A few weeks ago, I posted on my Instagram about how my ex-husband gave me Brené Brown’s new book, Dare to Lead, as an engagement gift for my new fiancé and me. I mentioned how I went from “I HATE HIM” to “HE’S NOW A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE.” And, as I write this, it seems so simple…
But when I go back and let myself relive my old life, I remember the pain, the tears, the fear, and the uncertainty.
Eight years ago, my world came crashing down. At the time, everything seemed to be falling apart—little did I know, it was actually falling together.
My ex-husband and I were in such a terrible cycle of relationship toxicity. It was scary. I got to a place where I hated him so much. I even remember hating how he breathed when we tried couples yoga together to “restore the peace.” I had so much resentment for how he treated me, and there was no other option than to get a divorce.
And when we finally did get a divorce, it felt so good to blame him. It was all his fault. He had a horrible temper and I was just the innocent victim.
From the day we separated until about one year later, everything was tumultuous. We couldn’t speak without launching into a full-blown fight. We texted and emailed each other slanderous things. Like I said, it was really ugly—really really ugly.
And, to make matters worse, our two children were dragged into our drama. In fact, I did my best to make sure they didn’t think I was to blame, often making passive-aggressive comments about their father, knowing it was the worst thing for the kids (I don’t recommend this tactic, by the way). However, I quickly discovered that kids are smart—and they know way more than we think they do. This was evident when my two teenagers would point out my childlike behavior and remind me of my own shortcomings (how dare they?).
I remember the first time the kids went to stay at their dad’s house. As I dropped them off, I told him that the kids needed to be in bed by 11pm because it was a school night. He nodded a half-assed OK.
At 11:30pm, I got a text from one of my girls that said, “Night Mom. I miss you.”
I blew an internal gasket. Why were they still up? I texted my ex and reminded him that I said bed by 11pm. And with that, he responded, “You don’t get to control me anymore.”
My heart stopped. I wanted to pick up the phone and call him one of the familiar names I had used over the last few years, but I couldn’t. I was paralyzed.
The thing is, he was right. I couldn’t control him anymore. And with that, I started my long journey of self-reflection. No one wants to hear someone else cutting them down. And normally, it was part of our routine, so I hadn’t really thought about his verbal attacks in the past. But, this time, it hit home.
Was I part of our relationship problems? Did my behaviors contribute to our demise?
Honestly, this was the first time I took a pause—a step back—and realized, perhaps, I could have been a contributor to our downfall.
And with that, I also decided that I had choices.
- Internally miserable, carrying around the weight of the anger I had built up inside
- Not interested in taking any ownership in the relationship falling apart (I pointed the finger towards him)
- Decide to drop the anger
- Own my sh*t
I did both.
And once I did, I realized how much control I actually had. Not control of others, but control of how I felt, behaved, and accepted responsibility—OF MYSELF.
The moment this shifted was the moment my ex and I began our path from hate to friendship.
I had to own my stuff, admit my faults, and be okay with my mistakes. I had to stop blaming everyone else and instead, understand how, where, and when things went awry. But then I had to forgive myself for my part in all the mess.
None of it was easy. But all of it was worth it.
I grew in ways I never expected. And this growth led me down a path to healthier, more balanced relationships with other people in my life—and eventually to help others do the same.
I own my sh*t:
I was controlling. I blew up when things didn’t go my way, and I’m fully aware of it. I see it as it creeps into my current life, and I know to recognize it as you would an old, familiar face. And yes, I still have my bouts of controlling behavior, but now I can recognize it, see it for what it is, own it, and move on to a better, healthier way of being.
The moral of my story? The key to happiness and healthy relationships is to own your side of the story, (aka, own your your sh*t).
Newsflash: no one is perfect.
But how we embrace and learn from our imperfections? That’s where the magic happens.
What do YOU own?
Lisa Panos is a Certified Life Coach and Author who helps people stop struggling and start thriving in their personal and professional relationships.
Trained by Dr. Martha Beck (aka, Oprah’s Life Coach), Lisa helps her clients create new, healthy relationships, mend those that are broken, or say goodbye to ones that no longer serve them. She combines highly effective coaching tactics with an explosive arsenal of personal experience that swiftly moves people out of dysfunction and into a place of deep inner strength.
Want to work with Lisa? Learn more.