I asked my community the question “What is your biggest problem?” and here are some of the answers I received: the State of the Union, the media, joblessness, brain cancer, a spouse’s cheating ways, a child’s substance use disorder, a bankruptcy, infertility and a toxic work environment. My favorite response was this one: selfishness on my part.
Problems do come in all shapes and sizes, and as my grandmother used to say, “Honey, it takes two to tango.” Meaning, of course, that a problem usually can be divided up among all parties even if the split is a little uneven.
Let me ask this again: WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST PROBLEM?
I have a friend who once was married to a really bad man; it was very difficult but she eventually was able to get out of the abusive situation and move away to protect herself. I am absolutely convinced that she saved her life and possibly the life of her child by doing the very hard and brave things she did to end this marriage.
Today, she’s turned around and married another man and HE’S turned out to be the slapping around kind too. Before you are tempted to think “What’s HER problem?”, consider this:
How many times has the doctor suggested you change a particular habit to improve your health (lose weight, stop drinking to give your fatty liver a break, stop eating gluten, stop having unprotected sex with strangers, reduce your carbohydrate intake to get your blood sugar under control, etc.) and you just cannot stop gaining weight, drinking, eating gluten, having sex with strangers, or eating carbs in excess? I thought so. #metoo
I have a theory. In my friend’s case, throughout the long road to divorce and safety, the most obvious problem was that her husband could NOT stop rearranging her face. His issue was a doozy and was super obvious once she stopped trying to hide it with spackled-on makeup and long sleeves. In fact, her entire team kept telling her, “Your husband has a problem.” Which is factually true. I said it myself. But what I did not intend for her to hear was, “Your husband has a problem and your problems will all go away if you leave him.”
What she needed to know, as we all do, is that after she got herself and child to safety, her NEXT biggest problem that would need exploration and intention was to figure out her own vulnerabilities and compulsivities. (More on this later.) I understand that sometimes abusers are extremely clever and really smart people never see it coming until they get smacked in the face - and even then, it is confusing to figure out what is going on. AND. All of us have vulnerabilities that assault our good sense and leave us with patterns of repetitive, habitual, unconscious ways of thinking, feeling and doing that are stumbling blocks for living a healthy and reasonably happy life. This is a problem that she needed to address. She did not. The pattern has returned. She thinks she has lousy luck with men. I think it is far more complicated than a run of bad luck.
To be continued…