What happens when you’ve tried to save your marriage with the help of counselors, psychologists, and therapists, but it’s still not working? Some people turn to a relationship coach in order to capture a new vision and craft a new plan for the future. That’s what today’s featured clients did, and two years later they’re still going strong.
There are many things that make LifeTrek Coaching International unique among coaching organizations. For one thing, we are a group of coaches, employed by one organization, with different trainings, backgrounds, niches, and specialties. That gives us a more unified view and makes us better able to respond to a broad range of requests for coaching.
For another thing, we have staged live events • a proposition typically reserved for large, membership-based organizations. In addition to occasional staff retreats, we have organized our LifeTrek Weekends around specific themes in order to give our readers and clients the opportunity to have some time together. These events have been well received and well reviewed.
Our Weekend in the fall of 2002 came along at just the right time for today’s featured clients. They had been working on their relationship for years, with the help of counselors, psychologists, and therapists, but they had not been able to move forward, beyond the point of their pain. Through coaching, however, they were able to capture a new vision and craft a new plan for their future.
Q: How did you learn about LifeTrek Coaching and why did you first think of us for relationship coaching?
Her: I discovered LifeTrek Coaching in 2001, when my coach put the two of us together. She knew that I was looking for opportunities in the coaching profession, and she thought I would benefit from making a connection with your can-do, believe-in-miracles, nothing-is-impossible attitude. So she introduced us.
You were very generous in supporting me, both professionally and personally. When the idea for relationship coaching emerged, the only requirement was for you to develop the same level of trust and engagement with my husband. Fortunately, that proved to be no problem so we were able to move right into things during the summer of 2002.
Him: Although I didn’t know you at the time, my wife had certainly given me a good impression of you and the potential of coaching to move our relationship forward. We had tried everything else, and although I had never worked with a coach I was familiar with the basic philosophy and approach. I knew it would be a more positive, less problem-focused approach, so I was happy to give coaching a try. At that point, we didn’t have much to lose.
Q: So you came to coaching at a critical moment in your relationship?
Him: Yes, things were not going well. We had plenty of battle scars over more than 10 years of marriage. And every time we went to another counselor, psychologist, or therapist, that’s all they wanted to talk about. We ended up feeling worse rather than better, with lots of blaming and shaming. Our marriage was on the rocks and it wasn’t going to survive if we didn’t get on to a more positive note.
Her: I knew from my own coach training experiences in general, as well as from my experience of LifeTrek Coaching in particular, that you would not spend a lot of time dredging up the past. We had been there and done that, without a lot of progress, so I wanted to see what would happen if we came at things from a different perspective.
My concern was not to save the marriage at all costs. My concern was to find a new vision for the future that would be healthy and good for both of us, whether we stayed together or went our separate ways. That was unknown. But we did care enough about each other to at least want only the best for each other, whatever the future might hold.
Q: How did your goals for coaching evolve over time?
Him: When we first started, I clearly did want to save the marriage. That was my stated desire. But I came to see that I had to let go of staying together as a demand if it had any chance of working out. Our marriage was like a frog. Hold it too tightly, and you risk killing it. Part of what I learned was to give her space and to respect our differences.
Her: Receiving that breathing room, that let up of pressure, was a huge gift for me. But in and of itself, it would not have been enough to save the marriage. We really got down to the nuts and bolts of our future, working on things we would never have talked about with a counselor, psychologist, or therapist. I mean, how many times do you send your therapist an Excel spreadsheet with budget figures and retirement plans!
What the coaching process assisted us to do was to take the big leap we had talked about for many years. We had both had high-pressure jobs in the IT industry, with huge corporations, based in a large metropolitan area. We spent much of our lives fighting fires and sitting in traffic. I pulled out of my job because it was no longer satisfying; when my husband’s job came to an end we had an opportunity to do something we had talked about for years.
We sold the house and a few other possessions, we bought a Recreational Vehicle, and we went on a year-long trek around the United States. But who wants to do something like that, to be cooped up in a tiny RV with nowhere to go and nowhere to run, with someone you don’t even like, much less love? Through coaching we were able to give our dream a chance, but in the planning and the implementation stages we were able to get our relationship in good enough shape to be mostly compatible on the road.
Q. Yes, I remember talking with you while you were on the road. I never knew where you would be calling from next!
Her: It was a little like the game, “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?” We just had to get our time zones straight. But it was enormously helpful to know we could take our coach with us. Telephone coaching was perfect for us. No matter where we happened to be, we could still keep our coaching appointments.
Him: In the planning stage, what coaching assisted us to do was to take our year-long trek asrunning toward a dream instead of running away from our problems. We might have done it anyway, without coaching. My wife had talked about it for so long. But we would probably have done it with the hope of running away from all the problems we had been having in the city. Through coaching, we were able to design a vision for our journey that was exciting for the two of us to work on together.
Q: Do you remember how we did that? What made coaching work where other interventions had failed?
Him: The critical piece was being able to say anything, in the presence of a neutral third party, without guilt, judgment, blame, or shame. You never reacted to anything, no matter how scandalous or troubling, with a moralistic or paternalistic lecture. You accepted what we were feeling and saying, and then you brought us back to the coaching question: “Now what?” That was the difference we needed. Others kept trying to untangle our knots; you tested the line, knots and all, to see if it could hold our weight anyway.
Her: Truth telling was an enormous part of our process and crucial to our moving forward. We also needed the freedom that you extended to actually make choices about our relationship and our future rather than to just react. So coaching became a place where we could speak, face, and make new choices in light of the truth.
Q. How and where did the LifeTrek Weekend fit into the process?
Her: We had already been telephone coaching for several months at that point, and we were just on the verge of our yearlong road trip, so it became the perfect jumping off place. I remember that we drove the RV to the retreat center and stayed in it during the weekend. It was our first night on the road.
So the weekend came along at the perfect time, and it made a huge difference that my husband was willing to be there with me. I have always been the retreat, conference, workshop, and self-development junkie in our relationship. I enjoy those things and go to them often. But my husband had never come along; doing the Weekend together was a significant event.
Him: We both still have the life maps that we did on the Weekend. We looked at the things that had happened in our past, but we looked at them in a new way. We saw them, good and bad, as getting us to the point of being together on the Weekend, on the verge of a year-long sabbatical. How good is that! Our life stories became something to treasure rather than to disparage.
Q: So how has coaching changed you, either individually or as a couple?
Him: I, for one, am much less reactive of a person. I’m less explosive, and more able to just listen and let things happen. That was how you approached the coaching process, and I incorporated some of that in my being. In fact, now that we have decided to settle down, at least for a while, in Sedona, Arizona • about as far from the hustle and bustle of the big city as you can get • I’ve made a career change that has me playing coach five nights a week.
I’m a bartender, and I find myself coaching these people, using some of the techniques and sharing some of the same ideas that we worked on together in our relationship coaching. It’s a fascinating process. I’m also less money oriented. I don’t worry about the future as much. I take one day at a time, enjoying the present moment while we still have our health and the ability to do so.
As a couple, I think we became more intentional about our life together. After two people have been married for as long as we had, you begin to take things for granted, to fall into routines, and to stop talking about things like where you are and where you want to go. Life just happens. But through coaching, all that came back into focus. By raising our intention to a new level of consciousness, coaching assisted us to design and reach a better place to be.
Her: Neither one of us would say that everything is exactly the way we want it, or that we wouldn’t change a thing. Nevertheless, I think we do appreciate the present moment as perfectly designed for our own growth and happiness. That’s a huge shift over when we were so miserable with each other. Now we see each day as an opportunity to be fully alive, to enjoy some little part of life, and to give ourselves in service to others. That has been a helpful perspective to gain.
We are also better able to talk about things now. I still take most of the responsibility for initiating conversations, but when I do he doesn’t refuse or bring a bad attitude. He knows that conversation can make things better, so he’s more willing to participate in the process. We learned that in coaching. Before, conversation was a way to beat each other up. Now, it’s become a way to help each other up. If we’re going to keep improving as a couple, we need to keep talking.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for our readers, perhaps other couples, who may be thinking about coaching?
Her: Think of hiring a coach as putting on adventure gear. Whatever the adventure, without the right gear it’s easy to get yourself in trouble. And then the adventure becomes a crisis. With the right gear, however, you’re protected from the elements in such a way that you can enjoy the experience even when it gets challenging, difficult, and strenuous. That’s what coaching is like. It doesn’t make life or relationships easy; it makes them an adventure one can enjoy.
Him: I think of coaching as a new beginning, and that’s what I would like other couples to know. If you are struggling right now, and whether or not you have tried walking into a therapist’s office, pick up the phone and call a coach who has the skills to get you talking about where you want to go in life. From the vantage point of one’s future self • an exercise we did on the LifeTrek Weekend • it really is possible to design a new tomorrow.
Coaching Inquiries: How do you experience the journey of life? Is it more of an adventure or a crisis? Do you have someone to share the adventure with? Could coaching provide the gear that would make the adventure more enjoyable? How could you get out of the rat race and on to pathway of love?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
The interview with last week’s couple was a great Provision, and so apropos to my life right now. Thanks again for such inspiring and thought-provoking words. I really appreciate the work you all do!
I just read your beautiful poem titled, “Passion” Click. A beautiful poem indeed. But what is one to do when the capacity for passion seems to have gone to sleep? I am having the hardest time getting excited about ANYTHING. And I don’t like that. So many of these wonderful programs are based on pursuing, channeling, or refining passion. It’s like giving someone a road map so they can reach their destination without getting lost. My problem is not how to drive, nor what road to take • it’s that my car has no gas. Without passion, I can’t get moving. How does one (re)light that inner fire? (Ed. Note: A coaching project to be sure! We will contact you shortly.)
Having worked with you many years ago as a coaching client, your recent series of interviews makes it clear that your dream of coaching continues to grow and be very diverse. Congrats.
Please, I cannot read English so write to me in French. (Ed. Note: Employez un programme en ligne de traduction, tel que http://www.systransoft.com)
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
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