I had spent 17 years of my life with my husband.
In that time, we had acquired many habits both good and bad.
Our relationship had many hardships and because we had started off together so young, and with so few relationship “tools…” both being raised in dysfunctional alcoholic families, we didn’t do a very good job of navigating through them.
We fell into patterns of talking to each other in harsh tones, blaming, running away, and pushing each other’s buttons.
Even in the calm periods, the patterns we had learned prevailed.
We would try to be different but, we just weren’t.
When we both began working 12-step programs, I had high hopes that things would change. Some things did… but unfortunately… our root issues and our bad habits were still there.
During our divorce, the patterns continued.
It didn’t matter that we were separated. We couldn’t speak to each other without falling into our old ways.
It was horrible.
We had children together.
We would have to find a way to communicate in a true adult, loving, and kind manner.
We kept trying, but it always ended in a fight: nothing was different.
I was doing the same thing outside of my marriage that I had done inside of my marriage.
I could not change what my husband was doing.
I could not change what he was saying.
I could not change his behavior.
The only thing I could change was my attitude and my behavior.
If I kept doing the same thing and expecting different results, I was bound to fail.
I had not had a different result in one of our heated conversations in 17 years. Why would it be any different today?
I knew then that I could not get into these conversations with my husband any more. That for now, I had to learn not to engage. It was very difficult. I wanted to be in that old familiar pattern even if it was bad. I wanted to have contact with him and I wanted to believe that this time, the outcome would be different.
It wouldn’t until one of us changed our behavior.
I could only start with me.
Our children were old enough that they could contact their father on their own. I decided then and there, that for now, I would only contact him if there was an emergency, or a pressing child or financial issue. I had to take time away from him and work on changing my behavior.
So, what could I do differently in these conversations?
Well, I could start by not engaging, working on my communication skills, and for the time being, limiting my contact with him.
I knew that if I wanted it to be different, I would have to work to make it different.
Our communication skills would not change over night but if I was willing to work, to try handling this in a different way, over time, the results would be different and possibly better.
“Dear God, help me to stop doing the same things and expecting different results. Help me to change my part in the old behavior. Guide me to a new way which can then bring a positive result to my life.”