Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Salvaging a relationship after declining engagement ring
Providence: My boyfriend proposed on Valentine's Day. I declined because the logistics don't make sense right now. I love him very much, but our relationship has become strained and hostile since then. He says he understands and that his feelings aren't hurt, but I think they are. Is there anything I can do, short of accepting a ring I'm not ready for yet?
Carolyn: No. Hold your course, show your love and wait to see how he, and your relationship, weather this.
Obviously you feel confident you made the right choice. Obviously he's hurt and wishes you'd made a different choice. If you can both be honest about what you're thinking and feeling, and both cognizant and supportive of the other's position, then you're giving yourselves the best chance you've got.
If instead one of you is saying things that don't reflect what you really feel — and this situation presents classic temptation to say whatever the other wants to hear — then it doesn't look good.
Your job is to run your life, not his, so set the example for clear, honest, thoughtful and loving dissent.
When changing life, go easy on yourself: A slip is just a slip
Chicago: I've been lamely "quitting" smoking for a year. Is there anything you can say to inspire a better effort? I don't want to be a smoker — but it's far too easy to let myself slide in the moment.
Carolyn: If it's a medical/addiction issue: You're the one who controls whether you get help. So, take control and get help.
If it's not a medical/addiction issue: You're the one who controls who you are. You don't want to be a smoker, so start acting like a nonsmoker. It really is that basic, even when you account for the fact that quitting is harder for some than others. Stock whatever gum and carrot sticks (and images of cancer-riddled lungs, lips and tongues) you need to get it done, and get it done.
Then, reward yourself in ways that advance your cause: New exercise gear, tooth whitening, etc., financed by your daily cig money, now saved in a jar. Tangible markers of your daily progress can be a powerful motivator.
Anonymous: I smoked a pack a day for 20 years, and haven't had a cigarette since 2005. It took me three years to quit successfully. The main thing was, I kept at it — even after I slipped up, I never allowed myself to think I couldn't do it.
I found with each attempt, I got better at it. I learned what my triggers were and figured out ways to navigate those situations.
Lastly, it helped me to take up a hobby that I couldn't do while smoking. I started running and can now run six miles. I couldn't run a half-mile when I was 16.
Carolyn: The part about keeping up the effort even after a slip is universally applicable. Trying to get back in shape, lose weight, leave a bad relationship — a slip doesn't mean all is lost. If you make your next decision a good one, then you've limited your damage to the absolute minimum. That not only helps with the bad habit itself, but also with the morale plunges that make our bad habits worse.