Nearly a year after our divorce was finalized, Pete told me he wanted more parenting time. Imagine a cartoon character whose eyes pop out of their sockets and whose skull flies open to release explosion smoke, and you’ll get the picture of how I felt about this request. In the two months it took for us to put a new plan into play, I went through a rather intensive and emotional process that ultimately led to our mutual satisfaction. Once our new parenting rhythm had been established, it occurred to me that I had finally found a reliable way to move from triggered and immobilized through to resolution in collaboration with Pete. It looked like this:
I let myself have my feelings—all of them, especially the ugly ones—without wishing them away or confronting Pete with them. I would simply be willing to FEEL it all, in my own safe space.
I gave myself the time and space to take in both Pete’s request and my reaction without the pressure of providing an immediate response. I’d set some kind of expectation frame such as, “I really want to work with you on this! In two weeks, I’ll be ready to collaborate to find a solution.”
Having established a contemplative space, I looked to my feelings as messengers. What was the fear or anger or grief really telling me about what I needed or wanted—and what I felt Teddy needed?
With clarity about all of our needs, I’d set out to creatively brainstorm a win-win-win solution. Generally, I’d strive to have about five possibilities that I’d be ok with, in the hopes that one would align well with Pete.
There was no emotional overload when it was time to take action because my emotions had been honored and integrated in our shared solution.
Having outlined these steps, I could see that I had historically skipped the first three altogether and leaped right from (Pete’s) request to solution. This left my own needs and the intelligence of my emotions entirely out of the equation. In marriage, I had been a Pete-pleasing machine whose own feelings were systematically denied (by me), desires were confused and resentment was stoked. At long last, I had found a way to exit that miserable loop for good.
What are the potholes you find yourself falling into again and again? And what is the process you have established to move you through those most immobilized places?
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one of the keys for me is in your first step: “without confronting pete with [your feelings].” that remains one of my greatest temptations. oh, how i resist. i succeed 95% of the time. i have learned that zero good comes from sharing feelings with my ex: both my feelings and his responses fall into the old patterns, representing nothing more than aggravation for both of us.
Yes, it is warrior’s work, Carolee. And so very powerful to interrupt a pattern!