If you are
going through hell,
The other day, a woman asked me what I thought she should do about her marriage. She has felt sexually numb the last few years to the point of nausea when her husband is in the house–a bit of an inconvenience when two people have to work from home. He thinks a trip to a sex therapist will “fix” her, for it is obvious to him that she is the problem. What man in his righteous mind will admit the possibility that his wife’s coldness, illness, or depression might be self-protection, the fruit of anger and built-up resentments?
But I’m getting carried away…
To be fair, who knows what really goes on behind closed doors? Does she really want to do something about her situation or does she just need to be heard? Is the problem she identifies the root of it all or a symptom of something else?
Discussing a problem with others helps us deal with it (eventually.) As consultant, it is tempting to say, “If I were you…” though much as we try, we can never really be them. While it’s easy to find similarities with our own experiences, any resemblance may be superficial and an analogy may not have legs.
Providing a range of scenarios and possible outcomes may be more useful than definitives that begin with “Do this” or “Don’t do that.” Time and thought are needed to weigh decisions against several dimensions and the personalities involved.
The first step in giving good advice is:
Do not give advice. Just listen.
Giving good advice need not necessarily mean solving a problem. It could be about making the situation easier to understand, shedding light and encouraging the exploration of different points of view.
Trust that they will arrive at the best answer for themselves in their own good time. Be comfortable with the silence and the not knowing. Affirm them with, “I can’t wait to find out what you decide!”
Every success and every failure changes states when perceived in the short versus the long term. While we might wish someone would simply rescue us when we’re feeling lost in the forest, this is the process we need to grow spine and courage, to find the light within us to illuminate the path, to make our own choice which fork in the road to take. No matter the journey, one great comfort is the certainty that all paths always, always lead us home to ourselves.
Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how indecision eventually led you to clarity.
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