The Legacy of Saying Yes

I surveyed the open, brightly lit gym, the white walls, and gleaming wood floors. Even though gymnastics wasn’t entirely new to me, I hadn’t stood on the bar until that moment. This was a new view—a scary one.

My right arm outstretched behind my back and toes just visible as they hung off the bottom bar, I felt sweat leaching through the chalk dust coating my hands while I grasped the top bar. Nervously, I switched hands and swiped my right palm on the side of my thigh, attempting to wipe away my nerves at the same time. It didn’t work.

Coach was getting fidgety as the moments ticked by. After more of my shifting, nervous sighs, and false starts, she finally said, “This is the anchor move of your bar routine. You’re not coming down till you jump.”

I stood on the bar long enough to feel a part of it. As my coach repeatedly sighed, watched the clock hands move, and glanced back up at me from the floor, I weighed my options. For more than an hour. I almost arrived at the jump and backed down several times.

Something inside me said, You need to give this a shot, while another voice raised all the what ifs. And a third interrupted both of them: If you do this—if you jump—you need to give it 100 percent. I knew that any hesitation or half effort could be disastrous. I needed to be all in.

I don’t recall exactly how the first and third voices drowned out the what ifs. I jumped backward, cleared the top bar, and though it wasn’t perfect, my grip was sure. Flying freely over that bar turned out to be the best part of all the routines I competed with that year.

I had no idea how much rode on that moment as I stood on the bar, wrestling with my thoughts over a choice. I could have backed down, decided not to jump, and accepted a safer routine with a lesser potential. But when I survey beyond the high-school era and into the rest of my life, I see this choice was preparing me. That moment flying off the bar wasn’t just about gymnastics, it was preparing me for other exhilarating yeses.

Sometimes, you’re presented with a choice that calls you to move past your emotions because, let’s be honest, your emotions and mine can be annoyingly stultifying.

What’s Standing Between You, Your Partner and a Better Version of You Together?

Chances are, there’s an issue or two standing between you, your partner and a better version of your marriage.  Even if you believe that the bulk of the responsibility for change that would lead you to that better version rests with your spouse, in your heart of hearts you know there’s something you could do.

Side note:  I’m not advocating for you to endure a harmful marriage.  I’ve written more about the difference between a harmful and an unhappy marriage here: https://toninieuwhof.com/is-your-marriage-unhappy-or-harmful/.

Aside from the question of what to do with your marriage, I believe I know something about you.

There’s a change within your power standing between you and your better future.

The change would benefit you; it would benefit your relationship; and it would have ripple effects.

This change is awaiting your ‘yes’.

But there are barriers to ‘yes’ at play.  Barriers you need to identify in order to move past. 

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Rapid-fire Round – Identifying and Dismantling the Barriers to ‘Yes’

 

  1. Internal Resistance – Just as I demonstrated above, your thoughts, fears and emotions may all pull you back from saying ‘yes’, or following up on your ‘yes’. If you’re feeling weighed down with conflict in your marriage or negative emotions, it feels demotivating.  You may be struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.  Prayer or mindfulness meditation may help you identify and move past your emotional barriers.  Acknowledging the struggle and seeking professional help may be your next step. There are also hacks such as the 5 second rule that Mel Robbins explains: https://melrobbins.com that could help you move past internal resistance.
  1. My Spouse Doesn’t Deserve It – If your marriage hasn’t felt like great space for a while, or if you’ve been outright fighting or weighed down with undealt-with grievances, trust between you may be eroded. However, if neither of you have both feet out the door yet, there’s still a chance to make a move.  When my husband Carey declared “you deserve someone who cherishes you, and that’s what I’m committed to doing” (even when at the time, we were stuck in negative space), he laid down a marker that had an influence.  Maybe you could, too.
  1. Change is Hard – Of course it is! Although some love it and some hate it, change is essential to growth in your life.  James Clear wrote Atomic Habits ( https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits) and Jon Acuff wrote Finish (https://acuff.me/books)two brilliant resources to help you chart your course and succeed with your change or goal.
  1. Life is Not ‘Back to Normal’ – Who knows what the future will bring? All of us face figuring out how to thrive in a new normal.  If you’re waiting for the right circumstances to align in the future, you could be waiting your better life away.  The time for peace, inside you and around you, is now. 
  1. Fear of Missing Out – Even if you haven’t admitted this to yourself, you may fear that trying to pursue growth in the context of your current relationship will leave you no further ahead in a few years. You might regret the time you ‘wasted’ trying to work it out.  However, fear will tell you all kinds of things that aren’t true and this is one of them.  You will not lose out by saying ‘yes’ to a personal change.  Similarly, you won’t lose out by giving your future self the best shot at your unhappy marriage.  Whatever happens in the future, you will not be enduring regret.
  1. Someone Close to You Is Swaying You Toward Leaving – Instead of saying ‘yes’ to making a personal change, you may have someone in your close circle advocating that you’re great and you deserve someone better. You are great!  That’s not the point. Sometimes, the people who love you have their own reasons for wanting to see you split.  If this is happening, find someone else who is wise and knows both you and your spouse.  Someone who wants your marriage to win.  Consciously explore the pros of giving your marriage another try with this person. Or, talk to a well-referenced marriage counsellor. I talk about the importance of the voices you listen to in Chapter 11 of my book, Before You Split https://toninieuwhof.com/books. 

What if saying ‘yes’ to whatever possibility for personal growth you see in front of you also opens future possibilities? What if it opens to you other experiences or successes made possible only by the yes you choose now?

The way-better future you aspire to – the one you can start creating if your spouse doesn’t yet see the value – starts with you risking a yes. Maybe your ‘yes’ is to find an accountability partner. Maybe it’s to circle a date on the calendar when you’ll take the first step. You and your ‘yes’ move forward even when your emotions urge you to freeze or back down. You let your ‘yes’ pick you up when you’ve fallen (you will). Your path to a way-better future consists of a series of tiny but determined baby steps, one at a time. Not chaotic. Just one yes, followed by one step, one at a time.

Even if getting to yes leaves you shifting to find your balance, hear me as your coach tell you, “Don’t come down till you jump.” Take that one step. The one important step that feels risky to you. The one that predicts a chance of a positive outcome.

For example, give something you know is important to your spouse, with no strings attached. Be generous with your time. Start doing the thing he or she has been begging you to do. Pick up the phone, call someone close to you, and ask for help. Say yes to that invitation to attend AA.

And as you jump, throw your whole weight into it. A half-hearted effort will only sell you and your loved ones short. Or land you in a heap.

Once you’ve decided to say ‘yes’, go all in.

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