You know what they say about hindsight… it’s 20/20. Because in the future we have more information and know how things turn out. So of course, it’s easier to look into the past and judge whether we did things right or wrong. I can’t change my own past, but I can help those of you who are where I used to be.
Every time I hop on the 8th and final call with my coaching clients, I ask them how they’re feeling and why they are feeling that way. We go through the past week and they get to tell me what’s been working and what they have been successful at doing. And more or less every time, they tell me things like “Well, I just chose not to make that a problem and I let it go” or “The negative thoughts did pop up but I knew I didn’t need to think them so I just went back to enjoying our time together.”
If I would have told them to do these things 8 weeks earlier, they would have thought I was stupid and asked for their money back. Why? Because it’s not that simple! Their brains would immediately reject advice like that because it makes no sense. You can’t just “not think something” or “just let something go” when your anxiety, jealousy, and worry is through the roof.
My point here is that if I could go back in time to when I was struggling the most as a grumpy girlfriend, I wouldn’t tell her a bunch of things that would make zero sense to her at the time. She just wouldn’t have understood or believed any of it and it wouldn’t have been helpful.
This is one of the things that I believe characterizes a good mentor, teacher, or coach. They don’t skip ahead and try to convince their clients or students of the final lesson on day 1. It’s a process that you have to go through, you have to show the brain, step-by-step, that this is logical, it works, and it makes sense.
So with that said, here are the three things I would tell my past grumpy self that I think actually would resonate with her and be helpful:
1. Being “good” at feelings ≠ always telling people how you feel and crying a lot
I used to be convinced that I was extremely emotionally unintelligent. I was bad at feelings. I didn’t like talking about my feelings, I didn’t like dealing with my feelings, and didn’t know how to deal with my feelings. None of it. Growing up, I was never taught to do any of it. No feelings were discussed.
When I entered a relationship, I was completely unequipped to deal with all the feelings that came along. Especially all the crappy feelings like jealousy, anxiety, and frustration. I turned to the only feeling that I felt comfortable with, which was anger.
Once I started searching for a solution, I became more and more aware of how bad I was at dealing with my feelings. I also believed that being “good” at feelings and being emotionally intelligent meant being someone who just spread their feelings all over the place, told people how they feel all of the time, cry a lot, etc etc. Which was not something I was very interested in doing.
So — I would go back in time and tell my past self that emotional intelligence and being skilled and processing your emotions has nothing to do with telling other people how you feel and crying all the time. You are going to learn how to master your emotions, become comfortable with feeling them, and know how to manage discomfort when it shows up. This is a skill that you will learn and it’s way more logical and straightforward than you might think!
2. Follow your frustration, it will take you where you need to go
I was relentless in my search for answers. I read books, went to therapy, asked for advice… but nothing made sense to me. Or, I understood it… but it wasn’t the solution to my problems. I became more and more frustrated with the whole situation. It felt like searching for something in a haystack but not even knowing what I was looking for. I just had this strong feeling that I’ll know when I find it.
If I could go back to myself in say… 2017/2018, I would encourage myself to keep following that frustration. Keep searching. Just because all this mainstream advice isn’t working for you doesn’t mean you are broken or wrong (seriously, most of the mainstream advice is shit).
There is a reason it’s not working for you. You are looking for a better solution. And it does exist.
When I stumbled across Brooke Castillo and The Life Coach School in November 2019, I found it. I found that needle in the haystack and I immediately knew that this is what I had been searching for all along. And I never looked back.
So if you are currently feeling frustrated or like you don’t really know what you’re doing, keep going. Discomfort is a catalyst for change. This is going to lead you in the right direction as long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other.
3. Respect your adult partner’s right and ability to make his own choices
This was a game changer for me when I realized it and I think if someone would have told me this sooner, I would have shifted my mindset a lot sooner too. In my world, I had to manage and control what my partner did, thought, and felt. I had to protect him from his own free will and make sure he didn’t make stupid decisions.
These stupid decisions included things like cheating on me and staying with me even though he actually didn’t want to. I was constantly looking for signs that he was just staying with me out of laziness and not because he wanted to.
When I finally realized that I was treating my adult partner like a little baby who wasn’t capable of making his own choices in life, I was kind of repulsed by that. He’s a grown man who is capable of deciding for himself what he wants.
It was time I accepted and respected his decision to be with me.
If he ever wants to leave me for whatever reason, he’s a big boy, he can take responsibility for doing that himself. It’s not my job to “leave first” so that he doesn’t have to do it. It’s not my job to predict potential cheating so I can spare him the mess and just end the relationship ahead of time.
My job is to make sure I am in a relationship I want to be in, which I was and am. What relationship he is or isn’t in and whether he chooses to be faithful or not is up to him. And he is very capable of making those decisions on his own.
If you are struggling with jealousy, grumpiness, and anxiety in your relationship, I hope this advice resonates with you. And above all, I want you to know that there is help to be had, there are solutions to your problems that work. Keep going, keep believing that you can get better, and seek out the help that you need.
You know where to find me when you’re ready to dive into this work once and for all.