Inform, Remind or Control

By CrisMarie Campbell

My life is very full right now. In July, I completed the second of two sixth month training programs with Martha Beck to become a Certified Martha Beck Master Coach. Then Susan Clarke and I lead our first Couples Alive I program @ the Haven Institute, which went fabulously, if I don’t say so myself (oh, I just did, didn’t I?) Finally, I have the female lead in a play with Stumptown Players in Whitefish, MT! I know. Right? Awesome!

In the meantime, I keep encouraging Susan, my partner, to start her own coaching practice. She is plenty qualified with a Diploma in Counseling from the Haven Institute, a Masters in Applied Behavioral Science, a Mentor Coach Certification and 25 plus years working with people. However, she seems a bit hesitant, which I don’t get it at all.

See, the idea came to me at the end of this June as I was driving to rehearsal. So I casually mentioned it to her the next day. First, I suggested she get a coach to support her in her writing (she has an awesome blog: and possibly starting a coaching practice. She was mildly interested, but did nothing. Then, I suggested a specific coach she could call and chat with to see if there was a fit. Again, mildly interested, but no action. After bringing it up oh, I don’t know, about 10 or 15 more times, I finally sent her an email with five coaches names in it, still, no action. Even now, as I write this, my mind is coming up with even more effective ways to influence her, “Well, hell. Make it easier for her: Include the coaches contact information and links to their websites and emails. She’ll definitely take action then.”

Are you agreeing with me right now?

If so, you may be what I am: a codependent person otherwise known as relationship addict.

Codependents like me do not like to acknowledge what they are feeling or that that problems exist (at least inside them). They don’t talk about their own feelings or confront problems head on. As a result, they learn to repress their true emotions and disregard their own needs and instead subtly (or not so subtly) try to influence. I learned about my tendency for this behavior during my time in Al-anon (12 step program for friends and family members of people who are alcoholics).

My behavior with Susan is very reminiscent to a wife trying to get a husband to stop drinking. It starts out very innocently and vague. The loving spouse, (that would be me in the above scenario) says something like: “Sweetie pie, why don’t you and guys go to a movie rather than a baseball game. (Because they don’t serve booze at the movies.) Of course, that doesn’t work since the husband is not at all interested in the movies. The next time they are out with friends, the wife tries another tactic, “Honey, don’t you think you have had enough? Why don’t we go home?” In reply, he answers, “No way this party is just getting started!” Finally, a week later, the wife ups the ante, “I think you have a problem and need to see someone.” You can only imagine how well this goes over.

In each one of these attempts, the supportive wife is focused on trying to change her husband, while ignoring what is happening inside her. Rather than talk about how resentful she is that she has to put him to bed when he is stumbling drunk, or how embarrassed she was at the party because he was loud and inappropriate, or most importantly, how she has stopped following her own dreams to manage him, she focuses on trying to change him.

You can see how well that is working. I believe it is Newton’s third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” in effect here. The husband, not only doesn’t stop drinking, but feels that building pressure to control him, and does what most of us would do, rebels by drinking even more. He will NOT be controlled!

So why do we think it works? I’m not sure, but over and over again it is the tack I take. It was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Okay, I am insane. That is until I remember my Al-anon sponsor telling me that if I:

Say it once – I may be informing
Say it twice – I may be reminding
Say it three times – I am definitely attempting to control!

Okay, okay, so I take a breath and close that awesome email I have crafted for Susan with all the detailed information on coaches. I save it in Drafts. Hey, I didn’t say I was cured! Then I ask myself, “What is going on with me that I so desperately want Susan to start a coaching practice?” It takes a little bit of patience, but I hear the whispers in the back of my consciousness.

Actually, I am so happy and full in all these activities that I am doing, I feel uncomfortable that she is not charging forward in some direction. Now, granted, even one of my biggies – the Couples Alive Program – she is involved in. The point is, I am trying to control her because I am the one who is uncomfortable. I am unwilling to acknowledge and talk about how I feel. So I distract myself by focusing on changing her.

Can you relate? A key indicator that you may be avoiding what is going on inside of you is the continual attempts to gently (or not so gently) influence (sounds so much better than control or change) someone else.

The Antidote:

Take a breath and check in.
 Ask yourself, “What is it that I am feeling?”

Can you allow your feelings and maybe have a conversation about what is going on inside of you? Or would you rather be insane? Your choice.

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