Over setbacks and the insights they hold in store

The warm-up

At the beginning of this year I’ve been taking a phenomenal online-workshop led by a talented young Dutch lady. It’s topic was “Hoe wordt jouw 2019?” which can be translated into: “How is your 2019 going to be?” In this course we reflected upon what we had achieved in 2018 (in my case – quite a lot! I was pretty proud) and what our goals for 2019 would be. My ambitions and energy were high and in the first quarter of this year I’ve happened to surpass all of my expectations for myself, except for some smaller ones. So, when we had a follow-up call In April I set new, even higher goals for myself and fuelled them with a personal mantra. It’s written in Dutch, but I can share the essence of it here in English. From mid-April on I kept telling myself that 1) I have incredible amounts of luck, 2) things that I expect but also those that I would never dare to expect come along my way, and 3) all things that happen to me and that I engage in – may they be complicated, challenging or hard – all help me to unfold my full potential.

The quick-start

And then they came: Things that I had expected and things I did not expect. But they came in a reversed order: Professionally I excelled, relationships and sales for the company that I am co-founding at this moment skyrocketed. Colleagues and friends approached me to walk with them for a few miles and collaborate in interesting projects. Lots of dear people visited me in Amsterdam and I went on beautiful and enriching journeys myself. A bit exhausting, but also very, very satisfying.

Flying high

Then the most unexpected thing happened: I met an incredibly kind, caring, smart and VERY handsome man. It seemed that there was mutual interest. We met for the first time in a private context and what followed seemed like in a fairy tale. It was just beautiful. …Okay, some complexities and compromises, but hey: we are talking about real life, right? My emotions, probably largely induced by hormones that help you get in that sweet, rosy mode, catapulted me above all clouds and doubts directly into heaven. When I saw him, my heart sang. It was like in a dream…

The hard landing

Now, as you read the tense in which I am writing you probably anticipate that something dramatic would lurk around the corner. And yes, your anticipation is right. What I didn’t want to see, hear and feel in these days and weeks, my body had to make me realize before I dared to speak up and clarify the inconsistencies that eventually brought a painful end to the story. About 5 weeks after the start of that romance I fell sick with a heavy tonsillitis. It’s probably interesting to note the symptoms: My tonsils ached and swelled to the point that I could hardly swallow or open my mouth anymore. My voice changed. In the nights I would wake up because whenever I swallowed the pain was so intense that it stopped me from sleeping (and dreaming) further. I felt weak and tired the way I had not felt since years. While I was laying there in my bed I kept on asking the question: what is this telling me? Which voice did I overhear? Why does my body has to be in that state? For which insight? What message did I miss until now?

I got the answer in a respectful and kind but hard conversation with the man of my dreams a week later. There was no point in hiding behind heartfelt emotions to see the truth: even though my love for him might have had carried us until this point. His inability to love me back in a comparable way and to satisfy the wishes and needs of my heart made us end this short romance.

What made me fall?

In the weeks before I had deliberately silenced myself and the voice of my heart so I could avoid to face the truth. I just wanted this relationship to succeed, I wanted to be there for him, not counting in that my heart needed him to answer my longing as enthusiastically as it longed for him. I had so much care and love to share and hoped it would cover the lack of heartfelt feelings from his side. But in a partnership (or actually any relationship) that just cannot work out. Imbalance in motivation and commitment never leads to a balanced relationship. A healthy relationship needs effort from both sides. You need both parties to lean in and to carry the responsibility. And even if both sides want to but only one can – this cannot sustain. It will break, sooner or later. I actually knew this. I just didn’t want to apply it to this particular situation.

The lessons learned

That was a hard landing. Even more since I fell from the sky on the hard ground of reality. I wish no one to experience something like that. However, it brought not only pain, but also valuable lessons which I had partially forgotten (or ignored) and partially not understood in that depth. Let me share with you what I’ve learned, i.e. the questions that led me to my lessons learned:

1) It might be wise to make an inventory before you engage in a relationship (and with relationship I mean not only the private ones, but also the professional ones): What do you bring to the table (in the positive sense, but also in the negative one)? What needs of both sides want to be satisfied? Are both of you willing and able to satisfy them?

2) Diving deeper into the nature of these needs and wishes: What are your needs? Which of them can you actually satisfy yourself? Where can you ask for support from somebody else then your partner in order to avoid overload of the relationship? What’s a must in terms you need from your partner?

3) What’s realistic to expect from your partner (and yourself)? I know that my wish list is long, but what’s the real essence of what you wish this partnership to be? You will not be able to change your partner. You can only change yourself. So are the assets that he brings into the partnership sufficient to make you happy? Or might the backpack that you or your partner carries around be too straining in the long term for both of you?

4) Who sacrifices what? Why and what for? Is that temporarily or does it seem to be a on-going pattern? Is that a healthy pattern or should you engage in a change process here?

5) What is the sound of your  personal alarm bell? For me it obviously needed to become heavily, physically painful before I took of my rose coloured glasses and used my normally well functioning brain again in a more analytic and rational way. And I had to get the hint from symptoms of an illness before I dared to use my voice and speak my heart. And it needed the support from a caring mentor to make me see what lied in front of my eyes, what I tried to ignore all the way. And last, but not least, it needed a humble, reflective and acknowledging counterpart who was ready to engage in a painful but clarifying final conversation.

Picking myself up and moving on

Well, well… hard lessons learned, I would say. I hope I remember them next time I fall in love or engage in a business relationship. Until then I hope that my mantra does lead me through a little less bumpy and tiring territory.

In the meanwhile I’d be curious to hear how that is for you? What lessons have you learned about relationships – business-wise but also (if you dare to share) privately? I’d love to learn from you.

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