Ruth and I met at a personal development group last year. I immediately warmed to Ruth. Her gentle empathetic approach and genuine desire to help others shines out like a brilliant light. When I heard what she had been through on her journey I really wanted to share her story and was delighted when Ruth agreed to be interviewed.
Ruth would you please introduce yourself?
Hi I’m Ruth Randall. I’m a life coach. I help women to be happy in their lives and I help employees to be happy in their work.
Your life changed dramatically a few years ago – what happened?
Until a few years ago, I ‘had it all’.
My childminding business was going very well, I’d built the business up since my own children were very young and I was very proud of the way it had grown. I was married with two lovely sons and a really busy social life, which we enjoyed with a wide circle of friends.
But my marriage had become stale. It had got to the point where we were simply co-existing.
Just before my marriage ended we declared ourselves bankrupt. We had accumulated debts and while it was the right thing to do, it was also pretty scary at the time.
While I was part of a big group of friends, one particular friendship had become quite toxic. It wasn’t a great space to be in and my self-esteem took a big knock.
My self-esteem had never particularly high, which went back to childhood, so it was already quite fragile.
A lot of things were happening at the same time, but equally I wasn’t doing much about it. It was difficult to take any positive steps forward while I struggled with my self-esteem.
You believe that your friend was unhappy?
It’s quite sad that this woman clearly had things going on in her life, which she was unable talk about, but it showed and impacted on her behaviour towards others.
I believe she was quite insecure and lacked confidence. She was obviously unhappy with herself and as a result was a controlling person with her friends.
We were part of a really big group but gradually as people left the group, things became more intense.
Very subtly she convinced me that I couldn’t have anything different and that I really needed her in my life.
However, it was so subtle it took a few other people opening my eyes to it, to help me realize what was going on.
How did your friend’s behaviour manifest itself?
If you weren’t in the room you were being talked about, very much like a school bully.
She would criticize you, preferably in front of an audience. If anyone paid you a complement she would knock it back. She would also play one person off against another.
If we met other people she would always lie about her job, where she lived and create this imaginary world. She was obviously really insecure but bizarrely we just went along with it.
Don’t get me wrong there were good times too. We worked together, socialized together and went on holiday together as part of a big group, so we spent a lot of time together.
Talking to a friend, who had moved away from the group, helped me to see that I would struggle to see things from a different perspective, while still part of the group.
What happened that broke you out of this cycle?
My husband and I split up. It had been coming for a long time. We dealt with it and I helped him to move house. We still get on fine and he’s since remarried.
I gave up my child-minding business. I had always said that I’d run my business until my children were at secondary school. My eldest was doing GCSEs and found it difficult to concentrate on his studies with younger children in the house.
It was the right time for me to be looking for a career. When an opportunity came up to work with adults who had learning disabilities, I applied and got the job.
The work attracted very compassionate people, so it was a lovely open and caring place to be. I started to build a new community.
Your friend tried to sabotage your new relationship?
Yes that’s right. I was already friendly with Rob, who would later become my second husband.
He is much younger than me and she was extremely critical of the relationship.
She told me that he was too young for me and he should be with someone who could give him children. In essence she was telling me that I wasn’t good enough to be with him.
She was a bit older than me and had a son the same age as Rob, telling me that she would be furious if her son came home and said he was seeing someone older than him who had two teenage children.
While I’d got to the point where I didn’t want to tolerate the criticism any more I still didn’t break off the friendship.
You decided to try to end your new relationship
While I thought I was okay and in a good space in a new relationship, I was in fact quite vulnerable.
I was still working through the issues of my first marriage ending, so I decided the best thing to do was end my relationship with Rob.
So I told him that we were not right together. We were at different stages in our lives. I’d had my children. Rob was still living at home with his parents. I suggested he needed to look for someone younger.
Rob listened and simply said – listen to yourself, Ruth, that is not you talking. I know whose voice that is talking. I realised that he was right.
Finally it was the push I needed to start distancing myself from this friend.
In Part 2 of my interview with Ruth we look at how abseiling with the Scouts helped her to realise that learning to abseil was a lot like life! You could stay on the safe side of the platform behind the safety rail. Alternatively you could take a chance and with the support of those around you, you could step off the edge into the unknown and take a measured risk.