Have you ever gotten in your car and started driving without a final destination? Who knows where you ended up – maybe it was a friend’s house, or a park, or another city altogether.
Maybe it was the beach, where you just stared at the waves, thinking.
That’s where my client ended up. She told me all about it in a recent session, and gave me permission to write about it – a story that I think holds important lessons for all of us.
One day after work, she stopped for groceries. When she finished, she realized she didn’t have anything else to do. At least nothing that was pressing. She also realized she was facing a profound life choice – something a lot bigger than what she was going to do with the rest of her day.
So she got in her car, started driving, and didn’t stop until she reached the ocean.
Recently, she’d been working hard to rid herself of someone toxic, an ex boyfriend. She had first broken it off with him long ago, but he kept coming back – and she kept getting trapped in the same unhealthy cycle over and over again. Now she needed to make a decision: Could she finally break the chain, finally start over fresh and cut the ex off forever? Or was she going to keep doing the same thing, potentially ruining the new life she was finally starting to build?
She had just started a new relationship, and was still testing out the waters with her new beau. She liked him, but didn’t know him that well yet. So far, their dates were pleasant and he picqued her interest.
This was in stark contrast to her ex, a man she’d dated for a few years, who was charismatic and entrepreneurial. He liked to take credit for helping launch her creative career. He thought of himself as a passionate lover, but she wasn’t always sure she agreed with this self-proclamation. He had taken care of her, it’s true — but when they broke up, she had learned how to take care of herself.
Despite having terminated the relationship with the ex, he still magically appeared in her life. He’d follow her work on social media and comment on her posts. He’d call or text her when he was thinking of her, or if he drove by their once-shared apartment. She’d take strong measures to block him — and then she’d fold after a few months. It was ongoing.
Her ex presented countless problems in her life. Though charming, all of her friends loathed him. She stopped telling her friends that she would see or talk to him, partially because she didn’t want to face their wrath and also because she was ashamed that she continued to put up with him.
Realizing that radio silence never worked with him, she decided to block him on a few different channels. But he perpetually found ways to contact her, making it impossible to create secure boundaries. She revealed to her ex that she had started dating someone else. Telling him was a tough decision for her to make. Naturally, he tried to flirt with her, but she stood her ground. He eventually gave her his blessing (as if she needed it) and convinced her to tell him the new guy’s name. Immediately, she regretted saying it.
A month later, the ex contacted her saying he learned some worrisome details about the new beau. My client didn’t know what to do: whether to bring it up to her new man or stay quiet.
In the interest of transparent communication (something she was trying out), she brought up the issue with her new man (it wasn’t that big of a deal), and he responded exactly the way she’d hoped: very openly and honestly.
But he was annoyed to find out that the ex had been involved in her life. She didn’t know what to do next. Should she break up with the new guy or try to cut off the ex once more? This was where I came in.
* * *
We’ve all faced internal conflict. We can’t simply make a decision, we don’t know which is our best course of action. We can’t choose. We become paralyzed.
While looking at the waves and feeling the heat through the sunroof of her car, my client gained clarity. Her mind was free to untangle itself. She had the luxury of a few hours to meditate and stop thinking.
Her life is usually structured and scheduled and it’s challenging for her to make time to relax or reflect. Coming to our coaching sessions is one way for her to look inward at herself. At our next appointment, she shared some new thoughts with me: she was ready to give up the past. Her voice sounded determined and her eyes were steely. Finally! She had spent the week reading old journals and letters from her ex. She saw just how divisive this person had been in her life.
For years, she had written, cried and complained about their interactions. She wallowed in sorrow for herself. She was mesmerized by his charisma and allowed herself to fall for his manipulative schemes. He told her that she was the only one, she was the best sexual partner he’d ever had, she was his soulmate. And she loved hearing it. She wanted to believe it all. She liked the attention, she liked being chased. She wished it would be true. But, there were (and would always be) other women in his life. He had the uncanny ability to pit women against each other and develop competition among them.
It was hard for me, as my client’s coach, to watch. And it was much worse for my client to experience.
I coached her with love, with questions, with support, with facts, with any number of interventions. They were all moderately helpful, but nothing worked until she decided to let go. And, finally, at that session, she revealed how ready she was.
We developed a plan of action. She blocked him on all social media, which felt like wishful thinking. She truly enjoyed some of his humorous posts. Would the humor outweigh her mental health and potential relationship? She assured me that this was it. She stopped following his friends and family too. Despite caring for them, she knew they were easy conduits to him and would only lead her back to them. Also, she decided she could not drunk dial him anymore, even if that meant eating pizza at two am. Pizza and junk food in the wee hours were better choices than seeing him surreptitiously.
Of course, she’d tried cutting him off before, but this time was different. Something inside of her shifted. She realized that her new beau was important to her, and whether or not they’d have a long relationship, she needed to stay present. He was the first person who’d caught her attention and she decided to give it a whirl.
This is the first time I’ve experienced so much resolve with her.
As her coach, I really want her to live her best life and feel supported in her relationships. This relationship has played out in a way that’s not unusual for many women.
It’s my job to remind her of her strengths and power.
This story reminds me how much power we really have — and how much we give away. My client and I have been discussing how the onus is on her to hold the line. The ex will do everything he can to keep the pattern as it stands. She must stay vigilant and on guard, at least until this becomes a habit. She’s complained about bearing this burden, but if she wants to see a change, she has to do something differently.
Now she’s moving ahead. The freedom feels incredible.
And the new guy is making his mark. He’s sweet and attentive, two features she’s desired.
We’d all rather move forward than stay stuck in one place. Sometimes the best way to do that is to just start moving – just start driving – and see where you end up. Maybe it’s the beach looking at the waves. Maybe it’s your future.