Home Perspectives Advice Don’t expect change, work with what you have

Don’t expect change, work with what you have


Dear Ella,
Patti and I have been together for six years, and even though we don’t live together, we know each other very well. Patti keeps everything bottled up inside and it ends up spilling out at inappropriate times about ridiculous things.
We met late in life, after our kids were grown. She is divorced and I am a widower. This past month, something major happened in her relationship with her daughter and she won’t talk to me about it. This is just one example of many. Patti is very emotional and gets quiet, yet she loves just being close. She says I make her feel safe and comfortable, but her actions show otherwise. I love her and want to help. How can I get her to change?
Trust The One You Love

Dear Trust The One You Love,
If we could change the things about our loved ones to suit our own preferences, the divorce rate would drop like a lead balloon.
People often try to change, but success rates of sustaining that change are low. Sure, we can change some things for a while, but often, with time and comfort, we tend to slip back to our old habits.
However, the type of change you’re talking about is more about Patti’s core or personality. She was probably always an emotional, quiet, private person and that’s part of who she is. She is comfortable with you. Don’t push her to try to change who she is. You fell in love with this woman as a whole, leave her that way. When and if she is ready to talk about her situation, I’m sure you will be the first person she will confide in. In the meantime, you are doing just fine.
If, however, it is affecting your relationship to the point where you are both unhappy, consider counselling.
How about trying a different approach? Try to alter your perception of the situation rather than trying to control her reaction to what has occurred, be it with her daughter or a different situation. Be her sounding board or her pillar to lean on. Either way, you have more power and control to change your own response than you do to change Patti’s personality.

Dear Ella,
My husband is getting worse with age. He has always been squeamish when it came to discussing any type of medical problem. He has major anxiety before he goes to a doctor, because the thought of drawing blood is nauseating to him, and it is not unheard of for him to faint. I never realized how bad he was until I got pregnant. Every time he came to my appointments with me, he would turn white as a sheet and beads of sweat would appear on his forehead. We laughed and made fun of him, but it’s now no laughing matter as he ages and medical things are happening more often. He refuses to discuss it and thinks it will go away if he ignores it. Any thoughts on how I can approach this with him?
It’s Only Getting Worse

Dear It’s Only Getting Worse,
Most of us know someone who is squeamish when it comes to medical procedures. There is actually a name for the condition you’ve described: vasovagal syncope. According to the Mayo Clinic website, it occurs when the part of your nervous system that regulates heart rate and blood pressure malfunctions in response to a trigger, such as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress.
If it is interfering in your lives, go see a doctor (promise your husband there will be no needles) and have the discussion about how to treat this. There are medications and therapies that may help.
As we age, everything becomes more pronounced. If you’re a worrier, you worry more. If you’re anxious, chances are you’ll become more anxious. Stay young by trying new things. Exercise and push yourself out of your comfort zone just a little bit. Focus on the positive.