“ I guess you’re right,” he said with understanding, “people can change, you certainly have. You are not the same person I was married to.”
My ex-husband said this to me on the phone the other day. It was a very memorable moment for me.
In reading the bio on my website you know that I was married for 24 years and that my marriage ended when I was an expat living in Panama. I did not see it coming and it devastated me. I have never experienced something as gut wrenching and traumatic as my marriage ending. No way was I ever going to feel compassion or empathy for my ex.
His comment was the result of a telephone conversation we had had as two days prior he had reached out by email asking for my help. He was trying to remember something that may or may not have happened with a 40 year friendship of his. I had of course known this person, and their history, while we were married. Further backstory; he had a major motorcycle accident 9 months after we split up. This resulted in 5 months of in- hospital therapy and a permeant brain injury, making him a completely different person than the man I had been married too.
He has a gap in his memory, due to the accident, and hoped I may be able to help fill it in as he was desperately trying to figure out what had gone wrong with this relationship.
So being able to have this conversation with my ex was pretty momentous in my personal growth.
When I read his email, two days prior to the call, my curiosity was peaked. My interpretation was that he wasn’t just looking for an answer to a question. Such as, had there been a major fight with his friend he had forgotten about? Rather I felt I was hearing a desire for understanding and dare I say, even responsibility. During our marriage he had not been one to see his responsibility in a situation easily, was it possible he had changed as well?
My modus operandi, while we were married, was to immediately jump to frustration and condemnation with him. I was good at laying blame and telling him what to do. How could he not see what was right in front of him?
As I pondered it further the new me began to emerge. I asked myself, how do I show up to this conversation? Will I fall into default mode when I hear his voice or will I be present to who I am now? Do I want to just be a provider of facts and keep it short and sweet or as a coach, bringing in all the coaching/life skills I have learned in our 8 years apart.
It’s funny when I look back on it, was thinking I had a choice in how to show up. I didn’t really because the skills I brought to the call are now a part of my core, they are who I am. Because as he pointed out to me, I have changed.
Throughout our conversation I took out of my tool box the skills I have learned as a coach.The same life skills I help my coaching clients learn how to use in their lives. Listening, empathy, open ended questions, vulnerability, courage, curiosity, non judgement, compassion. They all showed up.
With these skills I created a connection. Through them I showed him that he had the answers he was seeking already inside of himself. He just needed some self reflection and to be asked the right questions. I also brought forth examples of these things from past experiences we both knew about. I helped connect the dots for him.
I felt such a warm glow when I got off the phone. The universe had shifted just a little for me. I think it was a feeling of completion.
In this conversation I had created a connection with someone whom I never thought I would have one with again after all the hurt and pain between us. We had spoken about experiences that only I could have shared with him.
I have said to many people, over the past 8 years, that if it were not for the courage of my ex husband asking for a divorce I would not have found this path of communication, connection and being a coach. My mantra was ,” but I’ll never tell him that. “ But with this call I was given a chance to do just that. I am proud I had the courage and vulnerability to do it. It deepened the connection, and that’s a good thing.
I share this story because whether you are a client, a potential client or a friend, I want you to know we all have within us the power to change. My journey has not been an easy one. Eight years ago I would have never thought I would be able to show compassion and empathy for my ex. But the possibility of life being different than what we see through our current lens is possible.
With time, experiences and open eyes to a different perspective we can get there. Find the people to help you on your journey, and keep trying, even when you stumble and get dirt on your face, find the courage to keep trying.
I promise you the internal reward is worth it.
Thank you Rick for allowing me the opportunity to share with you all that I have become, not in spite of you, but because of you.