I don’t believe that people make you happy, but some truly are killjoys. You start to question everything you believed about yourself to be true. Is it me? Am I a crappy partner? Is that why they aren’t happy? Did I pick the wrong person? Should I just suck it up and make the best of it because I made a commitment?

My mother, a rebel for her time, is from a small town in the middle of nowhere South Italy. And here I am in Italy where it is beautiful, but women still have few rights. Maybe its changed on paper, but culturally they are still second class citizens. Today I was driving across Italy on A25 and at the rest stop I overheard this man belittling his wife publicly and it made me cringe. There was a sadness behind her eyes that said, I better not argue, and this is just the way it is. I’ve seen this type of exchange many times here over the years. My mother always says, “And this is why I live in America now.” People visit the country, see the beauty that is everywhere in Italy, and don’t go very deep. They don’t look into the eyes—beyond the surface to see the pain and depression.

We didn’t have a lot growing up because my mom chose to break free from the cultural expectations placed upon her. But we had peace of mind and love and joy in our hearts. And that wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t moved on when she was being mistreated. There is an Italian expression she always told me, Meglio soli che male accompagnati which translates to it’s better to be alone than in poor company.

At work, we have no choice many times and are stuck engaging with certain people; and largely we can tolerate this. At home, to suffer, to not have peace and joy, to feel you are walking on eggshells or simply unloved—that’s just unacceptable. Your home is truly your sanctuary. How horrible to stay years, even moments, with someone who threatens your equanimity.

Please know and accept this difficult point, people do not change. You can’t change them. You don’t have the power to do so. Change only occurs within, when we really want to grow. If you are just waiting, lingering for that person to change—know it might never occur. Are you okay living in this state permanently? Is this good enough for you? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. It’s something for you to decide upon. And be certain in knowing that making no decision is in fact a decision.

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