If Only: The Stories that Define Our Lives

Susie sits sobbing talking once more about her husband. “He’s a good father and a sweet man. He’s never cheated on me; all my friends tell me I’m really lucky to be married to such an amazing man.” I sit quietly, waiting for the kernel of truth Susie has yet to share with me. This is a common communication pattern which I think of as “the best offense is a good defense.” People begin with the justifications and answers to questions not yet asked then slip in what they really believe. Susie continues “I don’t want to be married to him anymore but I can’t divorce him; he’s done nothing wrong. If only he would hit me once, then I could leave.”

I see this principle over and over again in clients. People will sit in front of me and share what I call their “if only” stories. “If only I had more money I could create the life I want.” “If only I had less money, I could experience true friendship.” “If only I had a child my family would be complete.” “If only I didn’t have children; that was the biggest mistake in my life.” “If only I had talked to my father before he died.” “If only my mother would die, then I would be free.” Interestingly, we often use our lives to confirm our “if only.” We surround ourselves with other unhappy parents, we continually comment on how lucky our friends are to be able to talk to their fathers, we work hard to spend all our money. We go above and beyond to prove to ourselves and the world that we are justified in creating our lives around these principles. In the end our “if only” ends up defining everything.

What is your “if only” story? Are you happy with it, or does it need some tweaking? It’s never too late to create a new story, as Susie is doing, and set a different course for your life.