How Iyanla Vanzant Got a Divorced Mom to Face a Harsh Truth
To read part 1 of Theresa Robbin's account: How Iyanla Vanzant Helped a Dicovered Mom Confront Her Guilt
Iyanla Vanzant: When we spoke last time, you told me how guilty you felt about letting your children live with their father so you could focus on your business. Even though you went into the arrangement with the understanding that it would be temporary, you still can't decide whether it was the best move, right?
Theresa Robbins: That's right.
IV: Let's say your sons come back after a year and things return to normal—their very busy routine of a million after-school activities, plus you working two jobs. Here's my question: Did you ever ask them if they wanted this move to be temporary?
TR: No, they didn't have a choice.
IV: Did you have a choice?
TR: No. Well, yes. I could have done things differently, but I thought my decisions—to focus on my business, to give them more time with their father—were the right ones. I felt like I was on the path I was supposed to be on.
IV: And now what does it feel like?
TR: It doesn't feel like I'm Mom.
IV: What does it feel like?
TR: It feels like I'm on the right path career-wise, but I haven't figured everything out. Am I doing enough with the kids? Should I be calling more? I don't want to lose the connection—that's my fear.
IV: Have you ever asked them whether they feel abandoned by you?
TR: No, but I have said, "You do know the entire reason I'm doing this business is for you, right?"
IV: Is that true?
IV: Did they ask you for the business?
TR: No. They inspired me to start the company and create a curriculum for teaching children how to harness their own power.
IV: Okay, let's take a breath. Are you open to some feedback?
TR: I am.
IV: You often begin your answers with what you don't want or what you can't do. I noticed it in our last conversation as well. There's a lot of "It doesn't feel good," "I can't rely," "I don't want," "I don't know," and so on. You look at the negative first.
TR: Really? That surprises me.
IV: This type of language tells me that your heart is closed, possibly because you're afraid to feel everything that's going on. But the greatest gift a mother can give her son is her heart, because the way she wears her heart in the presence of her son teaches him how to be a man.
TR: That's powerful.
IV: So let me tell you what I hear going on. When I asked about your vision for your relationship with your sons and your vision for moving forward, you asked me what to do—how to engage with the boys on your weekend visits, how often to call or text—but not how to be. When your heart is shut down, it becomes about doing and not about being. And your sons can't feel you. Now, tell me what you hear me saying to you. I don't want you to repeat my words. I want you to tell me what you hear.
TR: So my heart has...my heart is closed.
IV: Would that be accurate?
TR: I hadn't thought about that, but...
IV: You can't think about your heart, baby. How does it feel?
TR: I feel like I've been protecting myself.
IV: Let's reframe that. I've been protecting myself because I feel what?
TR: I feel scared.... I've been protecting myself so I can be in control.
IV: The number one human addiction is control. Earlier you said you didn't have a choice. I know you stopped and corrected yourself, but you did say it. And since no one has completely neutral thoughts, I'm going to take what first came out of your mouth as the gospel for you in the moment. You said you didn't have a choice. Do you recall saying that?
TR: I do.
IV: Choices are power. You get to choose how to create this experience for yourself and for your sons. The concern I have is that you didn't really have a relationship with them. You were their mom, you love them, they love you, blah blah blah, but I'm talking about a relationship. And that's what you have an opportunity to create now—a relationship with them, even though you're no longer the primary caregiver. My question to you last time was, "What's your issue?" And you said you wanted to know what your relationship with your kids should look like now. Well, it's going to look like whatever you create it to be. I also have some other observations I'd like to share with you if you're open....
IV: I would be dancing naked if I had an ex-husband who walked into my life and said, "I'll take the three kids." Are you kidding me? Here, take the dog, too! What an absolutely divine opportunity. There are hundreds of thousands of women around the world who would give their two front teeth and their left earlobe to have a man who wants to take his children. And here you are, moping and weeping. Now, while I say that in jest, I am in part being serious. Because what this says to me is that maybe God has something else in store for you. You said your business was needed. God is saying, "Let me put you on this path and remove all distractions so you can do this for me." But you feel guilty.
TR: I'm holding back because I don't want—
IV: There you go again: "I don't want."
TR: I guess it's the fear of making mistakes.
IV: Well, you've already made the mistakes. You've wasted months living in your head. That's a dangerous place to be. I always tell people: Thinking can be hazardous to your feelings.
TR: That's really good.
IV: Are you open to seeing this custody arrangement as an opportunity?
TR: I think so.
IV: Then we're on the right track.
Iyanla Vanzant is the host of OWN's Iyanla: Fix My Life and the author of Trust: Mastering the Four Essential Trusts.