“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.”
William Hazlitt

This past Saturday I watched an episode (for the third time) of the new drama This Is Us on NBC.  This time I watched it with my kids.  This episode explored a secret that a mother kept from her son that was revealed to him as an adult.  The son was devastated to find out that she kept something so important to him from him and was having a hard time forgiving her.  The writers did an amazing job of showing both perspectives, how deep the pain was for both of them, and the importance of understanding why a person makes the choices they make.  When we are fighting so hard to be right or justify our pain, we miss all of the opportunities to grow and learn from the journey of someone else’s story or pain.  We miss out on forgiveness, which can keep us stuck in our own pain indefinitely…

There was a scene in particular when the son’s dad (who is dead) appears in a hallucination.  He explains to the son that yes his mother was wrong.  But now what?  It wasn’t right, but she had her reasons for making the choices she made and then they show the mom in a room terrified…locking the doors, closing the windows, doing everything possible to keep out anything that she perceived could harm her family.  I watched this scene with my teenagers who both looked at me and said okay I get it.  They were initially very judgmental toward the mom.  At this point, my eyes are filled with tears, and I told them I was that mother.  I did everything in my power to keep everything and everyone I perceived as harmful to our family out, and in doing so I made huge mistakes…It was such a moment with my kids of transparency and authenticity that they know now, but it took a lot of work, pain, and tears to own that about myself.

After 20 years of marriage, my husband and I have been separated for the last two plus years.  We both have gone through the phases of grief.  I know for me initially I felt like the victim. In my mind I gave everything I had to the marriage, and it was his inability to hear or see me that messed it up. I was angry at all of the things he did over the course of the marriage.  I thought if he would have done this or that, we would have been ok.  Then the depression hit, and I kept thinking about all I walked away from…did I give up too soon, or did I expect too much?  I share all of this to say that once the phases passed, and the noise quieted down, I was able to see clearly my part in where we find ourselves.  Until I was able to remove the victim hat, I was unable to see my journey and how my own “inner stuff” contributed to the breakdown of the marriage.  After all, I am a counselor, a coach, a communicator…It couldn’t be me?  Right? Wrong!  It was both of us…

I know for me, I held on too tight, I tried to control all aspects of my family unit, and I was very intolerant of outside forces that I deemed dangerous to my world.  In doing this I created a space of rigidity that was unyielding to anything that might have been going on inside of my husband, and missed some crucial things that should have been addressed with my children.  Sure I checked in with all, but I think at some point they didn’t feel free or safe to communicate with me. It wasn’t until my world fell apart that I realized we were living on two different islands, and our kids saw through all the bullshit. I do not blame myself for the ending of my marriage or the picture that I created, but it was important for me to explore my part, my choices, and my personal pain in order to forgive him and most importantly to forgive myself.

In any situation that you find yourself in conflict, remember you played a part in where you are.  If you allow yourself to explore and own that part, it will give the other person the freedom and safety to do the same.  Most importantly, it will help you move forward with grace, forgiveness, acceptance, and you will probably prevent yourself from repeating the same mistake in future relationships.

My Takeaways:

  • Learning to be authentic and vulnerable with my kids has made me a better parent and person.  I’ve been able to learn so much about myself and grow into a better human being by allowing myself to truly be seen by their eyes.
  • Forgiveness and acceptance has been the key to my healing journey.  My husband and I are friends and are great co-parents because of our ability to own and forgive.

My challenge for you:

  • Are you stuck in a situation where you can’t see past your own pain.  If for no one else, take a moment and only concentrate on what you could have done better or differently.  This will not take away from what the other party did or didn’t do, but it will allow you to learn from your own journey…Write it down for your eyes only, and if you feel led and have the courage to explore a conversation, communicate with that person and only talk about your part…
  • The goal of the above exercise is not to fix or retain the relationship, but to learn, grow, forgive, and move forward in a healthy way for all involved.
  • Need help?  Sign up for my next group coaching webinar in February…It will change your life.  Click here for details.