Torn about staying or going?
The Story of
Kai was a passionate adventurer. His life was one of seeking and leading treks into far off places. He was also a soulful dude, an aspiring artist and ever searching for his soul mate.
When he met Sarah in his 30’s, the stars (and their core values) seemed completely aligned.
And yet, Sarah was different, ready to settle in, build a life and have kids with a man she could trust, yesterday.
The feeling of being in love faded quickly. Kai felt unsettled about their dynamic, sensing that his life was about to change profoundly.
Fast forward to three years later, they have a 18 month old son, living in a house partly renovated trying to stay afloat financially in a precarious economy.
Being a dad was a joy for Kai but also exhausting. Lacking a sex life, sleep deprived and unable to shake the feeling of being trapped, Kai turned to porn and started flirting with a co-worker.
Sarah found out and they started fighting regularly, about the stupidest things.
Kai became more convinced that he made the wrong decision, but leaving his son and all that they built behind was terrifying.
Desperate, they went into couples therapy…
Kai's take on Therapy...
To be honest, it was boring and pointless. I have no problem
sharing my feelings but I got sick of being hit over the head
with how bad I was as a man.
The therapist tried to see both sides,
but I don’t think she really got me.
I learned to listen and care more about my wife’s fears.
That was really valuable, but after a douzen sessions and $3000,
I'm still feeling torn and unsure of what to do.
What led Kai to find us...
Sarah sent Kai an article written by me (David, founder of PAL) which was recommended to her through a friend:
Kai got frustrated by some of the advice.
It led him to read another piece…
He reached out to me and we got into a heated but respectful and productive back and forth through email.
Seeing how stuck and in pain he was, I invited Kai to get out of his head and join me on a WALKABOUT, an outdoor gathering of men in search of answers to relationship dilemmas and deeper purpose.
Kai was a bit dubious, but he signed up, sounding keen.
“Thank you for inviting me.
I really gotta get clearer
and make a decision!”
On the day, Kai showed up, but he was 2 and a half hours late, joining our circle as we were finishing up.
Kai was super frustrated and annoyed with himself and his life.
“I’m sorry to miss most of it! Arrr…
My wife was sick and my son refused
to nap and needed me.
Anyway, I wanted to come
and meet you all.”
We walked and talked for a bit and I took him to a crossroads in the Don Valley ravine system where we filmed a choose-your-own-adventure video series for men who are struggling to discern whether to Stay or Go?
I left him with an invitation to consider the five options before him, not just the two he currently felt stuck between.
At wit's end...
A month later, Kai and Sarah had the kind of fight where both of them considered moving apart.
Kai called me while staying with his parents for a few days. We talked about his options and he expressed a desire to sign up for some help. Not wanting to waste any time, I asked him “What’s calling you to step in now?”
“I just started picturing it. Shit, I will lose my son.
And it may sound trivial or vain, but it will cost me so much… financially to pay support, start over and have my reputation run through the mud.”
There was a long pause. Kai choked up on the line.
“No, actually I can deal with all that.
It’s more that I see that I’ve been here before…
I had two abortions in my twenties and more than a handful of lovers who I was sure were “the one”.
And then… I either drove them away or left them.
Unless I choose another path, I will be the guy alone
in an old folks home with a dick in his hand.
Kids don’t visit and no relationship ever stuck.
But I also am terrified of missing out on my one true love!!!
How do I make the right choice?!
Knowing we would speak the next day, I sent Kai to do some prep and gain more clarity by taking our free quiz to find the answer to the question…
WHO's sabotaging your chance at true love...?
An hour later, he replied in text:
What will it take to choose deeper intimacy and lasting love?
The next day, we spoke on video call about what it would take to help him not only make a decision but one he would not regret, and even be grateful and proud of in hindsight.
I reassured him that my agenda was not to steer him to stay or to go.
Ultimately, there was no right or wrong choice,
If Kai decided to join our intensive FREEDOM to LOVE Fully program, the goal would be to make a choice either way, doing so not out of emotional reactiveness but with wisdom and courage.
This also meant growing into deeper intimacy and becoming more free and true to himself.
I walked Kai through what he could expect, bringing up the ancient myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, as it holds a lot of parallels for the twists and turns ahead....
“The first phase is what we call... “
"Through the Labyrinth"
It would be an 8 step process to fully map out the maze he was stuck in to discover:
WHY you are really unfulfilled.
WHAT is changeable and what is not, in your partner and yourself.
HOW you are sabotaging this and any future relationships.
He was already partly clear about this last part.
But we would go deeper to discover the truth about the dance of conflict Kai and Sarah were trapped in together.
And underneath that, to identify the core wounds which were triggering Kai's nervous system, flooding him with fear, shame and craving and making it hard to access the clarity he needed.
Kai nodded with glazed over eyes. I
knew he was serious when he started taking notes and asking specific questions.
Finally, he sighed, “Yeah. I need to know all of that…”
But, insight would not be enough.
There is a big gap between knowing what we need to do and how we want to show up, but still failing to embody and put it into action.
I leaned in to make my point.
"In this phase, we will need to get into your body to feel and transform the negative emotions blocking you."
He swallowed saliva and nodded slowly.
I went on to explain ways to do that to give him more emotional freedom and ease quickly.
I could see his brow furrow with doubt, having struggled with such emotions myself, I shared a story of a time when I was in stuck in the den of the Minotaur with me in the first of my three saboteurs, the Victim.
I recounted how addictive and powerful I found it to blame my partner.
And how I clung to wanting to get my partner to feel the hurt they caused me.
And finally how I released that emotions of deep hurt and resentment to find my victim becoming a much more sensitive, caring and devoted healer.
Kai’s eyes teared up.
“Can you really make
the hurt, anger and fear
just go away?”
“Not exactly. This point is important....
It is the trying to get rid of it
that keeps it stuck in you.
Instead, it’s about learning to fully feel and release control over your emotions."
"Emotions are energy in motion, meant to inform us, move through us and evolve from negative into positive and more powerful fuel. Like...
Resentment into remorse and repair.
Grief into gratitude.
Fear into freedom and courage.
Indecision into integrity.
Shame into showing up more fully.
“So once we clear up all my emotions, I’ll be able to make a decision more easily…?”
“Yes,” I replied. “And given that right now the honeymoon is over, you’re sleep deprived, stressed and you have one foot in and the other out, you and Sara are at your most insecure and worst together. It’s a terrible time to decide."
Kai sighed and nodded along, "Yeah, it's fucking true!"
"Once you have clarity, start facing and clearing up your emotions, you will be on more solid ground together.
It was time to talk about the second journey…
I could see Kai was ready to start by this intensely concentrated look on his face, broken by him shaking himself to ask,
“But, wait, how long will it take
to get out of the Labyrinth
and feel better?”
“The first stage involves 8 steps. Every man is different in terms of pacing. Some men do it ~ with our intensive help ~ in a month. Others take a few weeks longer.
Ready to hear about what it takes to make the decision?”
“Yeah. I can see that I can’t make the decision with any clarity and certainty until I get clear and deal with the emotions.”
“Exactly. That’s part of why you’ve been unable to move forward. Now, picture yourself having released a lot ~ not necessarily all but enough ~ of your fears, shame, anger, hurt and grief… You are ready to begin making a decision….”
This second stage is about discerning what is best for Kai, Sarah and their son to make the wisest decision in the most powerful and loving way.
It involves listening to all the parts of Kai, to help him make a unified decision with certainty, which he will want to commit to fully.
“But, what if I get the clarity,
know deep down, make a choice,
but chicken out...?”
"Makes sense, Kai, intense fear often arises and needs to be addressed. We factor that into the 3 steps of this CHOOSE phase:
To discern fully
To commit freely
To release emotional blocks completely
"Once you make your choice and you know it is right, with every fibre of your being..."
“But, that’s not all. Right?”
“Right. Once you decide, to stay or go in the most powerful and loving way, and commit to stepping into that choice, that won’t be the end.
It will only be the beginning of a brave next chapter that will demand everything you have to traverse new terrain.”
& Lasting Love"
If you choose to leave, it’s about grieving and moving forward for sure, but it will also be about…
Creating new powerful and loving Boundaries
Establishing new ways of being a family
Strengthening trust in your co-parenting bond
Deepening the connection with your son.
And gradually to building new routines and habits that support you as you embrace your solitude.
Awakening the capacity to love someone else, more deeply than you ever have be able to before.
If you choose to stay, the following will be needed…
Weeks and months of deliberate small actions to rebuild and deepen trust that was missing before.
Transforming the Dances of Conflict and Pain into ones of Creative Tension and Growth.
Creating daily habits of interaction with Sarah that fill you both up.
You finding ways to feel more free as you grow deeper roots in this life you have.
Kai was quiet for a long moment,
“I’m in. This is what I need.”
I was heartened and felt the need to add,
“One more thing. This process, especially the third phase, happens within a community. I only believe it can work when a man signs up and is supported by me and a group of mentors, mirrored by other brave, caring and powerful men.
Are you open to meeting weekly with a group of men I trust
and who are also committed to growing their ability to create deeper intimacy and impact?”
“Yeah, I like the guys I met in the park. They seem solid.”
His eyes moistened.
“I ugh. Don’t have real friends I feel I can talk to about this. Some good drinking buddies and spiritual travellers but ever since I got grounded… buying a house, having a child and trying to focus on my work, they just don’t get it. So yeah… sign me up.”
I didn’t wish to corral Kai and put any pressure on him.
I know from my own journey of growth that here are many ways to get to Rome.
In all the years I struggled with being torn like Kai was, I sought out the best helping pros, groups and resources to create the patchwork of support I needed to take me through the crucible I needed to walk through.
Everything I told him until now was part of our FREEDOM to LOVE Fully program. All in one place and together.
What excited me most was not only the possibility of Kai going through the process… how it might change his life, helping him open up to deeper intimacy and trust in himself. But, more so, I caught a glimpse of our future, where Kai was able to mentor and help other men further down the line, struggling with this painful crucible of choice like he currently was.
But I often run ahead of myself…
“Ok, so I want you to consider everything we talked about. Don’t force it. Sleep on it. Email me if you have any burning questions. And of course discuss it with Sarah. She needs to know given the cost and the process what you are committing to.”
The following morning, Kai signed up.
3 months later...
Kai and I met in the ravine, with his son in tow and my daughter joining us.
As the kids played in the grass and explored splashing rocks in the creek, we discussed how different his life was.
“I can’t imagine now what my life would be like without them. I was so close to walking out. You know, when we met, I was readying to cash out my savings and travel and I had an apartment set up with an old buddy…”
We talked about how Kai was still often sleep deprived and a fight he had with Sarah the night before.
“Yeah, I still hate when we flare up but, I see now that conflict is necessary for us to grow. And, hey we didn’t spiral into the 3 hour version. 30 minutes in, I did the repair and we ended up having some tear soaked lovin’ that night.”
I was overjoyed to hear it. We laughed a lot together.
At some point, I asked him how he managed to gather the finances for the program. It’s not cheap and they’re a middle class family trying to make ends meet in an expensive big city.
“Yeah, it was tight, and I thought Sarah would fight me on it. Maybe she might see it as me finding an expensive and selfish way out. But, she didn’t. She chipped in her savings too. (Gulp.) That kinda made me see how much she wanted me to grow and yeah, that was one of the many breakthroughs between us. I don’t think we could put a price on what we have...”
He looked at me and we looked at our kids.
I could not agree more.