Bernadette was frustrated.
“I did everything right, James,” she said. “I made sure to soften my approach, I talked about my feelings, I avoided blaming him … but I still think I might have wrecked everything.”
Bernadette had been wanting to talk to her boyfriend Connor for a long time. There were a few issues she was really struggling with in the relationship.
She knew from past experience that Connor got defensive when he thought he was being criticized, so she’d put off the talk again and again. She wanted to wait until she felt certain their relationship could handle the conversation.
I had confidence in Bernadette. I knew she was gentle, sensitive to other people’s feelings, and genuinely cared about making things better. She didn’t want to hurt her boyfriend’s feelings. She just wanted her needs met.
So when her conversation with Connor backfired, Bernadette was devastated. Connor was no longer talking to her.
A week later, I heard from her. Connor had broken things off. His text message read, “I don’t think I can be who you want me to be.”
Nine times out of ten, when a woman comes to me after a breakup, she wants to know what she did wrong. She feels personally responsible for what happened. She’s determined to find out how to stop making relationship mistakes.
These women are often surprised to hear my reaction. I ask them a simple yet challenging question:
“What if you didn’t do anything wrong?”
That question throws them. They’ve never considered that possibility.
They came to me willing to take full responsibility for the demise of their relationship, believing that this was the mature thing to do.
But relationships are never about one person. They’re always about two.
What if Bernadette had done nothing wrong by trying to talk to her boyfriend about her needs?
What if, in fact, she had done the RIGHT thing by trying to have a hard conversation in the best way she knew how?
What if she wasn’t responsible for the way her boyfriend reacted?
When someone reacts badly to something you said, it’s natural to assume that their reaction was your fault. You should have said things differently. You should have waited to have the conversation.
But that’s not necessarily true.
Life coach Dorrit Karlsen tells a story that illustrates this point.
She asks us to imagine that we’re holding a cup of coffee when someone passes by and bumps into us. The coffee spills everywhere.
Why did we spill the coffee?
Obviously, it was because that person bumped into us!
But Dorrit asks us to dig deeper.
The reason we spilled the coffee, she says, is because we had coffee in our cup. If we’d had tea in our cup, we would have spilled that.
“Whatever is inside the cup, is what will spill out,” she explains.
No one can walk through life without occasionally bumping into the people around them. That’s just life. We’re all doing the best we can.
When life gets bumpy, what’s inside of us spills out.
So if you’re a person filled with love, compassion, and understanding, forgiveness will spill out when someone bumps into you. You get it. Accidents happen. You clean up the mess and move on.
But if what’s inside of you is bitterness, resentment, or entitlement, you’ll get angry when someone bumps into you. They weren’t supposed to do that. They invaded your space. They should have seen that you were there.
Those feelings were already inside of you, looking for an opportunity to spill out.
So how does this help us understand Bernadette and Connor?
Connor felt that he’d been slammed in the gut by Bernadette’s words. He was standing there holding his coffee. He felt it was his right to stand there drinking his coffee in peace. It was all going great until Bernadette had to wreck it by bumping into him.
What was inside Connor spilled out.
Connor didn’t want to think about what was going on for Bernadette. Her feelings disrupted his day. He’d rather blame her than reach for understanding and compassion.
That reaction showed Bernadette what was inside Connor. She was merely the catalyst. She wasn’t responsible for the reaction.
When your relationship hits bumpy times, I hope you think about the metaphor of the coffee cup.
You’re going to bump into each other at times, no matter how much you try to be careful.
When you get thrown off balance, what’s inside of you comes out. Pay attention. A man who reacts with love and forgiveness might just be your Mr. Right.
yes thx !! I completely agree with Vino 🙂 fantastic great post and very actionable in all what we are doing 🙂
So 7 days ago my boyfriend broke up with me. Like in several presentation talks and information you have sent out into the world, we had a rough patch trying to communicate with each other. In the beginning we were great, like extremely great. We loved being with each other and we were in balance within the relationship, ourselves and respected each other. At one point, this all changed. I still do not know what it was, but we changed. In so doing we lost the balance in the relationship and we lost ourselves as individuals. We were not happy as before. Still glad we had each other, but it was not as easy as before. We did not live together but spent most weekends with each other. In these weekends we had plans with friends and family. We have tried several times to work on the relationship. Two weeks ago, we were at point we know it was now or never. We laid out all the fundamentals of relation guided by an eBook. It looked like we had set some rules and guidelines to become the happy people again in a happy relationship.
A week after this “contract” we had a terrible fallback. In which I fled from him, and I complained he was not there for me when I needed him. I have sent him away again (fyi: his best friend harassed me on my boyfriend’s birthday party) he came to my house and broke off our relationship.
He explained to me he couldn’t find the patience anymore, and he did not think we could ever have a stable relationship. He wants to be happy again, because he is a happy person and hasn’t been for a long time (me neither). He cried, we hugged and said goodbye. He already had all my stuff with him.
So James, can you tell me if you think we could get together again? I know we both must reach to our happy self again before we can open ourselves to each other. But is there even a change you/we can fix this?
Thanks so much for your comment! Your situation sounds complicated and I feel like you’d greatly benefit from being a part of our community and some back and forth consultation. I recommend that you bring it up in our private forum where we have actual relationship coaches on staff to answer questions and give advice. To access this forum, you would need to sign up for the Irresistible Insiders Club.
Within this private community, you can also ask questions and share experiences with like-minded women and our most advanced members. This way you can get extra real-time feedback and support for your unique situation.
Thank you for your comment. I believe the insiders club is for people which are in a relationship or dating. And I have still to recover from this break-up. And when I do, I need some help to find a way back to my ex.
My Name is Natasha and on 18/08/2019 I decided to leave my husband. I was fed up with the financial issues we had and I just felt (at the time) that this was the right thing to do. I was working on a farm very far away from home, so he was home with the children most of the time. I asked him for a separation and that I did not love him enough to stay in the marriage anymore.
Within 2 days of walking out, I receive numerous hate messages from his family and friends that I thought were mine too. They all wrote me off and even my son called me told me what a horrible person I am.
Before I knew it, I had lost everything and everyone I held dear to me. During the months of working on the farm, I met another person and we immediately clicked. He understood the pain I was going through. My contract ended at the end of October 2019 and because I couldn’t go back home, I moved in with this guy and tried to move on with my life.
I couldn’t. I missed my husband so much and my children and my life, so I would start making up excuses to go visit him. I would stay there for up to a week, even longer, but he never stayed with me. He always made sure he was away. I spent as much time as I could with my children. I was confused and completely heart broken that I lost my husband due to an impulsive decision I made.
Finally on the 1st of January 2020 I made the difficult decision of moving back in with my parents. I have no home, no car, no job and my children are very far away from me. I tried reconnecting with my husband again, but he has moved on and has started seeing someone else. All his family and friends have pushed him into divorcing me and moving on with him life.
I feel like God is a little kid who is playing a sick joke on my life! I know I have made mistakes and I tried to correct them, but by that time everything had spiraled so out of control, and so many people got involved in our marriage. I just didn’t know how to fix it.
I’m not a perfect wife by any means, and he was not a perfect husband either. We both had our flaws. But I feel like everyone decided to only look at my flaws and not his.
I feel completely broken and so alone. My faith in God has been broken! My faith in family and friends who supposedly loved me, has been ruined.
Please tell me if I should just do what everyone is telling me and get a divorce. Let my husband go and move on?
Any advise would be GREATLY appreciated!
Hi Natasha. First of all, let me acknowledge something true. You’ve been trying to make things better. That was true when you felt you had to leave the relationship and that’s true right now as you realize it would be better to work things out. My point is that your intentions have been good… to take action rather than just accept defeat… even if in retrospect you realize that some of your chosen methods were not the best.
Let’s now trust in the power of time and persistence. Time heals wounds. Persistence works miracles.
With unwavering faith and unrelenting action, nearly anything is possible. But… patience and small steps may be something worth practicing.
Rarely do I find that circumstances or relationships are as black-and-white, all or nothing as they seem. Your kids, his family, your mutual friends… they all probably have more mixed feelings about you and how things unfolded than what you might anticipate based on emotions that fueled angry messages during the initial shockwave after your separation.
Have you studied my relationship course called rewrite your relationship? In that course I teach the idea that it is both important and possible to touch on the emotions associated with good memories from the shared past and shared history the two of you created together. It’s a concept that has far-reaching power if you choose to wield it.
Whatever decision you make, I would encourage you to avoid all or nothing thinking. Look for small steps that can bring healing and restoration even if they feel almost meaningless when you look at the long journey ahead of you.
Never give up on pursuing a better life. Never give up on what is right, true, and worthy of your effort and attention. Life may not always unfold the way we would like, but one thing is for certain. God has not abandoned you. Nothing you can do would make him love you any more or any less.
Put your trust in finding what is still good in your life and building on that one small step at a time.
Always on your side,
THIS is THE most amazing post ever! And I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the analogy of spilt coffee!! Now that’s something that can be applied in SO many situations, and I can share it with my kids too!!!
Thank you, EVER & EVER so much!!!