A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to have some deep life conversations with a close friend.
It wasn’t intended to be a coaching session, but as many deep conversations do, it involved a lot of the elements I see in good sessions.
It had deep honesty and raw vulnerability. It had lots of deep reflection. It involved discussions of psychology and philosophy, and reflections on how we experience life, what we want, and why emotions exist.
It was packed with deep thoughts, deep emotions, and moments of tears, too.
For both of us.
When you go deep into a coaching session with someone you can relate to, you go deep into your own experiences and memories as well.
Emotions and empathy are essential for connection, and with our life experiences, we could both empathize.
I count these opportunities as very special, when someone invites me deeply into their life problems, because helping the people around me make their lives better makes my world happier too.
Compassion and connection are core values of mine, and living in a happy world, surrounded by happy people, is an amazing thing.
It's worth more than gold.
But I get more than happier friends.
And I walk from these session, I'm touched deeply by them too. I walk away having taken a good hard look in the mirror of my own life, my own thoughts, my own expectations and dreams and memories.
It’s full-on intense. Coaches don't tell you this, but in every great session we do, we get coached too, in the very same process of deep reflection, questioning, and empathy.
It can be a profound experience, and this one was for me, too.
Her problem was that she felt deeply unhappy in her marriage relationship. Like many people, when she married, she expected that having a partner and a family would add to her happiness in life and her sense of fulfillment.
She imagined she'd feel secure, settled, wanted, needed... happy.
But she felt the reality was different. She didn’t feel the caring, compassion and warmth she expected from her partner. She didn't really feel appreciated or wanted in the way she imagined. She just felt a lot more work, a lot less freedom, and unmet expectations.
So we talked about all of those feelings.
We talked about love.
We talked about her relationship.
We talked about disappointment, resentment, and expectations.
We talked about what she wanted, and why she felt she couldn't get that in her relationship.
Changing Your Perspective
And as I unpacked the thoughts and emotions that held her trapped in her emotional hell, I asked a question;
If, tomorrow, you could snap your fingers, and have a partner who was warm, loving, compassionate, emotionally available, the best lover and companion you’ve ever imagined, someone who filled your heart with joy...
BUT, he didn’t have a job, didn’t want to work, or protect or support you financially in any way. What if you were suddenly completely on your own to make ends meet?
Would you be happier?
She paused with surprise, and I watched her face go through a range of emotions as she considered my question.
It was clear that she would feel miserable in that situation too, and for entirely different reasons.
I found a piece of paper and drew a picture for her.
I drew it as a pie chart with six equal slices, while I explained my thinking...
From the perspective of someone in a relationship, there are a lot of ingredients that go into making that relationship great.
- feeling protected and provided for, by someone who is loyal and committed to you
- having a good friend and companion to share life experiences with
- a partner who is a good parent to your children
- sexual happiness and a considerate lover
- feeling supported and encouraged to grow in your own dreams and pursuits
- the feeling of being loved... wanted, cared for, missed, needed, and important to someone who is emotionally available
These different parts are all important, and from what I’m hearing, your relationship has most of these pretty well covered.
I colored in 5/6 of the pie chart, leaving one gap open. In her case it was #6, that last one in my list above.
And then I observed this...
You have almost the perfect relationship. Almost. In fact, you have a much better relationship than many of my coaching clients do.
Why do you feel so much misery?
Love is Easy. Relationships are Hard.
I've shared many times why I think that love is easy, and relationships are hard.
In this case she felt such an intense emotional disconnection with her partner that it entirely consumed her. No matter how good her relationship was in other ways, she suffered so intensely from this one gap that she didn't know how to be happy.
I want you to want me
I need you to need me
I'd love you to love me
I'm beggin' you to beg me
- Cheap Trick
For men especially, there’s an important lesson here too.
Emotional availability isn't really an option. Some women can handle it just fine, and I've met my share of emotionally unavailable women.
For for a woman who craves connection and empathy, and the feeling of being wanted. - it's everything to her sense of security.
If she doesn't have that from you, she'll feel frustrated and disconnected. She'll lay awake at night with anxiety because she'll feel like she's unloved, and that here relationship is falling apart.
All because of that emotional disconnect.
For her, that feeling is part of her core survival mechanism. Feeling that someone cares, matters.
And yes, you can develop it. It means getting in touch with your own emotions first, and it will change your world for the better.
If you thought you knew what happiness was, you have no idea.
And, we're back at love languages.
I found this very interesting too. She's familiar with love languages, and with the work of Brené Brown.
She guessed my love language straightaway, on the first guess. But she couldn’t guess her own husband’s.
Because love languages are based on emotion, and they require emotional vulnerability to see them. Her husband - like many men I've worked with - didn't have that ability or willingness to connect emotionally.
And the result for her was that he was like a black box. A mystery inside, which she struggled to feel secure with.
Her work is just beginning.
On one level, her relationship feels like a cracked egg, and she imagines that nothing can really repair it.
But because that one crack creates so much emotional distress for her, she’s often unable to see the other 11 eggs in that dozen that are in perfect condition.
We all do this, because emotions are powerful.
One of my favorite examples is this analogy;
Imagine if you had 86,400 dollars in your account and someone stole 10 dollars from you. Would you be upset and throw all of the remaining 86,390 dollars away in hopes of getting back at the person who took your 10 dollars? Or move on and live? Right, you would move on and live. See, we have 86,400 seconds in every day, so don't let someone's negative 10 seconds ruin the remaining 86,390 seconds of your day.
Can you relate?
The is a perfect example of the conflict that our rational and emotional minds often experience. Our rational mind is often better at seeing the future, and the big picture, but our emotional mind is louder and usually much stronger.
The thing we often fail to see is that perspective is a choice.
"It isn't what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It's what you think about." – Dale Carnegie
If you're feeling trapped, you just have to see those choices, and make a better one.
There's a lot of happiness on the other side.
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