Our Favorite Illusion

apple tree

Some dreamy-eyed part of us clings to the illusion that through a sheer act of will we can change another human being. Such misguided thinking is as unrealistic as believing we can get a walnut tree to start producing apples.

For six years Sonya has asked her husband—who works in the remodeling industry—to fix the gaping hole in their kitchen ceiling. If it weren’t for a sheet held in place by thumbtacks, the studs and insulation would show.

The ceiling is just one of her many frustrations. My jaw dropped at some of the things she has put up with over the years. That’s the key point—she puts up with it. So how can she expect change? Sonya came to me wanting to know how she could change her husband. She’s at the end of her rope—change must happen or she’ll either leave the guy or die from frayed nerves.

She’s tried talking to him but that leads nowhere. “Instead of trying to understand what I think, he turns it into a conflict,” she said. Fodder for warfare.

Her husband makes approaching him with a problem an impossibility. The result: stifled grievances. Such things build to a point of creating a gap in the relationship equivalent to the hole in their ceiling.

Because he’s unapproachable, I told Sonya she must be the change she wants to see in her relationship. “You can’t make him change but you can.” Sonya must start by valuing herself more. This means acknowledging the things that rob her of happiness and negatively impact her well-being. She wants her husband to hear her distress and honor her needs. She has to start with herself instead of passively enduring.

Second, Sonya must empower herself to seek solutions—relief—from tormenting circumstances. Putting up with something that undermines her peace for six years is SELF-torture.

She followed my advice. His family was planning to visit in a few weeks so she told him: “Either take care of this before your family shows up or I’ll hire it done.” She was prepared to do just that.

He chose to fix the hole. The victory here isn’t that he finally stepped up to the plate, but that Sonya finally took charge of her own happiness.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

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Filed under Client of the Week, Couples, General Interest

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