What Do I Do If My Partner Doesn’t Change?

Dearest Ginzo,

We all have things that we could work on and change. It’s tough to do, but it’s easier when it’s just us and harder when we’re expecting our loved ones to make the changes. In my example, my partner has been incredibly receptive to my feelings and thoughts about our relationship, and they’ve stated that they’re willing to work on these things to better both themselves and our relationship.

I know that change takes time, and I don’t want to ask too much (nor too little). How do I find the balance of expecting a person to change some of their behaviors? What’s reasonable, what should I look for, and what do I do if change just isn’t happening in the way I want it to?

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Dear Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes,

I’m glad that you and your partner are able to talk about your concerns about the relationship, and that they have been open minded. Every relationship faces challenges, but the ones that work out are the ones where both partners are willing to talk about them and weather the storm together.

My therapist once told me, “You can’t change other people, but you can change the way you respond to them.” Clearly, you are aware that you can’t snap your fingers and make your partner change, and you have done the tough work of being honest with them. Now it’s time to focus on how you respond. My main advice? Let go and have faith in the person you love.

This is an analogy that has probably been beaten to death, but human beings are a lot like plants. In order for them to grow, they need to be treated with care. When you’re hoping someone will change, micromanaging or criticizing them is like over-watering them — they’re going to look all withered and sad for a while, then die. Contrary to what many believe, people can and do change — but they need to feel accepted and loved, despite their flaws, to accomplish this. Don’t stand on the sidelines and wait for your partner to fail, or point out where they are not taking your feedback to heart at every opportunity — give them the benefit of the doubt that they will succeed, and root on (hehe, more plant analogies) their best efforts.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be honest when a concern comes up. Chances are, this will be an ongoing conversation, and it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. It’s more about where you are placing your attention. I would encourage you to, instead of looking for signs of change in your partner, recognize signs of change in yourself. This not only gives them a little breathing room, it lets you focus on the one thing you can control — you. A great way to see how things have changed for you as a person and in a relationship is tuning into your emotions.

It’s easy to avoid our feelings. Feelings are icky sometimes, and it would (temporarily) feel better to numb out and avoid them. But emotions are one way your body tells you that something needs your attention.

Let’s say you’re trying to fall asleep but you’re distracted by a nagging sense of anxiety. Instead of running away from how you feel by scrolling through your phone for hours (I personally have done this more times that I’d like to admit), get curious about it. Take a minute to explore where this emotion is coming from, and sit with the feeling (or even journal about it). You may come to realize that your partner agreed to start texting you “goodnight” as a way to communicate love, and they didn’t that night. A need isn’t being met, and while this doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed, it’s important information to take note of.

Ultimately, if things in your relationship don’t improve, there is nothing wrong with walking away. Despite our best efforts, a lot of frustrating but totally valid things can get in the way of our relationships succeeding. Whether it’s timing, a fundamental difference in values, or it’s simply more work than you’re willing to put in, you don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. That is a good enough reason to break up even if your partner works very hard to make you happy.

It all comes down to trust. Trust your partner to do the things that you asked of them, and trust yourself to know when you need to move on.

XOXO,
Ginzo

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Mental Illness Getting in the Way of Your Resolutions? You’re Not Alone

As someone who is straight up obsessed with self-reflection and growth, I unabashedly love New Year’s. This is a time when everyone is getting a little introspective about what they want out of life, as well as what they have accomplished so far. I love seeing people taking advantage of self-improvement being in the air.

That being said, setting New Year’s resolutions is easier than accomplishing them. Personally, I have started many a year with lofty ambitions, only for December to come with no little-to-no progress made. I have often found myself waging a battle against mental illness to be the best version of myself. Turns out, I’m not alone in this experience.

Anxiety and Depression as Obstacles to New Year’s Resolutions

A recent survey of 500 people by Body Nutrition revealed that mental health may be a significant reason why many people cannot consistently implement the changes they want to make in the new year. Of the respondents, 29 percent said anxiety and depression were the biggest obstacles to making their fitness or wellness resolutions regular habits.

Body Nutrition New Year's Resolutions

These mental health conditions were nearly the most common reason why people struggle to make progress toward their wellness goals. Anyone who has experienced mental illness can relate to this. You might resolve to make more meals at home, but summoning the energy to get out of bed to cook feels impossible. Soon, you’re stuck in a cycle of rumination, beating yourself for not being able to follow through, filling you with shame. This is a common experience for people with depression and/or anxiety, and it may make the new year a time of stress for you rather than optimism. The good news is, there are plenty of resources to help people with anxiety and depression to set goals and achieve them.

Tips for Making New Year’s Resolutions When You Have Anxiety and Depression

I was much more successful with my resolutions this year. While I didn’t accomplish all of them, I’m proud of my progress and what I managed to check off my list. Here are some of the tools that helped me.

Practice Self-Compassion

This is my number-one tip for literally every aspect of life, but particularly goal-setting. Living with anxiety and depression often means having a running monologue in your head of everything you’re doing wrong. With a constant critic whispering in your ear, it’s no wonder you struggle to summon the confidence needed to take risks and make necessary changes. Cutting yourself some slack allows you to approach your resolution with curiosity rather than fear of failure. Let’s say you have resolved to start running, but you end up skipping the second day. You might think something like, “I can’t do this. I can never stick with anything. I’ll never be able to change.” This line of thinking makes it that much more difficult to get back to running. Alternatively, a more compassionate response may be, “I feel the need to rest today, but that’s okay. I will run tomorrow instead.”

Self-compassion is not like flipping a switch. It takes time to adopt a new mindset, so when you have negative thoughts about yourself pop up, don’t be discouraged. Something that has helped me is to think of myself as a child I am taking care of. I would never speak to my adorable baby self the way I tend to now, so it helps me to approach my thoughts with more compassion and less judgment.

Be Realistic

One of the most frustrating parts of depression is feeling like you are capable of so much more than your condition allows. While being depressed doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish great things, it’s important to accommodate your symptoms instead of denying their real impact on your life. For example, let’s say you want to write a novel this year. That’s a great goal, but make sure to give yourself some freedom in this timeline to cope with any depressive symptoms that might pop up. Dedicating two hours every day to writing might not be realistic when some days, just waking up is a major undertaking. Instead, if you give yourself a flexible schedule with realistic expectations, you’re better able to cope when your mental illness decides to pop up and interrupt your plans.

Think Of Your Overall Wellness

Many wellness resolutions are appearance-based. The problem with these resolutions, such as losing weight, is that they focus on what you look like on the outside instead of how you feel inside. More often than not, you end up at war with your body, launching a grenade into your self-worth. Instead of putting your efforts behind aesthetics, I would encourage you to look at your wellness from a holistic perspective, with special attention to your mental health. How could you give yourself more space to heal old emotional wounds and learn new ways to manage your symptoms? How could you go through 2019 with more self-love? What are some things you could do for your health that have nothing to do with what you look like to the outside world? Reflect on these questions while writing your resolutions.

I hope that these tips help you with these common obstacles to sticking with your resolutions. Regardless of what you accomplished last year, I hope that you will give yourself credit for getting through 2018 and facing all the challenges that were thrown your way. Here’s to a great 2019!

XOXO,
Ginzo

How Do I Stop Being My Own Worst Enemy?

Dear Ginzo,

I’m really miserable. I know the things I SHOULD do to be happier/healthier/a better person but they are impossible. Or I do those things like try to lose weight or read more and I always fail. I just can’t seem to get my shit together and it feels like everyone around me is having no problem. I know it’s not true but it’s how it feels. I’m sick of feeling this way but everytime I try to change I end up sabotaging myself. I don’t even really know what the question is but help.

My Own Worst Enemy

Dear My Own Worst Enemy,

I have great news: the best enemy you can have is yourself. If your enemy was a fiendish sorcerer stalking your family, there would be little you could do to make him stop turning your loved ones into toads. When you’re your own worst enemy, you have the ultimate advantage over your nemesis—you have control.

That being said, changing is not as easy as simply deciding to. Every day you have to wake up and choose to do things differently, and after a lifetime of doing things one way, you’re not going to be able to completely change your habits overnight, nor should you. One of the quickest ways to set yourself up for failure in self-improvement is to throw yourself so wholy into it that you lose all of the coping mechanisms you used to know. Pretty soon, your new habits feel like a too-tight turtleneck that is slowly suffocating you. When you cut yourself free and return to those old behaviors, it feels like a sweet release, until that familiar misery creeps back up again.

So sometimes you skip the gym and forget to call your mom. You eat things that you know make you feel sick and you watch more TV than you want and you drink more than you should. It happens. You are human. You don’t have to think less of yourself because you aren’t sucking down kale smoothies and running 10 miles every day and reading classic literature and being the perfect partner/friend/employee/offspring. While self-improvement is something we should all strive for, that doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up for not sticking to new healthy habits. What is does mean is that your current strategies aren’t working.

If you are going to make changes, they need to be realistic. It’s the difference between vowing to never eat junk food again and limiting your junk food intake to twice a week. If your daily breakfast is Cheetos right now, it’s not fair to expect yourself to never touch them again. It is more reasonable to begin by cutting this habit back by eating a healthy breakfast most days of the week and saving that cheesy indulgence for a once-in-a-while treat.

That being said, it’s hard to be reasonable and fair about your goals if you don’t love yourself. There may be aspects of who you are that you feel a lot of hatred for. Despite your instinct to dropkick these parts, to argue with them, or to shove them down and never let them see the light of day, I encourage you to do the opposite instead. Embrace them. Love them. Don’t judge them. Give them space to breathe and to tell you what they need you to hear.

“People need loving the most when they deserve it the least.” – John Harrigan

When you accept yourself for who you are without any conditions, your worth isn’t reliant on how successfully you are able to stick to your goals. Though change isn’t any easier, it’s worth it. When you love yourself, you want to do what is going to make your happier and healthier. You’re not changing because you think it is something you should do, you’re changing because you want the best for yourself.

It won’t be easy at first, especially if you have been mean to yourself for a long time. Something that helped me combat negative self-talk is seeing a counselor, and you might find it helpful as well. If you need help with finding one, check out my previous post about how to find a therapist.

That being said, you don’t need a therapist to begin being kinder to yourself today. Start by giving yourself a compliment right now to plant a seed of self-love. Do this daily and let it grow further. It might seem like a small and awkward gesture, but it is an easy step towards combating negative thoughts about yourself. As this gets easier, add a daily act of kindness for yourself to your routine. When your thoughts and actions show compassion and appreciation for yourself, real self-love grows, making it easier to take care of your body and mind, and pretty soon, you’re not your own worst enemy anymore: you’re your own best friend.

XOXO,
Ginzo