07/25/2012 08:23 am ET | Updated Sep 24, 2012

Support: What We Need Most When Life Is Sabotaged, Part III

The third and final blog of this three-part series.

Previously, I addressed some of the issues accompanying major lifestyle changes when life is sabotaged. Whether choosing to implement dramatic changes in your lifestyle or being asked to provide the support needed for these changes to another -- your life threatens to be very different from now on.

Change can mean different things to different people. Some of us welcome change, some despise change, and then there are those who are perfectly capable of "going with the flow," remaining virtually unaffected by change -- or at least unrattled by it. Chances are, most of us fit into one of these categories. However, when change appears to be forced upon us, when it comes upon us suddenly and without warning (via an injury, illness or any other unplanned and unwelcomed event) -- resistance is most often the immediate reaction.

As intelligent human beings, we like to participate in life choices, don't we? We all cherish the freedom to choose how we live our lives and when we have no choice in a particular matter, we can feel helpless, controlled, frustrated -- even resentful and angry.

My client (whom I'll call Carly) was very hesitant to speak with her husband about supporting her choice to change from a standard American diet to the macrobiotic diet in an effort to fight off the cancer living in her bones and threatening her life. Why was she so hesitant to ask for his help? Because she was focusing on the negative response that she feared she would get. Based on his previous words and actions, she convinced herself that to confront his apparent lack of support for her in this major change in her eating style would simply be too unpleasant.

In the beginning, Carly's husband had attended cooking classes with her. He even tried the food and liked it. But once the classes ended, his choice was to continue eating a standard American diet. She accepted his choice and continued in her own choice of a macrobiotic diet; however, she soon noticed that things began to change. Her husband began to rudely blurt out things like, "Oh... That stinks!" while she was preparing her own meals. Though she was trying to incorporate healthy foods into her son's diet, her husband seemed to sabotage her efforts with offerings from McDonald's. The stress of confronting him about his actions, compiled with the stress of dealing with her illness, prevented her from addressing the situation -- adding yet more stress to her life!

Finally, she took the advice I offered her repeatedly during our coaching sessions, and making time to meet with her husband alone, she spoke to him directly about how difficult his words and actions were making it for her to pursue the changes in her lifestyle that she believed would restore her to health.

Let me change gears right here to make a vital point. During the course of any major lifestyle change -- regardless of your role -- life is never just "all about YOU." We are all linked to others, closely or indiscriminately. No man is an island (no matter how alone he may feel), and no woman is separate unto herself -- we are all entangled and intermeshed and affect our own little piece of the world, whether or not we are aware of how. You may be the one going through a terrible tragedy, life-threatening illness or sudden, overwhelming loss -- but you are only part of the equation. Those who care about you and those with whom you interact on a regular basis are also affected. Invite them to help you by openly recognizing them as valued players in what is unfolding, communicating just how necessary and vital their roles are to your life, while remembering to acknowledge their needs, as well.

Carly told me how pleasantly surprised she was by the response of her husband to their talk. He was receptive -- reacting very differently than the way she had allowed her fear to convince her he would. In fact, by sharing her true feelings, she was actually inviting him to participate in her choices, rather than tolerate the changes, as an outsider might feel forced to do. Together, they prepared a family meal of potstickers (one of the more difficult recipes from my cookbook) and had a great time doing it!

In facing any lifestyle change, taking small steps together can help to change the energy from that of sabotage to support with huge success for all parties involved.

Sally also met with resistance when initially trying to get the support of her husband. "I had to first recognize that something was wrong and then realize that it wasn't personal. He wasn't angry with me, it wasn't directed toward me... His issues were about the changes. He didn't welcome change, so he wasn't able to be on board with it."

Sally decided to be direct, come right out and ask her husband what was wrong. However, she did not get to the root of the problem right away. She had to keep at it until there was resolve, and she admits it was hard work. Though her husband finally confided that he was feeling abandoned by her healthier lifestyle choices -- that he resented her leaving him and their children to go exercise, for example -- Sally wasn't convinced that this was the REAL reason for his resistance.

Eventually, her husband was able to admit that he "missed the old ways" of eating and living that they had always shared, because that was his comfort zone. What Sally was now choosing forced him to change some things in his own life -- routines, eating habits, how he spent his own downtime, etc. Above all, he was feeling that his own needs no longer mattered and were being ignored.

The hardest part of change can be keeping the lines of honest communication open between all involved. Respecting each other's space and attending to one another's personal needs is one way to do this. Your focus should never be entirely self-centered. By remembering that yours is not the only point of view and encouraging others affected by your choices to openly and honestly share their feelings, the change can be easier on everyone.

You may NOT be able to please everyone involved, even after pointing out the many benefits to both you and them. But, for the sake of your own health and well-being, do not give up when life is sabotaged. Choose to live -- then make the necessary, healthy lifestyle changes you believe to be absolutely crucial to "becoming whole."

If you have experienced a situation where change of lifestyle, diet, or both were necessary and you were successful at getting the help you needed, please share your experience here in my comments section.

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