“When you remove the dysfunction out of your life, growth is inevitable.” – Tim Goad
I heard those very words spoken at a leadership conference 7 years ago and felt immediately how they had impacted me. What I didn’t realize, is that they would become the foundation for some difficult decisions that were to come in my life.
I was well on my way to leading the life I had dreamt for myself. I was mentored by significant leaders, growing and developing on the daily, and all the while being irrevocably in love with my soon to be husband. As every fairy tale unfolds, we got married on a beautiful day, surrounded by our loved ones, and started our journey in the world together. It would be naïve to say that I was 100% prepared for the turbulent times to come, but one thing I did know, was that I was absolutely sure on the person I was to marry. Unfortunately, that certainty was not enough to carry us through the ups and downs of life.
A series of seemly small hiccups occurred along the way, as every normal relationship experiences. What I hadn’t realized at the time was that by not working through the small hiccups, since we’d convinced ourselves that our future was larger and brighter than our current situation, we wouldn’t last through the tests of time to experience the beauty life has to offer. It was the inability to confront conflicts, and communicate through them with honesty and vulnerability, which started the construction of unhealthy walls and boundaries. This should have been the first warning sign that we needed to slow down our fast paced life and get some counseling. Call it fear, ignorance, or just plain old immaturity, I pressed on hoping and praying that things would get better. Most can agree that by simply hoping, without putting real work boots on to make necessary changes, only results in empty good intentions.
As the years went by, I would look at the person in the mirror and recognized myself less and less. Where had the ambitious, independent, bubbly and compassionate person gone? The person who had constantly thrown herself into moments of impact so she could transform into the powerful being she was created to be. The person that looked like me and sounded like me had turned into an insecure and judgmental perfectionist. How did this happen? When a person sacrifices too much of them self, to appease another’s needs and desires, they become completely ungrounded and imbalanced. Taking on the unhealthy challenge to please a person who is unhappy with his or her own sense of self, will only result in exhaustion.
Then a miracle happened. My husband, the impenetrable onion, had finally opened up. In tears, he admitted to his shortcomings and failings as my partner. He had finally admitted to constructing the fears and insecurities that I had taken on as my own. A normal reaction to this extreme vulnerability (which was both new and very difficult for him) should have been immense relief followed by love and support. I, unfortunately, experienced the opposite. I felt betrayed, lied to, lead astray, and broken hearted. I had allowed myself to emotionally get to the point of no return. Given, I had some help getting there, but that does not excuse the fact that we all have 100% control over our emotional well being at all times. This difficult task must be practiced intentionally. To not allow the emotional burdens and insecurities of others affect us, especially those we love, can feel like an impossible task on a good day.
So here I was, at a cross road in my life. Shall I stay and rebuild or move on?
Coming to terms with the decision to remove the dysfunction, which was my relationship, out of my life, was the most excruciatingly painful situation I ever wish to endure. It was by no means the easier of my two choices, but the only one I felt I was left with. I had nothing left to contribute to the rebuilding process of our relationship. So what was the result of that difficult decision? Something I never could have hoped or prayed for. Every relationship in my life grew exponentially. The Universe conspired to show me that the world was still an oyster, ripe for the taking, and I still had that ambitious, independent, bubbly and compassionate person within me. I was surprised by how quickly I had morphed back into my true self. And with that, the days to come provided more love than any one person could experience. Even though I still had to cope with the loss of my marriage, I was left at the end of each day feeling more blessed and alive than I had in years. I was reintroduced to what true joy and peace could feel like and it transpired into all the projects I put my hands to.
The lesson in identifying warning signs in relationships has taught me to become proactive and intentional with the people I come in contact with. Leading first with love and acceptance of all circumstances has eliminated judgment from my life. I believe that to unconditionally love others takes unwavering confidence ones self. It takes acceptance and forgiveness of others, and more importantly forgiveness of ourselves to move forward from traumatic situations. To have the ability to separate ones self from a difficult situation to find clarity and reasoning, has the potential to save relationships from unnecessary fallouts.
Knowing now, what I wish I had known back then would have resulted in a very different fairy tale ending. I have grown to accept that my divorce was not necessary. Had appropriate action been taken early on, we would have withstood the tests of time. I would not, however, trade in the lessons learned through those difficult times for anything. They have provided a platform to help others through trying times in their relationships, foundations for building cultures in businesses, and more importantly, created a more whole hearted contributing person in the world (me!). I am ever so grateful for the obstacles I have been faced with, for they have provided a gateway to greater opportunities.