Sometimes, you receive that one call that puts your faith in people right back on the map. Here's the story of a relationship-wrecker who had a sudden realisation. And a bonus story.
"Hi!" says a woman, her voice sounding a little gritty. "I wanted to know about my relationship." Ok, sure, bring it. "Well, we've been having fights lately, nothing major, just about little stuff. But it's been going on for a while. And eh. Well. Then he handed in his key and walked out the door and that's the last I heard of him."
Well alright. I ask for some further info, did my thing, and found that for the past 5 or 6 months at least, they'd been fighting over nothing pretty much all the time. No big fundamental differences, no simple misunderstandings that can be easily fixed, just squibbeling over stupid stuff. They were rubbing each other exactly the wrong way, from the looks of it, till he got fed up and walked away.
"Have you contacted him since?" I want to know. "Tried to call him, email, something?"
".... no. I was waiting for him to say something." Turns out, she hasn't done anything the past half year, either, to try and address the situation. She's just been nagging him and criticising him, and when that didn't miraculously encourage him to more positive and caring behaviour, she did some more of it. We've seen that before.
Here comes part of the intuitive component of this job: knowing what someone is willing to hear, and what you can and cannot tell them. This one was ripe for the picking. "Explain to me," I told her, "what exactly it is that you have to lose here. You're worried he might reject you. That the relationship is going to end. Sweetheart. He left. He walked out the door. He handed in his key. He has not contacted you since. He's gone. He's already rejected you. This is already over. What exactly do you think is going to happen to make it more final?"
"Yikes," says my client. "You're really direct."
Her guy came back from a business trip last week, and the first thing she told him, was that he was horrible for congratulating her mother (with her birthday) through whatsapp rather than with a phonecall, and how dare he. So he then shows up to her mother's place in person to congratulate her, which I already thought was a really peace-offering kind of thing to do, and she ignores him throughout the entire rest of the birthday and texts him at night "Well you're barely back and you're already back at it."
"Have you considered," I say in a voice that suggests that she really ought to have been considering this very obvious fact for a long time already, "that this is your own doing? That you've been totally asking for it?" Apparently, she had not been considering this before, but she's considering it now, and she's finding that yeah, ok. She can't really argue with that. Nor can she argue with the next thing I tell her, namely that she has been in a relationship in which she does nothing but criticise and tear down, does not communicate, does not take charge of problem areas, and does not invest in improving the relationship. And after half a year of constantly arguing and fighting and making a battleground of a reasonably ok relationship, she's still waiting for him to come back and fix it.
"Why would he come back and make it right?" I deadpan. "You're the one who made it wrong."
"Wow," she says. "You know, I've heard this before, with my previous three relationships. At some point, you're going to start noticing. When you're young, you figure whatever, I'm doing it my way, but after a while ... you can see it. I'm doing this myself. I can't keep having relationships this way, I need to change."
This is the point where I shut up and go wow. That's a level of insight and maturity you don't often get when you're working with people. She wasn't even angry about it. If I could have seen her in person, I imagine she would be doing some serious facepalming right about now. This is major. After two decades of relationships, to finally realise that it's not them, it's you. It's not that relationships are bad, or that guys are untrustworthy, it's that you don't know how to go about being a good partner to someone. I'm happy for her. These are the moments in life where you suddenly have the power to really change something around and create a better life for yourself.
Just for completion's sake, I explain to her that in her current position, she's got two kinds of relationships open to her: 1) with someone who will put up with her bad behaviour, which by necessity is then not the most amazing partner with good self-esteem and great relationship skills, or 2) with someone who is a healthy person who can do relationships, in which case her relationships are going to be short because they'll be leaving quickly.
She may have wanted more, but I decided to leave her with just this realisation for now. "I am the one responsible for all my failed relationships. I'm terrible at communicating with a partner. I have no idea how to do a healthy relationship. I need to go do some serious work on myself."
"And my guy?" she wants to know. "Is he going to come back? Is there something I can do about that?" No, not really. He strikes me as a practical person, someone who needs to see it before he'll believe it, and not someone who's going to change his decision based on nothing more than some vague promises. She's going to have to actually do the work, and by the time she's showing results, he'll probably have moved on. No, this one's for creating the future, not for salvaging the past.
Call duration: 15 minutes.
Just because it's such a nice correlary to the previous, have another one. Both calls happened within half an hour of each other.
Younger girl calls me, asks about her relationship. Oh boy, I feel where this is going. Exactly the same place as the previous one. You know these things after a while.
She wants to know why her relationship is now really over, because they've been on-again, off-again for a long time, and this time he's not coming back. Why not? I give her the intuitive impression she asked for and tell her that it's really just the final straw. It's been bad for a long time, and he's finally realising that them being together is just not a great idea and they should probably stop that.
Apparently, that's not quite what she was after, so she tells me some more. Nothing good. "Wait," I interrupt her. "So you're telling me that you're finally rid of a person who is - by your saying - a narcissist, who doesn't care about you, doesn't respect you, cheats on you, lies to you, gives you nothing, and brings out the very worst in you. I'm still waiting for the part where there is a problem. You should be having a party! Congratulations!"
She's silent for a while, then bursts out laughing. Loudly. Like she can't believe I just said that. "Yeah alright," she says after a while, the laugh still in her voice. "Ok. Yeah. I know I'm a lot better off, this is a good thing for me." She rejects my almost-serious offer for some floaty talk about auras and stuff to make up for the healthy dose of realism she wasn't expecting. "Nah, I needed to hear that. And of course I knew this already." She laughs again. We both realise that we've covered all there is to cover.
"So, what are you going to do to make sure that you don't end up with someone who brings out the worst in you next time?" I toss in as a closer.
"Work on myself," she says. "Obviously."
Alright then, glad we got that covered. And don't forget about that party.
Call duration: 4 minutes.