Are you keeping one foot out the door in your relationship, just in case the other person does this or that – the thing that’s going to send BOTH feet out the door?
I recently took some coaching from a trusted friend about having one foot out the door. I’ll call him Saul. We were sharing about our respective fiances, and how we fight, make up, etc. We both acknowledged that when we get really angry, we’ll say something like, “Well, then maybe I’m not so interested in this relationship,” or “If this is the way it is, then maybe this marriage isn’t the best idea.”
Saul shared that he and his fiance had recognized that nothing positive comes out of this kind of statement. That is, either the other person gets scared, and back pedals so that her betrothed will stick around, or she says something like, “Whatever. Go ahead. Pack your stuff.” In the former case, Saul is left feeling triumphant, yet manipulative, and in the latter case, she forces his hand, and he has to put up or shut up.
Saul and his fiance chose to take these kinds of statements out of their speaking, out of their relationship.
After all, they say to each other, and to everyone else, that THIS IS IT. You’re the one for me. I’m marrying you, and I’ll be with you for the rest of my life. To the contrary, a threat flies in the face of their commitment, and suggests that perhaps that they’re NOT so committed – that they have one foot out the door. So, it follows that if they’re truly committed, they’ll be true to their commitment, and stop speaking this way.
I shared all of this with my fiance, and we chose to subtract these threats from our relationship as well. What happened next was fascinating.
There we are, asleep in bed at about 2 A.M. I hear something downstairs, and I think someone is in the house. I nudge her awake. She sits up, listens for a few seconds, and says, “It’s outside, honey. Thanks for waking me out of a sound sleep.” I’m immediately irritated. Where’s my credit for being protective? What if there WERE someone in the house, and I had just avoided a burglary?
And, all I say to her as I walk into the bathroom is, “I was concerned.”
I return to bed, and I start to devise my oh so familiar exit strategy. “If this is what it’s going to be like to be her husband, then I’m out. Should I stay with Dad or Mom, while I find my own place? I should be O.K financially, if I do x, y, and z, etc.”
And then I catch myself – “Wait. You declared that this kind of speaking was finished. Stop it.”
And then I ask myself, “What would be possible if I communicated clearly and without anger, what that was like for me?” My irritation disappears almost instantly, and a wave of compassion and love for her washes over me. Maybe she knows that her comment was mean. Maybe she didn’t like that she said it, and she doesn’t know how to tell me. I am so excited to talk to her in the morning that I can’t sleep.
We speak in the morning. She understands perfectly. She apologizes. I share what it was like for me to start down the rabbit hole of leaving, and transform the incident into a possibility for honesty and open communication. We both acknowledge that this is a pattern in our relationship: a comment that is nasty, selfish, or otherwise unappreciative of loving intentions, and then the reactionary, unequivocal plan to bail on the relationship.
Here’s what I learned from this. First, our words are powerful. They create our reality. What we say to ourselves or out loud, might just manifest eventually.
Second, being all-in with someone means that I weather the storms, no matter what. I don’t jump ship, but remind myself of my promise to my fiance – to never threaten to leave again. All there is to do is stand by her, stand FOR her, and stand for our relationship.
I discovered as well that I’ve never been all in with anyone until now. Even if I said I was, I wasn’t really. I always gave myself permission to leave, if it got too x or y or z.
I discovered true commitment – true commitment for me anyway.
Thank you, Saul! Excellent coaching.