Give those you love the benefit of the doubt


Do you ever find yourself quick to judge? Do you assume you know the whole story without even asking? How do you know the scenario you’ve built in your mind is actually reality?
My column in the June 4th CJN tackles two questions. The first letter is about assuming you know the answer without ever having asked a question. The second letter is about judging what you see – again without ever having asked a question. 

Dear Ella,

Everything had been going too well. Last year, I met Arthur at my friend’s  book club. We went for coffee after the meeting and have been together ever since. We have so much in common. Our kids are grown and happy, we travel together, love to read and have wonderful discussions.  We truly enjoy each other’s company. I haven’t been this happy in years.

A few days ago, however, I was dealt quite a blow. After a routine mammogram and follow-up testing, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I will need a lumpectomy and radiation. I’ve been dealing with this alone, as the last thing I want to do is burden my daughters or Arthur. I’m seriously considering breaking it off. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Falling Apart 

Dear Falling Apart

Medically you’re doing all the right things by following doctors instructions and learning your next steps. Emotionally, however you are doing the opposite. There is no need for you to go through this alone. In fact, stress adds an extra challenge for your body to overcome.

You have a support system, and now is the time to use it. Your daughters would want to know and be there for you.

As for Arthur, give him a chance. See how he handles a difficult situation. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Don’t let this diagnosis define you. Although it’s a setback, you caught it early and have a medical plan in place. Now put the support component in place to ensure the most positive outcome.

Arthur may end up being that special person who will get you through the rough times. A partner is there for the good times and the difficult ones. Give him the opportunity to step up. He deserves that. Do not look at this as a burden. Health problems are a fact of life and can hit anyone at any time. Would you have bolted if the tables were turned and Arthur told you he had cancer? Somehow I doubt it. The two of you may come out on the other side of this journey, closer, stronger and more committed.

Arthur will have a lot of emotions to work through. Give him the time you’ve allowed yourself. Let him absorb what you’re telling him. Let him talk and share his concerns, fears and feelings. Communication is key for both of you. Hopefully Arthur will be the special man you believed him to be. However, if that’s not the case, it’s best you find out now. Hang on to the people who deserve you. You’ll get through this with the people who love you.

Dear Ella,

My brother Harry is a successful businessman. He’s the CEO of a large company and has a seat on the board of two organizations. Harry has three children over 20. He split from his wife a few years ago and started dating. For the past three months, he’s been seeing a woman in her early 30s. Harry is pushing 60. He looks absolutely ridiculous with her. I’m sure this woman is more interested in Harry’s money than in Harry. Is there any tactful way I can raise this topic without losing the relationship I have with my brother?

Yearning for Youth

Dear Yearning for Youth

Harry has managed to raise a family, do well in business and gain the respect of members in the community. He sounds well rounded and in control.

I have to wonder why you feel a man who can do so much right with his life is so inept when it comes to picking who to spend his social time with?

On the one hand you make Harry sound like an intelligent pillar in the community, and on the other, you paint him to be a love-struck moron.

Give Harry a bit more credit. If this younger woman is out for your brother’s money, Harry will probably figure it out. Maybe this woman is bright, intelligent, has a good heart and brings out the youth in your brother? Maybe your brother enjoys spending time with a younger woman who makes him feel good about himself? Whatever the reason, it’s his life and his business.

Give your brother the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Harry knows exactly what he’s doing.

Testing Friendships


In the May 7th, 2015 CJN I tackle the problems which can test friendships.
Is there ever a time it’s appropriate to mix into the personal life of your friend – to question his/her choices or offer your opinions? What about dating your dear friend’s ex boyfriend/girlfriend?

Where do you, as a friend, draw the line? 

Dear Ella,

My close friend Cindy has no sense when it comes to money. Cindy is the type of gal who has to have everything – the latest trendy outfit, pair of shoes, car. She has her nails done every week and is forever going to her masseuse. The problem is that Cindy has no money! She lives off some money her parents left her, but that will soon be gone. She has no savings, no RRSPs, no real estate. Her car is leased, her condo is rented and her credit cards are maxed out.

She has come to me for a loan from time to time, and I have always managed to weasel out of giving it to her. I feel like I’m standing by and watching my friend self-destruct. At this rate she is going to end up homeless. How do I get through to her?

Lousy Money Manager 

Dear Lousy Money Manager

Cindy may be spending to fill a void. This excessive spending behaviour is no different than any other addiction. It is labelled compulsive buying disorder, or oniomania.

If you are prepared to get involved, you must call her out on what you see and not let her make excuses for her actions. Are you prepared to take her by the hand and lead her through the steps she will have to go through?

Like any other addiction, Cindy has to admit she is in trouble. This will be the hardest part of the entire journey. Let her know what you have noticed and try to scare her into reality. Be honest and tell her why you will not lend her money. If she is willing to disclose her financial situation, you can show her on paper how she is setting herself up for a disaster.

If you can get through this first step, you can move on to a more positive solution. Help Cindy come up with a budget. Write down every expense she has and every bit of money she has to work with. See if she is willing to be accountable for her spending. If all else fails, CAMH has programs for this type of addiction. It may be a good place to get ideas on how to help Cindy.

Don’t be surprised if Cindy is not willing to listen just yet, but feel good knowing that at least you’ve planted the seed of concern in her mind. Let her know you will be there, when she comes to terms with the fact that she needs help.

Dear Ella,

I’m part of a close circle of friends. Janice, one of my dearest friends, broke up with Josh more than a year ago, but they remained close, and he has become an important member of this circle.

A couple of months ago, Josh’s mom passed away. Since then, Josh and I have become closer. I lost my mother last year, and this common grief has bonded the two of us. It is obvious that Josh and I are headed into a relationship that will extend the boundaries of  “just friends.” I have no idea how Janice is going to feel about this, and I love her dearly and do not want to hurt her. I also do not want to give up on what Josh and I have developed. I’m stuck and scared. Help!

Testing Loyalty

Dear Testing Loyalty

Dating your friend’s ex falls in the category of the “dating grey zone,” and there are no easy answers. This situation is a little different, because Josh and Janice were mature enough to put their breakup behind them and continue on with their friendship. Often a relationship will end badly, and hard feelings and anger are left behind.

Don’t let Janice discover this through the grapevine. You must be upfront with both Janice and Josh. Be honest with Janice. Explain how innocently your bond developed. Hopefully enough time has passed that Janice will be onside, but you have to prepare yourself for the chance that she will not approve. In that case, you will have some hard decisions ahead of you. Even if Janice gives you her blessing, the dynamic of your relationship could change.

Often, the best relationships are created when the two people involved start out as friends first. Friendship is about honesty, loyalty, support and respect. Your circle of friends has already tested some difficult situations and has come out on top.