#237 – The Measure of Happiness

Several weeks ago, I heard a radio segment on gauging happiness in a relationship. The host had devised a question to elicit his wife’s overall level of satisfaction in theirs. Although I felt pretty confident in the solidity of my marriage, I liked the idea of certainty. Late yesterday afternoon, I finally summoned the nerve to query Sophia.

I found her sitting on the couch in the media room, silently gazing at her laptop screen. Stepping to her side, I asked: “Honey, if you had to rate your happiness in our marriage, what percentage would you give?”

The final word barely escaped my lips before she answered: “Twenty-five.” She didn’t even look up as she spoke!

Stunned, I asked the standard follow-up question: “What can I do to raise that number to the nineties, where it belongs?”

At least this time Sophia pondered the subject for a decent interval prior to responding. Then, in a raised voice, without looking away from the screen, she announced: “That’s impossible!”

Reeling from shock, I reflexively inquired: “Do you want a divorce?”

Following a pause of several seconds, she replied — again without affording the courtesy of staring me in the eyes: “I don’t need to tell you, we can’t keep doing this!”

Without another word, I stormed from the room. Sophia found me in our bedroom a half hour later. Glancing confusedly in my direction, she asked: “Richard, what’re you doing?”

“What does it look like? I’m packing!” I testily informed her.

“I can see that; but why?”

I couldn’t believe she was playing stupid. “Sophia, since you’re so unhappy with our marriage, it’s obvious the two of us can’t live together any longer.”

“What?!! Can you please explain yourself, Richard?” Oddly, she looked as bewildered as she sounded.

I didn’t appreciate revisiting the conversation that’d squashed our marriage, but she insisted. Grudgingly, I rehashed the gory details. 

When I finished, she shook her head. In a tone I can only describe as exasperated, she explained: “Richard, I wasn’t talking to you, and I didn’t even realize you were in the room. I was on a conference call for work. Didn’t you see the Bluetooth transmitter in my ear?”

“A likely story, Sophia! How do you explain all your answers to my questions?”

“Easily, Richard. My colleagues and I were discussing this past year’s actual income and expenses compared to the annual budget. ‘Twenty-five’ referred to one of the cost items. Another actual cost came in more than double its budget, and the amount seemed so high I thought it must be a typo. And one other cost item was over budget for the third year in a row which, as I told everyone, is unacceptable.”

“So, you don’t want a divorce?”

Rolling her eyes, she confirmed: “No, idiot. And in answer to your question, I’d say I’m ninety percent happy in our marriage. Now, how about unpacking your clothes and returning the suitcase to the attic while I get dinner ready?”

As she turned to leave the room, Sophia stopped short: “Wait a minute! Are those my clothes in that suitcase?”

A large suitcase serves best when packing up one’s possessions.


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