Inevitably, regardless of our skill at administering Dr Spock and the Master’s Degree in childhood education, I’m guessing that all of us can point to a family member who challenges us with a seemingly never ending tug of war between love and anger.
Over and over again our heart tells us that this time the familiar scenario will be different, even as our brain warns us to protect ourselves from the pain that is preordained.
The reality is, no matter how much you care for a person, no matter how close the relationship, it is futile to believe that even the most generous gestures of forgiveness and bottomless love, never mind debts paid and bail made, can give us the power to change another person’s behavior. It’s futile. Love them, threaten them, bribe them, we are powerless over others.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Surely, those of us who have lived into the Medicare years know that if we fall for the same deceit over and over again we must accept responsibility for our own gullibility. Yet despite the wisdom acquired as we age and a shocking number of deep emotional bruises, it is difficult, so agonizingly difficult, to finally accept the reality, we are powerless over others.
In the decade I’ve been counseling men, the unwillingness to recognize this reality remains a primary issue and a cause of lasting pain. We refuse to recognize the truth… until passing time and mounting precedent and flood tides of anguish bring us to the realization that the pattern of deceit is undeniable.
Sometimes the power of love pushes us in the wrong direction. We accept dubious excuse as legitimate explanation, thinking we’re encouraging a change of heart when in fact we’re enabling the same old con. The result is always disappointment and often, heartbreak.
I am not suggesting that we give up on hoping for change! But for our own happiness we must stop deluding ourselves into thinking we can make it happen in another person.
Until our friend or loved one makes amends, accepts accountability and demonstrates over time that he/she is a changed person, there must be boundaries in place to protect ourselves from the corrosive interactions that have hooked us in the past.
Until that takes place independent of the temptation to offer for the umpteenth time a free pass out of the jam of the day, the boundaries must stay in place.
It is sad, heart breaking sad. But we cheat death by living each and every day to the fullest and to do so we must have the courage to confront the agonizing fact of life, there are relationships born of love that go astray along the way.
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