40 by 40 #10: Work With a Life Coach
As I’ve mentioned previously, sports have always been a huge part of my life. As a child I loved playing as many sports as I could. Like anything in life, when you are learning something new, it helps to have good teachers to help you understand the ins and outs. In sports, that role is filled by a coach. The first coach I remember was my Father- both in the yard and the gym. Then as I started playing organized sports I had the privilege to work with so many great coaches over the years. My Father continued in those roles when he could, but it was also filled by other parents, teachers, and volunteers. These coaches used their own personal experience, as well as knowledge they had gained over the years to help me to become a better player. The better player I became, the more I enjoyed the games. It probably sounds like this is heading towards another athletic based goal, but not quite. This is about finding and working with a coach, but in this case the sport isn’t basketball, baseball, or football. The “sport” here is life, relationships, and ultimately happiness.
Early on in my divorce “journey”, before I knew all the details and was still trying to process things, I had the opportunity through my networking group to meet Julia. Julia is a life coach who specializes in relationships. We were having a one on one meeting, which for our networking group is a chance to get to know each other and our businesses so we can better refer potential clients to each other. As I heard her story, and what she does in her business, I kept feeling like God put Julia in my path. I actually shared with her what I was going through, which at that time was rare since I was still pretty uncomfortable sharing publicly what was happening. It was a big step for me. Later in the year after I had learned the truth about why my ex wife ended our relationship, I had another one on one meeting with her. This time once I heard that she had started working with male clients as well as female, I jumped at the opportunity to work with her.
The very first thing I did in my life coaching sessions was to reflect on my past. Looking back at myself in Middle and High School, I was always pretty shy when it came to girls. This fact, combined that I was super into sports, meant that I really never found myself in relationships. Moving on to college, my first year of school was similar. I was playing football, meeting new friends, going to class, and having fun. It wasn’t until midway through my Sophomore year that I actually had what was my first serious romantic relationship. It turns out that this girl was who would become my wife. Because of this I had no real comparison of what a relationship should be like, and feel like. All I knew was that I really liked her, and not too long after being together, that like turned into love.
As I’ve written before, that relationship continued to grow as I assumed it should. Dating became engaged. Engaged became married. Married became married with kids. Throughout my relationship I found a great deal of happiness being with her. When we were together I was happy. When we were apart I missed her. Sure, there were times we were together where it was boring or in a fight. There were times we were apart that were fun and distracting. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be together. I loved her, and wanted her to be a part of every part of my life.
Over the years, I became more aware that things didn’t always seem as great as they had in the past. She became very successful with her career, while mine was just something I “did”. I had always wanted her to be part of my activities. When I wanted to go do something fun, I wanted her with me. When she didn’t want to do something, often I found myself not doing it as well. This was by no means her fault. She would encourage me to do things without her, to have fun. Sometimes I did, but more often I just would rather be home with her, and later my kids.
About 8 years ago I remember having a conversation with her. She was feeling stuck in her current job, and was talking about how there were opportunities she liked, but how she couldn’t take them because they were too far away. I could see her unhappiness, and it was my instinct to want her to be happy. Happy wife, happy life right? So I remember clearly asking her, “If you could work anywhere right now, where would it be?” Her response was at a specific insurance company located in Appleton. So I said to her, then apply. What’s the worst that can happen? They offer you a job and you decide to say no it won’t work? She applied, and of course she got the job. When she told me I said I was on board with her taking it. I was restless at my job and would welcome an opportunity to try something new. Our kids were very young and not yet attached to a school or a location. So we did it. That’s how I ended up moving North. As long as my wife was happy, I could work to find my happiness. The happier she was, the more she’d want to be with me, and then the happier I would be.
I’m sharing this background because I think people might see themselves and their relationships somewhere in my story. By reflecting on my relationship, and how I found happiness in my life, I was able to better understand why I had been feeling so unhappy.
What I learned from my coaching sessions with Julia, was that when you depend on someone else to be the source of your happiness, you will ultimately not be truly happy. What you need to do is to learn how to be happy alone. That doesn’t mean you have to be alone to be happy. It just means that if you can be a happy person on your own, then you can share that happiness with others in a relationship. A healthy relationship would have 2 people that are able to be happy without needing someone else to provide that for them, but could then share that happiness with someone special and enhance it.
For a stretch from 2020 through 2021, I was definitely not a happy person. I was not happy from my work, the pandemic made sure of that. I was not happy with my Church and School, I felt shut out and ignored. Most importantly, I was not happy in my marriage. The amount of affection, attention, and support I had always longed for was steadily decreasing. What was worse was that I believed it was all my fault. I learned later that although like any relationship, my actions and behavior are not without fault, that there was way more going on then I knew. With hindsight I am able to look back and see that much of what I was experiencing was not simply due to me being a “bad” person, but what my ex was doing and what she was saying, and not saying, to me.
My ex had already begun a new relationship, leaving me wondering why she seemed so distant. When I wanted to come together with counseling, she said it would do no good. Not because she had already moved on, but because as she told me I wouldn’t change. I went months agonizing how I had screwed things up. After moving out I had downloaded some dating apps, and was met with my ex calling me out after going through our phone records. I felt terrible, had I screwed up any chance at reconciliation in my attempt to feel wanted again? Of course I didn’t know she herself already had someone. In my loneliness I reached out to her and said don’t you want to be together? I’m not afraid of being alone, she told me. She wasn’t. I wanted to delay our final divorce hearing for a few weeks so that I would still have insurance coverage during my knee surgery, and was told I was dragging my feet. Why was she in such a hurry to be done with me that waiting a few more weeks was a problem? I thought it was because I was so awful, when it really was just to be able to move on for her more publicly.
I know this has gone off course. This goal is about working with a life coach and becoming happier. I sound bitter and angry. But the truth is, by sharing what happened to me and how I felt with others, it lifts that weight off of me. I am not a perfect person, but I was not the monster I felt like. By understanding this and working with Julia, I began to see how much I had relied on someone else to be a happy person. I didn’t have that person anymore, so what was my choice? Be angry until I found someone new? That would just make me repeat my same problems again and have another unhealthy relationship. What I walked away with was that I had to continue doing what I had started with my goals. Work to be happy and fulfilled by being me and living my life as an individual. As I continue to do so, I feel myself being more happy and content single. I have stronger relationships with my children, friends, and family. I am putting myself in a better spot so that when I do eventually meet someone special, we can enhance each other’s happiness instead of trying to make them responsible for it.
My hope is that whoever is reading this, whether you are single, married, dating, divorced, or whatever your situation is, you can reflect on your life and understand where your happiness comes from. It’s ok to be happy with the important people in your life, that’s great! But you have to be able to be a happy person when you’re alone with your thoughts. I’m very thankful to Julia for coaching me so that I can come to these realizations myself. If you are in a situation where you are wondering how you can be happier in your relationships, I encourage you to reach out to her and see if working with her is the right fit for you. I’m not happy all the time yet, I’m not sure anyone ever is, but I’m getting there.