Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

New Voter Already Feeling Like Vote Doesn't Count

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a new voter, but already I feel like it doesn’t really matter whether or not I vote. I have been paying attention to what’s going on in our country, and it’s not good at all. The political climate is in terrible shape. I believe that regardless of who votes for what, the government will ultimately decide on how the country is run. I wanted to get your opinion on this matter and ask if you believe voting makes a difference. -- Apathetic

DEAR APATHETIC: You are not wrong when you say that the political climate of our country is poor and that the government decides how the country is run. What you may not realize is that the government is made up of elected officials and appointees.

Those who are elected have a direct relationship to the voter, and that includes you. While our democratic system is flawed, what is important to know is that it is designed to function with the voter in mind. Your individual vote and your voice can make a difference.

I recommend that you study the issues that are most pressing for you. Do additional research to find out what organizations are working to bring light to those topics. You may want to get involved with an activist group that is working on behalf of the things that you care about the most. The more deeply you engage in the political process, the greater chance you have of making an impact on our country.

Know that being apathetic and disengaged is not helpful. Too many people are armchair critics who complain about what they don’t like about our country without taking the time or effort to make a difference. You matter. Make your voice and vote count!

DEAR HARRIETTE: My aunt has been in an unhealthy relationship for 12 years. She keeps making excuses for her husband's actions, but I know that the relationship is breaking her spirit. How can my family convince her to finally leave and start a new life? -- Rescuing My Aunt

DEAR RESCUING MY AUNT: You cannot control your aunt’s actions. As an adult, she has the right to stay in a bad relationship -- even if you disagree.

What you can do is to talk to her about her dreams and desires for her life. Don’t complain about her husband. Instead, encourage her to think about her future. What does she need to do to reach her goals? By encouraging her to consider her own interests and work toward them, you create space for her to dream.

If you see an opening to talk about her relationship, you may take the approach of giving examples. I know a woman who was in an emotionally abusive relationship who plotted a course that took several years to complete. While having a full-time job and rearing a child, she went back to school, got an advanced degree and ultimately secured a higher wage. With more financial independence, she eventually was able to leave her marriage without too much financial hardship. Another person I know asked her parents if she could move back home temporarily until she got on her feet. It took years for her to drum up the courage to walk away, but the safe haven of home helped her to make a smooth transition.

Think of stories that you know that may help your aunt see options for herself.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)