“Why doesn’t he leave her! I’m tired of this! I’m tired of waiting … for what … more disappointment?!”
That was Jill, Trent’s girlfriend, who’s at the end of her rope. Although he claims she’s #1, he has chosen to hang on to a relationship with Laura, a woman he no longer loves. What stops him from leaving? He can’t bear the thought of hurting her.
(To read about my session with Trent, see my previous post, Make YOU Happy.)
Jill’s frustration is so understandable. She’s waited years for things to change. Ironically, Trent’s efforts to protect one person from experiencing pain is creating pain in another. Jill suffers, but she rarely expresses it—not wanting to be a bitch or a nag.
Jill’s suffering is amplified because she makes assumptions about Trent’s stuckness. When her frustration reaches a fever pitch like it is now, she’s convinced he’s an insincere ogre who’s hell-bent on leading her on and using her.
I know that’s not true—he’s a tortured man. I explained that his guilt and needless sense of responsibility for Laura’s happiness is paralyzing him.
Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn’t look at psychological barriers in the same way it looks at physical barriers.
Trent’s psychological barrier is as big and crippling as any physical barrier.
“I see,” Jill said, now in a calmer space. “He’s like a man in a wheelchair who wants to be in a foot race, but can’t.” “That’s true in part,” I replied, “but unlike the man in the wheelchair, Trent is capable.” It’s just not as simple as making the decision and, voilà! he’s off and running. He has internal barriers to overcome—barriers that have to do with him, not Laura.
At this point on Trent’s life journey, he’s being challenged to contemplate all the unconscious ways he’s being hurtful. He’s also challenged to either stay the course of self-compromise or opt to be true to himself while pursuing his own happiness.
“You’re being challenged in the same way,” I said. “You have to decide what to do with the circumstances as they are.”
Even though she has a better understanding of Trent, she still has a decision to make.
“Jill, realize you’re not expected to endure the unendurable,” I said. “In fact, you shouldn’t. If you can’t endure the status quo, you have to honor that.”
I loved her next insightful comment: “I haven’t been true to myself, either.”
She’s so right, and like all of us, she’s ultimately responsible for her own happiness.
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.