– Are you feeling confused about your relationship?
– Do you feel uncomfortable or wonder if you’re going anywhere?
– Do you want to know how to turn things around so your relationship is like it used to be?
These are not always easy questions and frequently involve countless hours of heart-wrenching, agonizing discussion with friends and family. I totally understand and have been there myself.
Let me share what happened this week with a new client that may help if you are in a similar situation. This will give you a better understanding of how I work with clients.
Betsy called to talk about her boyfriend of eight months. She’s recently divorced and met Bruce online while he was completing his divorce.
Betsy, 38, is an executive with a demanding job. She travels for business, is self-reliant and still recovering from the self-esteem damage that occurred in her marriage. Enter Bruce, a professional partner in a small firm that is doing extremely well. His job is also highly demanding and very lucrative. Bruce’s divorce hasn’t been too taxing, but never the less, it is a traumatic experience to end a marriage.
The couple started seeing each other right after meeting – they just clicked! The relationship moved into a nice rhythm and they saw each other as often as they could given the 3 hour distance. To Betsy, it was fun, romantic, and supportive. Bruce said he was totally smitten.
When Bruce’s divorce became final, things started to change. He decided to renovate his new house and started pouring all his money and time into the project. He became less available to get together all though he still kept in touch almost daily.
Betsy started feeling uncomfortable and questioning what he was up to. Was he hiding something? Why was he so non-committal about actually getting together, yet stay in close touch?
Betsy talked with Bruce several times. She felt that being direct and honest was the only way to go. Yet, he was definitely not answering her questions and told her he wasn’t ready for a full-commitment, even though he said they were exclusive.
You may wonder as Betsy did:
– Was Bruce cheating on Betsy?
– What changed that made him pull away and become less available?
– Why wouldn’t he just be direct and honest as she was trying to be and requested?
His Motivation Doesn’t Really Matter – Just the Outcome
We could make some guesses like maybe he is seeing another woman but wants to hold onto Betsy. But, from this dating coach’s perspective, it doesn’t really matter why he’s doing what he’s doing. In fact, those might not be the right questions. This is what I said to Betsy.
“Let me reflect back what I’ve heard over the last 30 minutes, boiling down the details to these basic truths:
You’re not happy with how things have progressed – or not progressed
You’re not getting answers
You’re feeling uncomfortable and aren’t sure if you can trust him
Your self-esteem is being undercut as Bruce pulls away”
Normally, clients spend enormous amounts of time trying to understand what motivates a man to do what he does. That’s what women do. But, you may never know the motivating forces that drive him or get clear on his behavior. Even Bruce himself might not be clear.
Truth is, NONE OF THIS MATTERS. The only thing that matters is HOW BETSY FEELS. Reacting to that is the only thing she really can do. Since talking about this situation only seems to push Bruce away, there is just:
One Choice Left – Pull Back
Set a deadline for how long Betsy will allow herself to be unhappy and feel unfulfilled in her relationship. Stop pushing and asking, and instead pull away herself. Sometimes this creates a space for the man to step forward. If things don’t shift somehow before the deadline, WALK AWAY.
All the talking, figuring out, trying to understand won’t recapture the way the relationship was. It is wasted energy. Regardless of how unfair and cold this may seem, its the simple truth.
At first Betsy was a little shocked by this advice. But as we continued to talk, she became more aware of how her self-esteem and confidence were really starting to suffer. She had worked hard to reclaim her power after divorce and didn’t want to revert to old patterns.
Self-Preservation Comes First
Betsy chose a deadline that is a few months away. My hope for her is that she holds fast to this. There are times in a relationship when self-preservation becomes the most important consideration. For Betsy’s future, moving on is the best possible choice if Bruce doesn’t turn things around. Let’s say a prayer for Betsy that she can follow through if needed.
photo credit: Kapungo