Tough Love: A Lesson in Self Survival

Tough love is a hard and sometimes sad road we must walk down as parents when facing disruption in our families. It is a process we use when we need to step away from control or stop our desire to help a loved one who has become too dependent on drugs and alcohol or when this individual simply needs a huge wake up call because they are self destructing their own life or destroying the mental wellbeing of other members of your family.

Most unhealthy relationships have a caregiver and a dependent party, whether this is a friendship, a parent/child relationship or a romantic relationship. When the caretaker has had enough, is drained emotionally, physically or financially by the dependent party, a step taken backward by the caregiver is taken to let the dependent fall on their face. In other words, this step taken backwards usually leads to a huge jump forward.

The dependent one is shown that he needs to take charge of his own life. Tough love can be “sink or swim” and can be heart-wrenching situation to endure. But when the swimmer rises from the depths of his dependence and becomes fully his own person, it is a win-win for both individuals.

So what do you do when you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place with someone you love? How do you take two steps backward to help them bounce forward? After doing a bit of research, I discovered how to use tough love on your loved ones, and yourself, to help them change their lives for the better.

1) Let go of your needs and wants.

Sometimes we want something very badly for another person. We think we know what they need and what will make their life change for the better. But most times we are enabling the dependent in our relationship.

Learn to let go and let your dependent figure things out themselves. It can be hard, but focus on you and let them find themselves.

2) Establish healthy boundaries.

Know your limits. Be able to decipher your needs and wants and your dependent’s needs and wants. Learn to say “no” when you want to say yes.

3) Do not fall for the victim story.

Everyone loves a great drama or a sad sob story. Do not fall for it. Listen open heartedly and learn to separate your head from your heart.

A sob story is a manipulative way of trying to get negative attention. You want the dependent to become their own hero, so don’t allow them to be their own victim by falling for the story.

4. Don’t do for anyone what they can do for themselves.

Plain and simple! Unless this is an elderly adult or a young child, do not do more than what you need to do in your relationships. Trying to do everything for someone else who is capable is only destroying your own energy levels, confidence and can possibly deplete your bank accounts.

If someone is physically and emotionally capable of doing a task, let them.

5. Seek help.

Seek professional help if you cannot learn tough love or are having difficulty stopping your enabling practices. When you want the best for someone, learn to walk away and get help. Like the old adage says, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. Only you can find an oasis and enjoy!

So when you are sick and tired of worrying about someone else day in and day out or find yourself disheartened by their angry attacks, try tough love but also try self love and you’ll find yourself regaining your sanity along with your personal happiness.

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