Balance purpose, relationships, and self-care

Empathy works. It always does.

Conflicts are opportunities to learn

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footstep“My marriage sucks.” She looks at me with tears in her eyes. “I give it a 2. I’m ready to leave. I’m sick and tired of the bickering and squabbling. I want peace and love and joy. Just a friendly face in the morning, someone who greets me with a smile ‘Good morning, my love, what a delight to see you today.’”

Tears roll down her face. She feels lonely, sad and hopeless.

She started her marriage with such excitement. A match made in heaven. She thought this time it would be a ten, or at least a nine, and for certain a consistent eight. Now she is ready to give up.

We sit together in silence.

I see her sadness and respect her pain.

Taking one little step at a time

“You know what?”, she says, with a sudden twinkle in her eyes. “I could see it differently. I could strive for a 2½, instead of being frustrated it is not a 10. Just a little improvement. One thing that works better today than yesterday. Just one little step, and then stabilize it. And then a next little step. And stabilize it. And then a next little step. Till I am where I want to be.”

Conflicts are opportunities for better understanding

She seems relieved. “I could see our conflicts as learning opportunities. ‘Oh, we bumped into each other. Hum. Maybe he needs help to make his life more wonderful. Maybe he has a unique request for me, something I could never have guessed, unless we bumped into each other. Maybe if I listen, instead of demanding that he asks differently, we will get somewhere.’ Hum.”

She ponders.

“You know what? I have actually been telling myself that what he wants is not valid. That he should not want the dishes to be put away, that that is a ridiculous thing to want. That the dishes are fine in the sink.”

Another silence.

“Isn’t that strange? I would never do that with my plants. I would never tell my bougainvillea ‘Don’t be a sissy wanting less water. Don’t demand more nourishment. Don’t complain you don’t get enough sunlight. The other plants don’t do that! They do fine in the shade, soaking in water, in barren soil. Just grow up and bloom!’ I don’t do that with anyone. But I do it with him. As if I am the judge of what is reasonable and unreasonable to ask.”

Making life more wonderful

She straightens her back. “I’m gonna see all our conflicts as opportunities to learn a little bit more about this unique man. As a privilege to understand more about this unique manifestation of life. And then try to accommodate that little request. Just one request. And then another.”

She gets up and empties the dish rack. I can tell her marriage is already at an 8.

_____

You want help to see your conflicts as learning opportunities? Contact me 512-589-0482. I would be honored to help.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping professionals schedule time for relationships and self-care. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

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