“When people show you who they are, believe them…” Maya Angelou
My client, Caren, and I were talking last night about her relationship that’s falling apart right now. There have been lies, infidelity and more hurt than any heart should ever bear.
But even as the relationship is unravelling around her, she’s struggling to let it go, wondering, Why can’t I walk away?
She can’t help herself from wishing things could be different…
…that things could magically go back to how they used to be before all the hurt…
…that he could be the loving, committed, and honest man she needs him to be.
But she can’t forget what she now knows: he can’t be faithful to just one woman. His history (and even current actions) have proven that.
Even though he has said he’s going to change, his actions still aren’t aligning with his words and nothing’s really changing.
This is who he is. This is who he will always be.
So now she has two options:
Option 1: Stay in the relationship and accept him as he is, knowing that there will be others; there will always be others. (And she can choose that, because who are we to judge someone else’s relationship?)
Option 2: Leave the relationship, knowing that they just want very different things. She wants a committed, connected, intimate relationship with one man. He wants the stability of a wife and family at home and the excitement and passion of multiple lovers.
What she cannot do (and what I as her coach cannot let her do) is continue to believe that there’s this make-believe third option she’s been hoping for: That he will magically become this different man than who he’s consistently shown himself to be so that she can have the kind of relationship she desires.
That’s arguing with reality…
That’s living in denial…
And that never works.
I Could Choose to Get Frostbite
I don’t like winters. At all. But I live in Columbus, Ohio where we get our fair share of bitter cold temperatures and grey days for 4-5 months each year.
Now, I could allow the reality of the weather to ruin months of my life, staying angry on any day that is cold and or cloudy. I could tell everyone I know how it’s not fair that San Diego gets sunny and 70 degree temperatures all year round. And I could even rail against the weather and wear flip flops all winter long; but I’d likely get frostbite.
You’d think I was crazy if I railed against the weather, something that I absolutely cannot control. But somehow, we’ll do the exact same thing in our relationships – ignoring how it is and torturing ourselves wishing the reality was different – and not see the crazy-making in that action.
What Caren is realizing is that she’s been remaining stuck hoping and believing that the third option is real, that her husband changing into someone he’s never been is actually a possibility.
She’s learning that she has to accept him for who he is, as he is. And then she needs to make a choice between only two options.
She needs to make the decision if who he is, as he is, is what she wants.
There’s no wrong answer (except continuing to stay stuck in choosing Option 3 for herself and thinking it’s actually a real, legitimate option).