It didn’t take words between us to know what we should do. We held hands and walked around the motorhome toward them.
We could tell from the vague, repetitive accusations that the couple had reached an impasse. As we approached, Bob took the lead.
“It’s our 20th anniversary,” he began. “And we just had to say something. We couldn’t help but overhear.” Bob nodded toward our nearby motorhome. “I hope you don’t mind.”
The young man acknowledged us and indicated it was okay. The young lady quickly put the car in reverse and said, “I was just leaving.” But she didn’t go.
Bob looked at him and said, “You don’t understand her emotions. You will when you are older, but for now, just listen. She’s hurting, and you need to hear her.”
Through the car window, he said to the gal, “You don’t understand why he’s so calm, so unresponsive to your hurt.” The young lady nodded, looking down. “He’s just doing what men are taught. We’re not supposed to show emotion.”
Bob, tears in his eyes, clapped the young man on the shoulder and said, “You have to understand her need for you to show your love.”
The young lady stole a furtive look at her husband, her mascara revealing where tears had run down her cheeks. “You’re being a man, and she’s being a woman,” Bob said. The young man smiled just a tiny bit.
“It’s what many men do,” Claire added. “It happens when they are feeling bombarded, so they just clam up. Trust me, this happens to men and women all over the world, and the women think they’re not being heard.”
“You gotta work together,” Bob advised. “That’s the hard part of marriage, but it’s the rewarding part, too.” He turned back to the young man. “We travel, just the two of us, on our tandem bicycle all over the world.” The young man’s eyebrows went up. “Last year we rode over the Tibetan Plateau, through Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, three thousand miles. A few years before, we went from Beijing to Istanbul. Across Central Asia.” The young man was really listening now.
“A couple doesn’t do something like that without knowing how to work together,” Bob continued, smiling. “There’s nothing like it. But, it takes some time, and a lot of listening.”
The writer in Claire then spoke to the young lady. “If you aren’t able to communicate what you need, try writing it down. Write what’s wrong and write what you think would fix it, but don’t give up.” The young lady cracked the window a bit more and went back to twisting her beautiful wedding and engagement rings. She rolled her window down farther and looked up at her husband, and he down at her.
“We’ll go away now,” Bob said, taking that cue. We left the young couple to begin settling their differences.
We returned to Turtle, stowed our loose items, and started the engine. As we drove away, the young man was leaning into the car window, and they were kissing.
For our anniversary, we could have given ourselves a cruise to Alaska, celebrated at the captain’s table with expensive champagne, and seen the wildlife at a safe distance. Instead we enjoyed leftovers and box wine in Turtle while stopped in a library parking lot. And maybe, just maybe, we helped make a difference in two young lives.
It was our best anniversary ever.