Ask the Expert: Letting Go. ~ Michael Finkelstein

Via elephant journal
on Feb 14, 2013
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When Letting Go Is the Answer.


I have been trying for 13 years to get my husband to stop smoking. He is an absolutely wonderful man, an incredible husband and devoted father, but I feel he is risking giving all that up by not taking care of his health.

I’ve done everything in my power to help him. Every January first, he makes a New Year’s resolution to quit, and within two or three weeks, like clockwork, he gives up and goes back to his old ways. Saying that I am frustrated would be an understatement!

I am about to give up myself, but really want to fix this for his sake and for the sake of our family. What else can I do?


Your question is a great one and I thank you for posting it here. I’ve heard many stories about caring spouses looking to guide their husband or wife to a path they know is better. Let me suggest that the answer actually starts with a question.

So here’s the question for you—how well are you taking care of yourself?

Are you sure you are as committed to maintaining your own health and well-being in the way you seem to be  focusing on your husband’s? If this point hits home with you, you may want to consider re-examining your role in this situation.

I’m not suggesting that it’s none of your business, but it’s simply not necessarily your primary role. The support and encouragement you provide, the decisions you help direct and the way you stand by his side are all prime examples of how you can help. But taking on the job of taskmaster may not be one of them.

Indeed, it appears it is not going as you would like. Perhaps right there is your answer.

Although I deeply respect and applaud your persistent efforts to get your husband to quit smoking, the issue lies with him, not with you.

Quite possibly, perhaps so much of your energy has been utilized trying to help your husband, that you’ve been diverted from your own course, and your own health journey—are you vindicated in not getting adequate sleep or not spending enough time doing the things you like to do, not clearing the debris from your own past, because, after all, at least you’re not smoking? I think your husband expects you to be a partner, more like a friend, than his mother.

Indeed, you and your husband have entered into matrimony together, a sacred contract that reflects a commitment to each other and suggests that your paths are clearly aligned, but it does not require that you carry each other’s load or are responsible entirely for the other’s choices. I think it might be good to back off this year and see what happens.

This would be a good time to also take a moment to refocus on your own path.

When you do this, you will realize you haven’t the time or the capacity to direct your husband’s path, or to be his mother.

The fact is, there is a better chance he will take better care of himself when your behavior reflects your faith, which comes when you demonstrate the trust that he is capable of figuring this out on his own.

In the end, I think this depends on your own resolution more than his.

Good luck to you on your own personal quest and to your husband on his.


michael-finkelstein-100x100Michael Finkelstein, M.D., has gained acclaim for his pioneering approach to integrative medicine, since beginning his private practice more than 20 years ago. Board-certified in both internal medicine and holistic medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a graduate of the Associate Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, Dr. Finkelstein is a self-professed “Doctor of Common Sense.” He is a dedicated healer who views health and well-being as a wholly singular unit, one that must be taken seriously and considered with compassion, intention and commitment. Dr. Finkelstein’s concept of “skillful living” applies this holistic approach to overall well-being—the business of living must be developed, like a skill, with mindful, dedicated attention. To read more from Dr. Finkelstein, sign up for his bi-monthly Moon Letter here or for further information visit his website.


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2 Responses to “Ask the Expert: Letting Go. ~ Michael Finkelstein”

  1. steve says:

    Bravo!! well said.

  2. […] it’s hard to step back when you observe people you love putting themselves in potentially harm…—situations harmful to them body, mind and […]