I recently had the honor and pleasure to work with an amazing young woman. She would not consider herself amazing; she would simply think that she’s made some choices and decisions that have made her life better.
However, the amazing part is that she’s in her very early 20s and she is learning and embracing life lessons that I often see woman take decades to fully incorporate.
This last year has been tough for her. Hellish she says. Her marriage turned uglier and began to rapidly fall apart, she had a freak accidental injury that necessitated several reconstructive procedures, and she experienced the depths of dark emotion and hopelessness.
That all happened. Marriage not working, teeth broken, hopeless and helpless in the face of what the world can dish out.
But, she bounces in to my office now saying, I’m the happiest I’ve even been. And it shows. She is.
What she learned at the tender young age of 21 is the incredibly powerful lesson that she is in charge of her life. This extraordinary young woman used her difficult experiences to learn the lessons that were being presented to her. She didn’t wait for the same lesson to come in a different package, again, and again, and again.
Here’s what she says has been some of the greatest impacts.
1. Give up trying to change other people. This is the lesson that empowered her to decide to end her marriage. She realized that she had been working hard to change her husband in ways that he simply was not ready for, or interested in. This was creating tremendous stress for her since she was not OK with several aspects of his behavior.
She learned that while you can’t change other people, you can make choices about how you want to respond to them. When she realized this she decided that leaving the marriage was her best response.
As expected, her husband was not pleased with this decision and as with most relationship dissolutions; this has not been as easy process. However, it has led her to another lesson.
2. Don’t wait for others to do what you want. What she wanted was peace and good feeling and a quick transition. Initially, she wanted her husband to be nice and civil and participate in the separation kindly. He couldn’t do that the way she wanted and it took her a week or so to realize that she had to create that herself. So she did. She put up boundaries around how her husband could communicate with her. She determined what her priorities were and understood that speed and ease were more important to her than fighting over a TV or a bedroom set. She created the peace, good feeling and quick transition that she wanted. She chose to step out of the emotional tug of war, but she is not laying down like a doormat.
As she looks forward into the new adventure of what’s next in her life, she notes a final lesson.
3. Pay attention to the red flags and believe people when they show you who they are. My lovely young client fell into the common woman trap and believed that she could change this man whom she loved. She saw the red flags and talked herself out of them or discounted their importance. She justified uncomfortable or bad behavior in her partner and reasoned that she could change herself enough to make it OK.
She’s learned better now. No longer is she willing to mold herself into a relationship and lose who she is in the process. She now has some good information about what works and what doesn’t and how to incorporate her Wise Voice into making choices about other people.
These lessons have allowed her to make powerful choices, feel confident in herself, and to feel happy and excited about what is to come, while she negotiates the bumps of life. She says ‘I know who I am now, and that is priceless’.
I wish you the same gift.