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Tough Love Tuesday

Figuring out when to be loving, when to be tough, and when you need to be both.

This is a continuation of my thoughts about different aspects of love during Valentine’s week 2020. Today is Tuesday, February 11. These are some more thoughts about love, specifically tough love.

I hate tough love. I hate getting it and I hate giving it. Until that moment, after someone I love has given me a dose of reality, when I figure out that I can do better. Maybe I needed to push myself a little or I needed to deal with something that made me uncomfortable. After I pushed myself a little or dealt with that thing, I felt so much better.

The only person that I really trust to give me tough love is my mom. Because she knows me; often she is the most supportive person in my life, so when she says I could maybe do something that I don’t want to do, I usually pay attention. Maybe while I am giving her my attention I am also snippy and act frustrated, but she is patient with me and usually knows when to stop pushing me towards something. I also know how to push back when I think she is wrong. Let’s be really honest. She is rarely wrong.

Looking at how tough love works, it does make me realize that it is difficult to make tough love work in other relationships. In my opinion, for me, tough love does not work well in other relationship.

Part of me wonders if it is because this puts me (or the other person) in an uncomfortable situation. The situation where one person is telling the other that they are wrong about something and actively judging and giving commands or at least advice.

You should do this. What you are doing is wrong. If you really took a minute, you would realize you are doing this because…

No one wants to hear stuff like that. I rarely want to say things like this to anyone.

But I become frustrated sometimes too, because I see when people are making poor choices and I think, “why can’t I just explain it to them in a way where they see what they need to do?”

It’s not that I can’t be blunt sometimes…I can be uncomfortably blunt sometimes. But I also care about people’s feelings as well as their perception of me. I don’t want people to think I’m judging them or telling them what to do. Even as a middle school teacher, I often hated telling students what to do or how to behave. I wanted them to figure it out for themselves. Because then it would really mean something to them and not just a direction given to them by their lame teacher who was sitting around judging them for making dumb choices.

However, in relationships between peers, equals, and especially in romantic relationships, there is often this wonderful push and pull between people. Different perspectives, different strengths, different passions, and different mentalities help both people see a situation in vastly different ways.

Is one person right and one person wrong? Does one person in the relationship need to give the other person a taste of tough love, saying things that might in the short-term hurt their feelings, but in the long run help both of them live better and become closer?

This is an issue that will always be difficult for me to deal with regarding my relationships. I am a people pleaser. I want people to smile at me and say, “good job!” I want to make people happy.

The problem often comes up when I see, that maybe me making people feel happy right now, might not help them in the long run. How do we “tell it like it is”?

Honestly, I will probably always tend to be too nice. I will apologize more than is really necessary. I will stuff my feelings if I think they might make the other person feel uncomfortable. But I also know it is something I will always struggle with. So if nothing else, I will stop myself sometimes and ask, “do they need a little tough love right now? Do I need to tell them something that they might not like, but they need to hear?” If I believe that it really will benefit them, not just make my ego feel better to be right, then I need to push myself to say what needs to be said.

Because tough love is not about proving I’m right or proving someone else is right. If that is what tough love is about, then it’s not tough love, it is tough selfishness. Love is about wanting the best for someone. Always what is best. Most of the time making someone feel bad is not what is best. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Why be mean about telling the truth, when we can be kind about it?

But there is still this problem for me. Sometimes even saying the kindest things when speaking the truth doesn’t help. Sometimes all the sugar in the world won’t help us swallow the bitterest pill. And in those moments, sometimes I can be a coward and think it’s better to say nothing and hide the truth that could hurt someone’s feelings.

That’s not real love either. So it is something that I often pray about and seek God’s help and support and guidance to make sure I am speaking the truth in love. Being real is one of the most important things to me and I want people to be able to trust me and know that I am not saying something unless I really believe it to be true.

So be patient with me. If you think you need some help figuring out how to deal with talks about tough love…maybe try talking to your mom. My mom knows a lot about it, but I think she only knows how tough love works for me individually.

Come to think of it, maybe that is what tough love is really about. Really knowing what works best for that one person. Maybe we only get one or two people that we can really understand in our life. Maybe those are the only people we need to be accountable for giving tough love. I hope so. I don’t think I can handle more than a few myself.

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