A LONGSTANDING friend ‘phones me in tears. She kissed her husband goodbye this morning and wished him well as he headed for the doctor’s. He had, he confessed over breakfast, had a funny turn the day before which he’d never mentioned but which had worried him. Tingling in the arms, chest pains, a feeling of giddiness. Classic heart attack symptoms. He looked ok, and at least he was taking action, she’d thought. He didn’t need her to go with him but he’d call her when he was through. He didn’t.
So she called him. What had the doctor said? “I’ll tell you when I get home. I don’t want to talk now – I’m having a cup of tea and a toasted teacake.” Oh – so no heart attack fears then? “I can’t discuss it. I’ll see you in 20 minutes.” When he returned, she got the diagnosis: stress. Oh, that old thing, was went went through her mind. Well, we’re all a bit stressed, and the business they run together had had a few teething troubles. Phew – what a relief.
So what exactly had happened? He said the doctor had done all the tests and there was nothing wrong at all. At least not with his heart. “She asked me if I was stressed and I told her I was. She said she wasn’t surprised; the symptoms I’d described were of a classic panic attack and she asked me what I was stressed about. I told her it was my marriage; that I was very unhappy. That we have nothing in common, we row all the time, and well – we just don’t get on, basically.”
Oh dear. This sounded serious. Like one of those stories you hear about a partner in a marriage having an affair and everybody but the other partner knowing nothing about it. But this was different: we’re close. I see them regularly and they seem blissfully happy. So was it all a show? Were they in fact deeply unhappy and hiding it well from friends and family?
“No!” she insisted. “At least I’m not. I’d just been telling a friend the other day how happy and contented I was. So happy and contented, in fact, that I was worried something awful was going to happen. But that’s me – I’m a worrier. But I’ve never been happier. I’ve got everything I could possibly want and I thought he had.”
Obviously not. So what does he want if not her and the apparently blissful life they share in a fabulous house in a lovely part of the country?
“I haven’t a clue. The other night we were watching the World Cup final together. I’ve watched every match in the tournament with him and enjoyed it. I love football. I don’t understand the offside rule and I’m not keen on birdwatching [his obsession] but other than that I thought everything was fine,” she wailed.
Oh well, I say. That’s men for you. Not understanding the offside rule is practically grounds for divorce. As for the bird-watching, I advise her to get a good pair of binoculars. And hit him over the head with them.