A side effect of having spent way too long in an unhappy relationship seems to a specialized form of ESP.
No, I can't help you with your lottery numbers... but I seem to have gotten very good at recognizing when others are in similar situations.
Sure, there are couples everyone knows need to break up. I've never seen my neighbours together, but anyone who has spent any substantial time in our apartment knows they need to break up. The fact that I don't even blink anymore when "I hate you! You always make me cry!" penetrates through the walls like a bullet speaks to that fact.
But there are those other couples. Those who don't fight in public, who seem to be taking all the steps in the right direction. People regularly make bets about their wedding date, and ask them about children. But there is something dull beneath the surface. They don't speak about one another much, and when they do, their eyes don't sparkle like they used to. Things slip out occasionally when loosened by alcohol. Routine seems to be their crutch more than anything.
People look at me, perplexed, when I ask if the two of them are doing okay.
But then I remember that I took even my closest confidants by surprise when I left, despite the fact that I'd spent the past year working up the courage to leave, and had remained in oblivious neutrality the year prior to that.
I know we've all stayed in a relationship too long, have hesitated when we should have gone with our gut. But there seems to be this fear that strikes at some point in adulthood, when people start feeling the pressure and begin wondering if years with the same person should mean forever.
Sometimes, I want to pull these people aside, and tell them that alone isn't so scary. That ambivalence isn't a good way to live. That when you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, for a reason to stay or leave, that your mind has already been made up, even if you haven't acknowledged it yet. That the absence of bad isn't the same as good. That routine can't ever take the place of passion.
But these are not my words to say. These are the epiphanies they need to reach on their own, even if it feels like they are barely drifting in that direction. All I can do is be there when that light bulb flickers on.