Have you ever been in a relationship where you compromised yourself to keep the relationship in balance? Whether it’s a romantic, professional or personal relationship, this realization usually comes too late – at least for the sake of saving the relationship. It typically happens as you are going through a break-up or after the relationship falls apart, sometimes many years later.
Jon originally came to coaching because he was unsatisfied in his job. As we navigated through these changes, he seemed more alive and enthusiastic. He had started a new romantic relationship and described moving from the infatuation stage into, what he called, the “real relationship.”
As they grew closer, he noticed patterns from his previous relationships creeping in, ones he thought he had outgrown. In one coaching session, he said his ex-girlfriend, Liz, had called. They had broken up at least a year before he had met his new girlfriend. He had left the previous relationship out of anger and had harbored resentment ever since. Now that Liz had made contact, he was faced with the opportunity to clear some past blocks and possibly open more freedom in his current relationship.
“There is a part of me that wants to resolve this with Liz (the ex),” Jon explained, “but another part that just wants to forget about it. I don’t want to mess up anything in my new relationship.”
It was heavy on his mind. I asked, “What is the gift of facing what happened and what is the cost?”
Jon realized that a part of him – a large part – had been consumed in the previous relationship. Normally quite independent, he had managed to bend so much during the relationship that he ended up resenting her, which is why he left. As he expressed his anger towards her, he realized that he was really mad at himself! He had allowed it to happen. By placing the relationship over being truthful with himself he had compromised his values and lost himself for the sake of being loved. In the end, he lost the relationship as well.
These realizations opened up several possibilities for growth. “What should I do now?” he asked. He had the answers; my job was to help him figure out which was most in line with his truth.
To help him clarify his wishes, I asked him two questions. How did he want to handle it with his ex? And, how could he integrate what he was learning into his current relationship? Denying that it had happened would be easiest – at least temporarily – but that was not what he chose to do. Instead he decided to write a letter to Liz describing his feelings about how the relationship ended and his recent realizations for his part in the break-up.
In his current relationship, Jon decided to use this as an opportunity to explore any areas where he might be repeating the same pattern. Had he been bending too far? If so, he would identify these areas, and write about what beliefs lie behind these behaviors. Was he afraid of being truthful? Would there be problems or confrontations?
Jon would then talk to his girlfriend about the situation with the ex, how he was feeling (being open and vulnerable) and any realizations he had had about their current relationship. He would use this as an opportunity to communicate with her and deepen the relationship. In effect, he was actively choosing NOT to repeat the pattern!
Coaching Challenge: Think of an important person in your life… in a friendship, a romantic or a professional relationship. Where do you experience frustration in the relationship and how do you handle it? Are you honest or do you let things slide for fear of confrontation? If you are more on the “sliding” side, write down at least three reasons why you allow yourself to put the relationship above your truth. For each reason, answer the questions: Is this a valid fear? What is the gift of believing this and what is the cost? Then ask yourself, “Is it worth the cost?” Are you willing to do anything – possibly even give up your truth – to stay in the relationship? Or are you willing to break the pattern?