What You Can Do About a Troubled Loved One

Note: This is the second of a two-part series.

Is there a troubled adult who you are close to? I’m referring to someone who is manipulative, needy, dishonest or abusive. Or perhaps you love someone who is addicted to a substance, or someone who is out of control with gambling, sex, shopping, work, exercise or other activities. Perhaps your troubled loved one (TLO) is angry, aggressive, intimating or physically dangerous. Or maybe s/he is lazy, or suicidal, or has emotional problems or disabilities that make it difficult for him or her to handle adult responsibilities.

If this describes someone you care about or are close to—or who you are trying to be close to—Bill Klatte and Kate Thompson offer some suggestions to assist you in understanding the dilemma you’re in and what you might do about it—in their book It’s So Hard to Love You (New Harbinger):

First, review what you’ve already done to try to assist your TLO or to help solve his/her problems. (Have you worked twice as hard to make up for what s/he doesn’t do? Begged, cried, yelled or threatened to leave? Taken the blame for things you didn’t do? Given more and more money? What else?)

What do you think about this whole situation? Do you think, for instance, that his/her behavior is your fault? That you’re going to be judged if you refuse to hang in there with him or her? That something is wrong with you?

What do you feel about all of this? (Hopeless, responsible, unappreciated, overwhelmed, worried, trapped, protective, bullied, resentful, alone? What else?)

What traits describe your TLO? (S/he repeats the same mistakes over and over again, makes poor decisions, misjudges people or situations, lacks common sense or wisdom, is insecure, self-centered, etc.?)

How frequently does s/he engage in frustrating or harmful behaviors? Which behaviors are the most harmful, and whom do they harm? Which behaviors cause you the most distress? How long has s/he been this way?

Here are some things you can do if you’re not going to let your TLO control your life, destroy your happiness or overwhelm you with emotion. First, give up the fantasy that your difficult loved one will get it, or that you can change him or her. You must stop waiting for your TLO to see the light. Second, openly speak your truth. Be assertive without being threatening. If you’re angry, say so. If you want something, ask for it. If you don’t want to do something, say so. It’s your responsibility to speak up and clearly communicate what you feel, want and need.

Third, learn to set boundaries with your TLO, by clearly stating (and holding to) what you will and won’t do, and what you will and won’t accept. Holding to your boundaries protects you from poor treatment. You’re simply communicating your limits so you don’t feel so used, taken advantage of or abused. Finally, you must take better care of yourself. That includes finding ways to have fun, to explore what interests or excites you and to be able to relax. In order to do this, you must pay attention to your own needs and wants more than you do now.

Has your relationship turned cold and distant? Neil’s book Love, Sex, and Staying Warm can help you rekindle your passion.

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