I had been seeing Doug’s wife, Angela for a few weeks. Married as a teenager and now in her late 30s her life was in turmoil. She was in a marriage that was alternately fun and happy and then marred by her husband’s angry, jealous outbursts. She was trying to expand her horizons and welcome new friends but Doug found it threatening. He interpreted her desire for new friends as meaning she wanted to get out of the marriage and move on. Ironically, it was his anger that ultimately convinced her that they couldn’t stay together.
I met Doug because he had followed her to the office and they were having an argument in the lobby when I came to get her for our session. I was trying to calm the situation in a lobby that was filled with other people. Angela asked if they could both come to my office and do a session. I agreed more because of the need to end the disruption in the waiting room than necessarily knowing how I was going to guide this session. And the outcome was not what you might expect either.
The session started with a continuation of the fight they were having in the lobby. Doug was accusing her of staying out to late, lying to him and he was tired of being treated so poorly. I asked Angela if Doug’s statements were correct and she admitted they were. Then Doug jumped in again and he did another round of attacking her but underneath it I could hear that Doug was really in pain and his anger was fear that he was losing her. And then, after a few more minutes, Angela suddenly stood up said she didn’t need to take this anymore and stormed out. Now I’m sitting alone with Doug!
And that’s when he started to cry and scream at how awful she was and how badly she treated him. So, figuring I had nothing to lose I said to him, “Well, would you like to do a session and figure out why you want to stay in a relationship that treats you so poorly?” He sat back for a second and I guess something clicked inside because he said yes.
The outcome of that session and the few more that he scheduled ended up being life-changing for Doug. For the first time in his life, he turned inward and started to learn about his self because I challenged him and said, “This isn’t about fixing your marriage, this is about creating your life.” And he didn’t have any clue what that meant until I started sharing the Life Puzzle with him.
We explored the Wholeness Choosing Continuum and he quickly could see that he was squarely on the 0-5 reactive side. He spent all his life fixing the current problem and that took up his entire life. Relative to Angela, he fumed all day about how she was ruining his life and the only option for him was to stay angry all the time.
I acknowledged that this was taking up a lot of his life, but would he be willing to put that aside for a little while and explore some other parts of his Life Puzzle instead. He sort of shrugged acceptance I think more because he was just at the end of his rope and didn’t know where to turn instead of an actual interest in the Life Puzzle.
The Life Puzzle gave him an entirely new way to approach his life and it didn’t take long for him to become more interested in his life than being angry with Angela all the time. We worked on building healthy boundaries, how to manage his feelings and it gave him a new lease on life. And then a funny thing happened. He discovered that he was happier without Angela.
During the weeks he’d come to counseling, she’d not come back. As well, she was staying out all night, drinking like crazy and in general acting like she was 15 instead of 30. I pointed out to him that they’d married and had a baby so young that Angela had never experienced normal teen years. She seemed to be trying to go back and do it now. Doug could actually accept that but at the same time said that he didn’t want that in his life. They amicably decided to divorce and go there separate ways.
One day during one of our later sessions he was musing on all that had transpired from that first chaotic meeting in the lobby. He said, “I was all about fixing a problem—meaning getting Angela to act the way I wanted her to so I wouldn’t be so upset. Instead I’ve ended up creating a life around wholeness, something I didn’t even know existed! The “problem” of Angela became more an issue of did this really fit into the life I wanted to create or not and I was amazed when I realized, no, this wasn’t good for either of us.”
And that’s what wholeness is all about. Every life will have problems in it! But we all have to decide whether we see how that problem fits into building one’s wholeness or we’re going to let the problem be our entire life. Fix a problem or Create a life. It is your choice!