Use The Garden Patch Philosophy to Deal With Impossible People


Is someone you love an onion not a rose? Use the Garden Patch method and learn to live and let live

If you look at the world as if it were a garden, you will notice that all of us are like flowers and plants. Some people are roses or daffodils; others are like shrubs or wild flowers. Some are weeds; some are vegetables. I learned this philosophy many years ago from a very wise minister.

At that time my marriage was in shambles. I was filled with anger toward my husband because he couldn’t hold a job, was a compulsive spender, and was also a slob who rarely picked up or hung up his clothes. After I poured out my misery to my wise advisor he gently smiled and said, “You know what your problem is? You want your husband to be a rose, but he isn’t a rose. He is an onion!” 

He explained that my husband most likely would never turn into a rose. Therefore I had a choice. I could either continue to be miserable and act like a bitch each time he didn’t live up to my expectations, or I could accept his onion behavior and find other ways to make my life happier. Although I hated hearing that advice I decided to try it out while at the same time I began to harness my own abilities to create a more stable life for myself. 

Every time I had to pick up his smelly socks from the floor I reminded myself, “Of course there are socks on the floor. It’s what onions do, and I don’t have to burden myself with anger about it.” Despite my efforts, we eventually divorced; however keeping the Garden Patch Philosophy in mind led me to a happier life where I was able to find a mate who was not an onion!  You can read more about how to find happiness in love in my eBook: Grownup Love: Getting It and Keeping It.

By using the Garden Patch Philosophy you can stop feeling upset or frustrated when those nearest or dearest to you don't change just because you expect them to. For example: Melanie felt constant disapproval from her eighty-year-old widowed mother who visited twice a year. No matter what she did or said, her mother criticized or embarrassed her. Melanie decided that her prickly mom was a cactus!

I asked Melanie to write down a checklist of her mother's most irritating habits that she reacted to over and over again. In addition to criticizing Melanie about her messy house, her mom invariably brought gifts of sweets and caloric treats that sabotaged Melanie’s attempts at weight control. Melanie was a compulsive eater who was always on a diet. Time after time Melanie’s children complained that whenever Grandma was visiting she rearranged their dresser drawers so they couldn’t find their belongings!

Without fail Mom complained when the rest of her family took her out to lovely restaurants for a treat. Each time she insisted that the room was too dark and made them move to another area with better lighting. She also found fault with the food no matter how fine the restaurant was. 

Before her mother’s upcoming visit I taught Melanie to make a game out of what she expected to be an anxiety-producing visit. Instead of cringing and waiting for the ax to fall and for the feelings of inadequacy and hurt to overwhelm her, Melanie waited expectantly for the well-worn barbs about her looks, her weight, her housekeeping shortcomings, and so on.

Then, rather than reacting with angry feelings, I urged her to choose this simple technique to use so she could feel gleeful instead. Melanie took out her checklist of Mom’s cactus characteristics and checked off each complaint or unpleasant criticism that came from Mom to make sure her mother was running true to form!

Instead of believing her mother's remarks, I trained Melanie to imagine chanting silently: “That is only your opinion. It is not the truth about me.” Every time she used this system it took away the power she had given her mother to make her feel bad. As a result she was able to spend time with her Mom without reacting negatively and bingeing on sweets afterward.

I bet that there is someone in your life, whether at work, in the neighborhood, or your family that triggers your unhappy feelings and reinforces your belief that you might be unworthy, stupid, or inferior.  Most likely that is because you are reacting to their opinions rather than responding.

The difference between a reaction and a response depends on who has the power. Melanie felt hurt by her mother's comments because she gave her mother the power to judge her as "good" or "lovable." Once Melanie affirmed that her mother's ideas were only opinions and not the truth, she was able to take back the power over her life. A response, on the other hand, is based on you owning the strength to decide how you feel, what you think, and how you want to resolve the problem.

A variation of the Garden Patch Philosophy approach is to compare the impossible person in your life to an animal rather than a plant. Joe told me that his boss was a leopard who was always poised to pounce on mistakes that Joe made. Beryl saw her annoying neighbor Phyllis as a pesky squirrel gathering nuts to put away in its nest when she kept borrowing things from Beryl but never returned them, while Andrea imagined her mother-in-law as a proud poodle because she was constantly prancing around showing off her expensive clothes and sneering at Andrea’s fashion choices.

When you accept the people around you as they are, warts and all, and stop expecting them to change, you will not feel as helpless as you have in the past. Instead, you will gain the strength to decide what you want to do about the relationship. You have the choice of accepting the other person or situation by changing your attitude to "live and let live," or you can change the situation by removing yourself from it.  


Take advantage of a free phone consult with Gloria to discuss the impossible person in your life.

Make sure to download Gloria’s FREE eBook Creating Happiness