Regaining control, restoring confidence Positive thinking: Don't waste time thinking 'what if.'


November 19, 1995|By FROM LADIES' HOME JOURNAL Los Angeles Times Syndicate

"If only my life could be different," sighed 29-year-old Janey, the mother of two children. "For eight years, Henry has controlled every aspect of our lives. I've had enough."

Janey and Henry met at college, and even then she had a sense that he would try to dominate her life. "He decided when and where we would marry, when and how many children we would have and whether I'd quit the job I loved in a small publishing house to become a full-time mom," Janey adds sadly. He even tells her what she should think. "If I tell him I'm unhappy, he says I have no reason to be."

Janey's unhappiness with her marriage increased when she met Eric, a visiting professor from Canada. "Yes, we had a brief affair, but I could never marry someone like Eric," Janey says. "Yet he did help me realize how empty my marriage is." When she was with Eric, Janey felt alive and aware. "He listened, understood and seriously appreciated me and my feelings."

"If only I had spoken up and said how I feel early on," she says wistfully. "I feel like it's too late to start now."

Thirty-two-year-old Henry, a partner in a major corporate law firm, cannot believe his well-ordered life has suddenly been blown apart. "What does she mean I control her life?" he asks in a bewildered voice. Henry admits he's a planner by nature. "I prefer to deal in facts and ignore my feelings," he says.

Besides, Janey always seemed satisfied with his proposals. "I've given her everything she could ask for," he insists, "a gorgeous home, charge accounts everywhere and two healthy, bright children."

Though initially upset by his wife's affair he's convinced it was merely some sort of adolescent infatuation, and he's worried about Janey's mental state. "I love her and hope that counseling will help her regain her common sense."

Breaking 'if only' cycle

"Many people -- men and women -- spend their lives thinking about what they should have done or wish they could do 'if only' things were different," notes Jane Greer, a New York marriage counselor. Like Janey, they don't know how to tap the power within themselves to effect positive changes and, instead, quietly acquiesce to other people's ideas and plans. They may feel depressed and convinced that what they yearn for is unattainable.

People who feel they're in an emotional rut can break the cycle of negativity. Here's how:

Eliminate the words "never," "always," "should" and "nothing" from your vocabulary. Such statements only serve to keep you from moving ahead.

Whenever you feel negative thoughts taking over, stop and listen to them. Can you challenge the idea that what happened in the past controls your present? Did you really make a bad choice, or do you just think you did?

Don't expect things to be perfect right away. Instead of expecting to have it all, can you be content with moving just a little bit closer to your goal?

After Janey and Henry were in counseling for several months, Janey learned to stop regretting what she should have done and to concentrate on what she can do now. She's more assertive when she talks to Henry, and she's begun working as a hospital volunteer, where she's met many interesting people who make her feel like the intelligent, competent woman she is. Henry has learned to pay more attention to his feelings and those of his wife. He's cut back on his schedule and has started spending more time with his wife and children.

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