My client was recently telling me about her attempts to control her husband’s drinking.
She had tried everything under the sun: Begged and pleaded with him to stop, hidden alcohol, thrown out alcohol, counted his drinks and told him how much he’d had, raged at him, lost weight to get his attention, threatened to leave, promised to never leave, gotten drunk with him in order to spend time in his world, cleaned up his emotional and physical messes in the name of love, drove around at 2 AM looking for him in bars, calling hospitals at all hours of the night when he did not come home, done sexual things that disgusted her to keep him interested in her, lied for him, lied to him, guilted him, manipulated him, almost lost her job because she was so preoccupied with him, and the list goes on.
Despite all this, her husband was still drinking with no end in sight.
I asked her what she would have to feel if she stopped insisting he got sober.
She teared up and began to cry.
She told me she’d have to feel her own loneliness and helplessness. Her desperation. Her heartbreak and loss. Her sense of failure that she could not make her marriage work just like her mother. Her grief over not being enough of a reason for her own father to deal with his alcoholism, which eventually led to his death.
My client had been so laser focused on her husband because she did not want to feel any of these things.
You don’t have to have an alcoholic in your life in order to use other people to avoid your own pain. We do it all the time when we focus more on how other people should be different than what is going on inside of us. The truth is we often want people to change so we don’t have to feel discomfort.
It’s ok. Really. We have all done it. You may still be doing it. The first place to start is always with what is so. And what is so may be that you don’t want to or don’t know how to deal with your own shit. Brav0. We can work with that.
And frankly, it’s understandable. I don’t know many people who want to engage with their despair. Who sign up for staring years of unprocessed emotion in the face. It’s no easy feat.
And I believe that until we are willing to do just that, we will not see reality. We will not have to clarity that allows us to make decisions and take right action on our behalf. When we won’t face ourselves, we become stuck in the fantasy that if this person would just fill in the blank, our lives would be better.
My client had the courage to stay with herself and turn toward her own heart. And it helped her make a decision to end her marriage. Once she had tended to her own wounds, there was no need for her to try to heal them by fixing her spouse. Had she decided to stay, it would have also been through the lens of truth and not illusion. Healing herself allowed her the freedom to make a choice grounded in wisdom and self love, not fear and martydom.
That freedom is available to you too.
What would you have to feel if you stopped trying tp change someone in your life today?