Tough Love: Should You Hold the Line, No Matter What?


Tough love got a bit tougher for our family this week. So never say, “It can’t get any worse.” Sorry to disappoint you, but it can.

But despite this thought, as long as we are still upright, there is always hope.  It’s possible to get stuck in the inertia of paralysis, but hope is still the necessary ingredient to taking the first step forward.

I don’t want to go into too many sordid details, but let’s just say our older son is really on the crash and burn. We see it; he does not.

Two weeks ago, or so, he was suspended from his job that he loved, did well at and had never had a problem with.


Because he chooses to attend musical events where he enhances the whole experience by ingesting things that aren’t legal or medicinally necessary for him.

OK, only a suspension, but he is, for various reasons, choosing not to go back.

This is problematic from my way of looking at things. A significantly overdrawn checking account, which will soon go to collections; a more significant amount of credit card debt (due to online gambling) that is soon going to hit interest rates that really should be outlawed; and cancelled car insurance due to non payment (back to the overdrawn checking account). Last I knew, and it hasn’t changed, it is illegal to drive without car insurance, even though plenty of people do it.

Admittedly, I don’t understand. My husband and I love our children and work hard. Very hard.

Even worse was his decision to make several scary threats and indications of plans on how he would deal (not deal) with what the next several weeks may hold for him.  And as responsible, caring parents, let’s just say his statements and actions didn’t leave us any wiggle room in the “he needs help” department – regardless of the fact that he has no health insurance. It took a day to get to the next step, and when we hooked up with him he was not a happy camper.

I love my firstborn fiercely; I always will, but I am not sure what happened to the notion of helping ourselves, and simply reserving a firm hand of support for backup – not as an automatic expectation. But don’t get me started on what people think they do and do not deserve. I will save the discussion of entitlement for another day.

So, we now have one pissed off adult son who isn’t speaking to us, and hope that others will surround him who can speak a different alternative into his mind and heart.

It is difficult, but necessary to hold the line. And the line must be black, it can’t be written in invisible ink.

Tough love is tough, but it is still love.  Blessed are the peacemakers, and when communicated firmly and in a technically neutral voice (not screaming, but incorporating reflective listening using the “victim’s” own words) it is still love.

Have you experienced this kind of tough love?


Kathy has four children, aged 9, 12, 24 and 26. Her second son was seduced by marijuana when he was 16. Kathy is now a published author of "Winning the Drug War at Home". She is also a childbirth educator and is writing a pregnancy and childbirth book. Kathy graduated from Brown University with a degree in Health and Society, and also has a BSN in Nursing.

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