A bit of background to my dilemma. We had to postpone our 50th Anniversary ‘Cruise of a Lifetime’ to New York and the Caribbean on Queen Mary 2 when Elaine had her stroke in May '22. Cunard let me postpone the cruise and we are now due to sail in December.
Until a few weeks ago, Elaine showed little interest in the cruise, but she’s now showing signs of enthusiasm. She spent nearly three months in hospital due to the stroke and subsequent gastric problems and lost a LOT of weight, so she’ll need new clothes for the cruise. She is mobile (very slowly) and gets around reasonably well when she wants to (this is significant), has no close friends to shop with and I am hopeless in the shops. Consequently, I’ve arranged for a highly recommended personal stylist to spend time with her and then take her shopping. Her first visit–just to interview Elaine and check out her tastes and wants–is in acouple weeks.
Here’s the problem: Elaine is fiercely independent and seems to resent anything I arrange on her behalf. I spoke to her briefly last night about the adventure of retail therapy with this lady and, with no logic or reasoning Elaine dismissed it: “I don’t want it; I don’t need it, etc, etc” She has no idea what a personal stylist is/does and wouldn’t let me describe the process or indeed, get a word in edgewise. Unfortunately, the one thing that pushes me to my patience limit is when she rejects every effort to provide some assistance for things she can’t accomplish on her own and we ended up with floods of tears and regrettable words being spoken.
We calmed the storm and ended up with a very shaky truce–which she may conveniently forget. I agreed not to pursue the stylist (whom I’ve already booked) unless Elaine agrees. She is thoughtful and if she would only consider what a wonderful time she would have rejuvenating her wardrobe, she would be accepting.
Now, my challenge is to get ‘approval’ to get this lady into our home for a couple hours to set out her stall–without the villain (me) present, this will be a great success, but I’m out of ideas at the moment.
Thanks in advance for yiour thoughts
Hi Steve. Interesting challenge…when I worked at a charity we did a fashion show fundraiser at the local Debenhams. Part of the deal was that people could experience their shopping after the show with a personal shopper. Not because they were disabled shoppers, because most of the were not. But because the idea was to make the experience enjoyable and to pamper them a little.
So, your wife needs to know that you organised this as part of making the preparation for the cruise as special and as enjoyable as the cruise itself. Don’t make it about what she can’t do. That will upset her. Make it about a little luxury. A romantic gesture, if you will…
You’re right, of course, and I’d have no problem presenting the experience in this way, but as of this moment, I can’t even approach the subject without launching another battle. I love her to bits, but she is the most stubborn person I’ve ever met. As I mentioned, the stylist will sell herself very easily–but I’ve got to break down the barrier and get her in the door.
Ok…so do they offer the service to male customers? If so…make it a joint experience and broach the subject by saying you’re having this service…want to join in?
Tough room, maybe, but at least the personal shopper’s time won’t be wasted and there’s a good chance that your wife will be curious to see how you cope with it…
Steve, Charles may have a good point in seeing if YOU can get a ‘Consultation’ as well. I have only had one experience of a Personal Shopper (at the store which states 'Never Knowlingly Undersold - or used to) as himself gave me a gift voucher when he bit of very good fortune (PPI refund that I helped with) and I ended up spending twice as much as the voucher because I was shown things I would NEVER normally have considered. I enjoyed the 90 minutes I had trying on all sorts of stuff and usually I HATE clothes shopping.
As you are off on a cruise it could be a chance for you to indulge a little - and at the end of the day you are not actually committed to buying! If your good lady doesn’t understand what it is all about, perhaps you ‘enthusing’ over some things might focus her mind a bit. I have never fathomed out how the female mind works (sorry ladies but we ARE from different planets!) but have learned that turning it so it is HER idea often works. Oh I am digging my self such a deep hole here. I am so glad Graham doesn’t read these posts! Also some flattery along the lines of 'I want everyone to be jealous of me on the cruise as I walk into the dining room/ballroom/theatre with you on my arm. OK that is sugary sweet but, you know her best and what might help.
Congratulations of the Golden Anniversary btw.
Charles and Chris
Thanks very much for your advice. I’ll give it some serious thought, but there are a couple difficulties: After 50 years, she knows I would never participate in a styling programme (particularly one I have to pay for) and I’m pretty sure she’d chalk it up to ‘conspiracy’.
I wouldn’t be unhappy to do so if it got her involved, but I think it’s a last resort.
Firstly, congratulations on your 50th Anniversary!
I thought I’d add a few thoughts and ideas from a lady’s perspective. Plus, when I was looking after my Dad his reactions ranged from cantankerous shouting arguments, to ‘just comply’ with what we wanted in a passive-aggressive way, including a few tears and self-recriminations. So, I’ve done a lot of thinking about these kinds of situations.
I think you’re already glimpsing that there’s something more behind her reaction. May I offer some thoughts on what she could be feeling and some ideas?
If she’s lost a lot of weight and has some mobility issues she could be feeling very self-conscious about explaining everything to a stranger, regardless of credentials & your romantic, well-intentioned gesture.
It takes many years before we women understand our body shape, what looks good, ‘skims the curves’ & achieve confidence shopping. If your lovely wife took pride in her hair & appearance before the stroke she may be feeling self-conscious and literally scared of having to try on loads of things that may look awful. Even worse, she may be worried about being judged. I wouldn’t suggest probing into this, nor would I suggest finding a way to make the visit happen without her being on board, as this could eradicate all her enthusiasm for the cruise
A few ideas:
Going through all the clothes she has already and ask her to tell you the ones she loves and ask her to try them on. Some of them can be altered to fit better by a tailor. Shops or online searches can identify tailors who do alterations.
By using that as a stepping stone action, she could get more enthused about the personal shopping experience.
Another benefit of reviewing what she has, she can remind herself of ‘what works’ and become more eager to get clothes for the cruise.
You could have the tailor make bespoke similar ‘favourite’ clothes with confidence and blessing that the size and look is what she likes
Lastly, after the review she could go online to M&S: https://www.marksandspencer.com/ and order for delivery/collection any clothes in multiple sizes and lengths. If you keep everything organised you can easily return the clothes. I once went through 10 different types of black trousers for my Mum after she lost a lot of weight post-chemo, and I order 7 in different styles and sizes (YES there are that many types of black trousers and more for women!!). I returned 6
Other shops can be tricky and a lot of hassle, returning things. M&S is good because they now have lots of different brands not just theirs online.
I’m thinking that if you can navigate this forum, you’ll be fine navigating the M&S online store.
Hopefully online shopping her way can give her ideas for the personal shopper & feel more empowered & confident ‘using’ the shopper versus potentially feeling judged or self-conscious trying on clothes.
Hope this helps Good luck!
Thanks again Charles Chris Thara and especially Victoria for your wonderful take on the female perspective.
Latest development-I tried the last resort as suggested by Charles and Chris. Elaine was in a particularly good mood yesterday, so I thought I’d have a shot at it. I started by saying " both you and I need to upgrade our wardrobes before our cruise in December. I’ve been in touch with a lady who specializes in guiding people like us and she would be happy to visit and chat with us both about what we would like to do."
This unfortunately is about all I managed to say, because Elaine immediately cut me off, reiterated that she did not want it or need it, and the tears began, followed by my inevitable climb down. I’m gutted, but I’ve got until September to rally and rally Elaine before the somewhat enormous balance on our cruise is due. This decision will be entirely made on the basis of whether or not she will enjoy the event and I think that will be largely dependent on whether she develops enough motivation to upgrade her wardrobe. I’ll bounce back and reenter the fray, but at the moment I feel like our ‘trip of a lifetime’ may well be spent in our bedroom watching Netflix .
That’s where your wonderful advice comes in, Victoria. I’m going to cancel the personal shopper for the moment and attempt to get Elaine online. She’s done online shopping before - mainly with me doing the IT work as she has no interest in it. I’ll also take a stab at having her try on some of her extensive and lovely former wardrobe, although I’m afraid she’s lost so much weight it may be difficult to convert her taste to suit the much smaller (and more attractive) lady she is today.
Fingers are crossed. We’ve got a long way to go, but in my mind abandoning this wonderful experience is so far, out of the question .
Again thanks to you all for your great advice. All is very welcome and I’ll try to keep you updated on our own little soap opera.
Hugs and prayers. Good luck.
I’m sorry to hear how stressful this is for you both - esp for something which is meant to celebrate your anniversary together. I’m glad my advice has helped. Don’t lose heart, you’ve still time for Elaine to come around.
From what you’re saying I’m not sure this is about Elaine motivating herself to prepare for the trip, but perhaps more about her stress and fears blocking her from seeing the fun she could have. It sounds like she’s completely changed body shape, so perhaps my previous advice of trying her old clothes may only make matters worse, as you’ve said especially if her clothes size was 16 and now she’s 12, that’s a completely different person in the mirror!
I definitely recommend online shopping and in particular dresses, trousers and tops. M&S has various selections but here is another for which can be more expensive (but there’s a sale on I think) https://www.mintvelvet.co.uk/ The clothes are more ‘flowy’ and good for ladies wanting a bit of ‘effortless’ glam, which sounds a perfect match for your Elaine. The understated glam and ‘special-ness’ of them may spark her interest and stimulate her to want to do more.
I used to get trousers for my Dad at Cotton Traders, and T-shirts for Mum, at https://www.cottontraders.com/ they have a fairly good collection of casual staples. FYI Save the packages the clothes are delivered in so that you can return them if needed (usually free returns via post office).
A last thought - maybe ask if Elaine would like her hair done with her usual hairdressers, or if she wants a manicure done at home or in town with her ‘usual’ person’ (no one new is my thought tho!) - if these are things she used to like to do, perhaps small steps with these small habits can help cajole her towards the cruise too. Plus, I’m sure the hairdresser/manicurist - chatting, girls-talk would lead to cruise talk - even if it’s Elaine ‘complaining’ about it to them, could help!?!?
I hope Elaine gets inspired by the online shopping, and your own enthusiasm for having this lifetime experience with her.
Sending ‘shopping support’, good luck and prayers.
Steve, On reflection, I wanted to add a completely different thought and a backup plan.
Without Elaine saying it outright, with a big loss of confidence and change in herself that must come with 3 months in the hospital, gastro issues, and slow mobility - could she be thinking that she’s
going more for your sake than for herself? I.e. it doesn’t matter what she looks like or does as long as she gets on the boat job done? The thought came to mind because perhaps Elaine isn’t motivated in general. Do you think she’s feeling depressed & down, not only a loss of confidence? Can she chat about things with friends?
If not, the cruise itself could be a good opportunity for her to connect and have a change of scene to uplift her spirits.
Gently trying to identify what her worries or fears could be may help e.g. if she’s worried about gastro issues onboard ship have a plan with dietary needs and medical support onboard.
Backup Clothes plan - if the whole clothes shopping doesn’t work out, &, any way you’re more concerned about you both getting on the cruise:
a) buy or find belts (wide and small) in her wardrobe - these are great ways to cinch in long dresses and long jackets!
b) identify shops onboard ship that you can both browse through, if/when she realizes she wants something better fitting
c) My fave - tell her you can both hide out in the champagne bar and you don’t need excursions, clothes or anything else except celebrating with her
Keep us posted, really hoping Elaine gets inspired with Mintvelvet clothes or a new hair appointment boosts her ego & confidence.
Hi Steve, congratulations on your anniversary and on Elaine’s recovery journey . As a lady of a similar age who had to learn to walk again a few years ago I understand Elaine’s distress at your kind offer. She may well simply be grieving at losing herself as she sees it. I lost 4 stone, everytime i “forgot” and went to my wardrobe for my favourite dress I remembered. Everything, my old life, my independence, my talents, the ease with which we do things by memory alone.
I couldn’t walk in a straight line, I couldn’t chop an onion, peel a potato or even lift the pan. I couldn’t eat a rasher , or swallow lettuce. I had no idea of what I could still do. It takes an awfully long time to find ways to cope when you lose “you”.
Perhaps if you give up on the clothes front and concentrate on the cruise as you said she showed a little interest in it. Research the places, look at lots of visual images and videos of the destinations , the sites, the ship and see if Elaine then naturally comes around to the practical side.
You are both in a really tough place in your lives. It is early days yet for you both. Go as slowly as you can and remember to a fiercely independent person losing control of your life hurts dreadfully. Elaine just needs to keep control of what she can especially when you fear the unknown and your desire to help as wonderful as it is may simply be triggering her grief.
Just being there for her helps more than you know. Enjoy the summer sun and help her find herself again at her own pace.
Wishing you both well. Colleen
Hi Steve, I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but I don’t think she wants to go.
Put the ball firmly in her court. If she wants to go, she needs a new wardrobe. Tell her that unless she makes the decision to go by the end of June, you won’t waste any more money and will cancel it. If she does want to go, either she agrees to have her existing clothes altered or says what SHE is going to do about it?! If she hasn’t made any effort by the end of July, you will cancel it. No actual clothes by the day you have to pay the balance, you won’t pay it. Sadly, she may now struggle with any decision making , and your days of cruising may be over. I’ve put all this bluntly, please be gentle with your wife, brain injuries are difficult, puzzling, and at times infuriating. Neither of you caused the problem, you need to agree to fight the issues together, not each other. (My son was brain damaged at birth, can’t read, write or do any maths but has a wonderful memory, and can light up, look after and drive a 10 ton steam roller! Some days he can do more than others and I can never be sure exactly which sort of day it is, only support him as needed)
Thanks to Victoria (again), Colleen and Bowlingbun for your comments. Much to think about and I’ll be back in touch.