rebirth august 2021

Everything is Beautiful and Painful: Top Three Relationship Rules

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One of my life maxims is “Things in my life are just where they are supposed to be.” I mean, otherwise, I would be somewhere else…

Spirituality Check At The Moment: I need God in my life.
I need to understand my anger at what we call JESUS.

So when my mom died unexpectedly in early March and knocked the wind out of me and my new job, I had a setback that really tested my faith. Faith in god. But, mainly, faith in myself. See, if you’re fall out of love with yourself, you’re not in a position to love someone else. What happens is you become dependant on the people around you. Love does not work that way. It’s either cooperation, collaboration, and forward-momentum, or it’s not. Turns out, that part of my life also lost its spark.

I Wish I Could Say That Everyone Else Was Wrong

Depression when it hits tends to attack everything vital in your life. Here’s what happens to me.

  1. I suddenly believe I’m a fraud
  2. I hate all of my writing, my books, my music, this blog
  3. I lose all confidence in myself
    • meaning i’m not very good in a relationship
    • i’m not very good at a job
    • i’m not very good at loving myself
    • i’m aiming towards the edge of a cliff
  4. The darkness of each morning brings a pit of dread in my lower belly.
  5. I look forward to when I can return to bed

What’s your depression like? And, hasn’t the shutdown accelerated your pain and struggle? I know it has for me. I entered the job hunt every morning, with zero enthusiasm and hope. I spent most of my days treading water, hoping no one would notice how quiet I had become, or how fucked up I appeared when I did try and speak my mind. I was in no condition to navigate a relationship, much less care for myself. I was in survival mode and doing the bare minimum.

Here’s What I Did Well

  • I asked for closeness from those around me
  • I put my mind into the present joy of life and activities as much as possible
  • I continued to meet weekly with my talky doctor and every few months with my meds doctor.
  • I exercised daily
  • I tried to eat healthily
  • If I ate poorly, I tried the concept of harm reduction (no queso this time)
  • I stayed unsustainably close to my partner
  • I contained my own dark thoughts and feelings by growing quieter and more isolated
  • And most importantly I focused on THE NOW.

Focusing On the Now

At this moment, today, right now, my life is okay. I may not like some of the things that are happening. But I’m in a hotel room at the beach on a Monday morning. I can say, that my moment this morning watching the sunrise over the ocean was a peak experience. I’m alone. And when I’m not horribly, disfiguringly, depressed, I’m happy from the moment I wake up. I look forward to the work today. My new job is only one week old, and I’m already hopefully enthusiastic about my first meeting in a few hours.

The Now Moment

  1. I cannot change another person
  2. If I am waiting on the other person change in order for me to be happy, I need to leave
  3. I have two choices about my relationship
    • radical acceptance of my relationship exactly as it is in this moment
    • leave the relationship (this one might have been taken care of by her)

Focus on What You Can Change

Today, I’m working remotely from a beach in Texas. I’m going to be happy and productive. I’ve got great food. Great music. And a nice workspace with a view of the dunes. It’s going to be too hot in an hour anyway, I’ll work until it cools off. AND: get this, I can go work from anywhere in the world. Where will I go?

Let Go Of What You Can’t Change

Most of the actions of others, wait, strike that, ALL OF THE ACTIONS OF ANOTHER PERSON are NOT UNDER YOUR CONTROL. There is *NOTHING* you can do to make another person change. In the case of my father, I could not beg, negotiate, or pray him into sobriety. I could not save my father from his demise. As relationships go, we can only go so far, and then it’s up to our partner to stretch and agree to the relationship-building concept of constant and consistent growth together. Either we are working towards our lover, or we are not. We cannot make another person WORK on the relationship. It didn’t in my failed marriage. It won’t now.

People are going to do what they WANT to do. Everything else is a request. “I hope you’ll choose to come with me on this trip.” Or, “I’m sorry you can’t come on this trip, I’m going anyway. Take care.” I can’t control either one. But I can control my response. I am only responsible for my actions. And my own side of the dance of an intimate relationship. Neither partner can lead the entire dance. It’s a partnership. Shared. Like Salsa. When it’s a country two-step going in one direction with the man directing the path through the crowd, there is going to be fatigue and resistance from both partners.

Three Essential Relationship Rules

  1. Let’s collaborate about our relationship.
  2. Let’s always consider the other partner before making plans.
  3. Let’s be honest when it’s over, and move on with grace and compassion

Alone But Never Alone

The final challenge for me is more spiritual. I do believe in God, but my rational and logic is a bit fuzzy. It’s a combination of childhood Presbyterianism and Humanism + Liberal + Ecological priorities. Let’s just say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” But that presents some problems in my life.

When I was younger and my parents began to struggle with a long protracted divorce, I begged for Jesus/God to help them stay together. I prayed all the time for my dad to stop killing himself with alcohol and cigarettes. And… To this day, I still have some resentment that I was provided no shelter from the onslaught of my parents divorce. My divorce faired no better. I was prayerful, dutiful, and working to be the best husband I could be. My then-wife made other plans. There was nothing I could do. And Jesus didn’t do anything either. So here we are.

I need God in my life. I need to understand my anger at what we call JESUS.

I’m on the path to my own recovery. My higher power is due for an upgrade. I’m on it.

Where are you on your relationship journey? With a partner? With yourself? With your higher power? I’m happy to give you a free coaching session to chat about it. No obligations. Easy single-page signup. GET A FREE COACHING SESSION.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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