There is a book for parents called “The Blessings of a Bruised Knee,” which basically suggests that sometimes as parents we have to let our children suffer the consequences of their own actions so that they can learn from their own mistakes. As hard as it is to let them fall, sometimes we must so that they can hopefully develop the skill of modifying their own behaviors. I must say, this same approach should be applied not just with kids, but all loved ones in your life.
Too often as a divorce lawyer, I have heard my clients explain how much they covered up or overcompensated for their spouse’s shortcomings. Psychologists refer to these people as “enablers” because their actions actually allow the spouse to continue with his/her destructive behavior unharmed. If their patterns of behavior cease to be tolerable, and yet you don’t want to leave the relationship, then you are going to have to stop being an enabler– and let that person suffer consequences for his/her actions because sadly, that is truly the only way someone may come to realize that his/her behaviors need to change. (I say may because some personalities simply cannot admit that they have any issues– it is everyone else’s fault, but never theirs.)
Parents quickly learn how hard it is to control our own children’s behavior. Indeed, all we can do is model good behavior, and dole out either punishments or rewards based on their actions. Well, what’s funny is that I have realized over time that this same concept applies to our adult relationships. No one can ever control another’s behavior, so all we can do is apply self-control and how we react to things that happen in life.
When you find that someone’s behaviors are upsetting you, I’m begging you to try and detach from the situation. Strip the emotions out of it as best you can and try to identify specific issues that you want addressed. Then, I think you need to try and have an honest conversation with the other person about what is not working to see if you can jointly come up with a solution.
My belief is that for every problem there is a solution– it just may not be the solution you want or think is ideal. You may want someone to stop drinking, stop working so hard, or stop bullying you all the time, but if they are unwilling to change, then you alone have to be prepared to change how you behave, even if that means walking out and/or watching the one you love take a fall.
With respect to love, let me be perfectly honest: the best life lessons I’ve learned are actually not from a bruised knee, but a bruised heart. Getting divorced and later calling off a wedding were both incredibly unpleasant experiences, but guess what? As awful as these things sound, I survived, I moved on, and I somehow I didn’t lose my faith in love. Here’s hoping you too will learn to appreciate the blessings that come with all the love and loss that life has to offer.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.