It’s Otto writing today and I want to share a story about one of the most difficult days of my life in the hope that it will be helpful to you. Enjoy…
It was about 9:30 pm on a Saturday night and my son was so filled with anger, upset and rage because of some disagreement he had just had with his mother that when he arrived at our house, I stopped him and wouldn’t let him come in.
This was 13 years ago. My son was 18 and about to enter college and after a lot of late-night discussions and soul-searching, Susie and I agreed that he could move in with us.
We figured we had the extra space in the house we were living in at the time and it would save my son a lot of money on housing since the college he chose was only about a twenty minute car ride.
It had been ten years since my son’s mother and I had split up and even though Susie and my son had a good relationship during those years, moving in with us was not only going to test their relationship but would test my relationship with him and Susie as well.
Becoming a “blended family” is no small feat and with what happened between my son, Susie, and me the night he was scheduled to move in made me think this was all a big mistake–especially his seemingly uncontrolled anger.
That Saturday night, my son filled his car with everything he was going to need in the short term and made the 40 minute drive to where Susie and I lived at the time.
I knew there was going to be a problem the moment I saw him.
When he got out of the car, he slammed the driver’s side door so violently that I thought it was going to bust the windows in his car.
I pushed the button to open the garage door to let him in and when he got to the screen door that led to the inside of the house, he swung it open with so much force, we thought it (or he) might punch a hole in the drywall in the garage or worse.
I thought this was bad but when Susie saw all that was going on with him she said “He can’t come in here like that. He’s going to hurt someone, tear up the house or both” and I agreed.
Upset and angry myself–I met him at the door, allowed myself a moment to calm myself down, walked him back outside and told him he had to find a way to get a grip on himself before he could come in.
This was important because it was one of those defining moments in my life where (maybe for the first time since the divorce) I stood my solid ground with him and at the same time showed up as total love in the moment.
To this day, I’m still not sure what was going on between him and his mother but to get a hold of himself, he took a long walk around the block and was gone for what seemed like forever.
When he returned, I hugged him and told him I loved him and he just cried and cried.
My son lived with Susie and I for over four years, which was the entire time he was going to college and then some.
There were plenty of communication challenges when none of us could get along and there were plenty of times when our new living arrangement was totally awesome and communication was easy.
This is life. This is love. And this is also part of the natural ebb and flow of relationships.
Not only did I want to do everything I could to nurture a close, loving relationship with my son, I also wanted to do everything in my power to keep love, passion and connection with Susie alive and growing as well.
I think I did that.
Not only do I still have a really good relationship with my son, but Susie and I are closer, more connected and more in love after being together for over 22 years as we were in the beginning of our relationship.
What are the keys?
–One thing I can say without hesitation is that communication has been one of the keys to all of this working.
When things got difficult, the commitment to not run away, to not hide, to continue to open as love and the willingness to have difficult conversations even when you would prefer to just not have to deal with anyone or anything made all the difference.
–Another key is being okay with inner agitation that comes from fearful thinking about the past and what could happen in the future.
When I allow the agitation, my own anger or whatever emotion that comes up inside me to pass through me without attaching too much meaning to it…
When I turn my focus to what I truly want in my relationships, love and understanding comes through.
What I also know is that one person can totally change a relationship for the better!
If I had allowed my anger to get the better of me that night with my son, I don’t think we’d have the relationship we have today.
I gave him space to calm down and I gave it to me as well and from that space as well as losing the fearful stories came love.