Coaching session one: know what you can and can’t change
Within minutes of arriving for her first coaching session, Laura* was in floods of tears. ‘My family seems to have fallen apart. We used to be so happy.’
I asked her to tell me what had caused the change. She told me that her husband had stopped talking to his brother. After their mum had died, they’d had an argument about a family heirloom which was of no financial value, but which they both wanted. The argument had escalated out of control and now Laura’s brother-in-law and his wife were not speaking to Laura and her husband. Both brothers had children, and Laura was unhappy that the cousins were not seeing each other.
Laura had made many attempts to contact her in-laws, but they had not responded. To make matters worse, Laura had become angry with her husband for arguing with his brother about something so trivial. Laura’s husband felt she was being disloyal, and their marriage was suffering.
Family relationships can bring us great happiness, but they can also cause stress and difficulty. When strife occurs within a family, it can be particularly painful. Conflict can be sparked just as easily by something trivial as by something significant. Neither Laura nor I would be able to change the behaviour of the other people involved, however much we wanted to. I asked her to think about all the things she could control in this situation. I also asked her to write me a list of everything she was grateful for in her life and bring it along to the next session.
Coaching session two: taking control
Writing a list of the things she was grateful for had totally changed Laura’s perspective. It had made her realise that she’d been putting all her focus on the family disagreement and had been forgetting to notice how wonderful her life was. She had decided to stop talking about the family conflict, and to stop blaming her husband for it. Instead, she was focusing on the positives, and their relationship was improving.
Laura had realised that there wasn’t much she could do to control the situation, but that she could control her response to it. She and her husband had decided on the following course of action: They would contact the in-laws requesting they all meet to resolve the conflict, and say they wanted to apologise for their part in the row.
If the in-laws did not respond to this approach, Laura had decided she would try to ‘forgive and forget’ and let it go, knowing that she had done her best to make amends. Laura understood that harbouring resentment would only be harmful to her. If they experienced any abuse from her brother-in-law and his wife, Laura and her husband had agreed that they were prepared to cut them out of their lives, although they really hoped that it wouldn’t come to this. They now had a plan of action and they felt more in control.
Coaching session three: finding acceptance
Laura’s brother-in-law had not responded to the request to meet up and make peace. Laura and her husband were disappointed, but were working really hard on focusing on all the positives in their lives and letting go of any expectations of a reconciliation. ‘It is what it is,’ Laura said. ‘I’m not going to let it affect my life or my health any more than it already has. We have done everything we can to change the situation, and I have learned that we can’t change other people. They make their own choices.’
Laura told me that she and her husband had decided to spend more time savouring the good moments in their lives and ‘controlling the controllables’.
*Name has been changed
For more from Kim, go to barefootcoaching.co.uk