Love Requires You to Be Responsible

George sat in my (Dr. Cloud's) office, despondent. His wife, Janet, whom he loved deeply, had just moved out because he had lost another job. A very talented person, George seemed to have everything he needed for success. But he had lost several good jobs because of his irresponsibility and inability to follow through. Bosses loved the talent but hated the performance. And after several family disruptions because of his failures, Janet had had enough.

"I love her so much," George said to me. "Doesn't she see that?"

"I believe that you love her," I said. "But in reality, I don't think that she does. All she sees is the effect your behavior has had on her and the children, and she asks herself, 'How can he love us and treat us this way?' You cannot just love someone and not deliver. Love without the fruits of love is really not love in the end. She feels very unloved because of what you have put her through."

If George was to have a chance of winning Janet back, it would not come through one more empty promise. He needed to develop boundaries to gain the self-control that would make him a responsible person. Janet was only going to believe in action, not just talk about love.

George had never been required to deliver the fruits of love when growing up. His parents were fine, hardworking people. But having gone through the Depression and a lifetime of hard work, they did not want George to have to struggle as they had. As a result, they indulged him and required very little work from him.

When they did give him chores and responsibilities and he did not deliver, they would not discipline him, thinking that they wanted him to have "positive self-esteem" rather than the "guilt" with which they grew up. Consequently, he did not see any negative effect on his loved ones when he did not perform.

But marriage was different. He was now in a relationship in which the one he loved also had requirements for him, and things were falling apart. For George to become a truly loving person, one whose love actually made a difference in the lives of others, he was going to have to become a responsible person. In the end, love is as love does.

Loving people respect the boundaries of others. Have you ever been in a relationship with a person who could not hear the word no? How did you feel? Typically one feels controlled, manipulated, and resentful instead of respected and loved. A controlling person steps over the line and tries to possess the other. This does not feel very loving, no matter how much the offender says he cares.

Loving people are able to control their impulses. Many alcoholics, for example, have great love for their families. Their drinking greatly troubles them, and they feel horrendous guilt. But still they drink, and although, like George, they love, the effects of their lack of ability to say no to alcohol ends up destroying the relationships they care about. Many other impulse problems—such as sexual acting out, overspending, food or drug abuse, and rage attacks—end up destroying love as well. A lack of boundaries keeps these behaviors going.


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  • Elaine on

    This article hit a sore spot! I definitely need to read the book because I am pretty much ‘Janet’ in the blog. @Pamela, I know this must have taken patience and strength (because I am using up my patience, and don’t feel I have the strength yet to take the next step….. see…. I cannot even write the ‘D’ word :-)
    You are a good example for your sons, good luck xx

  • Jill Billions on

    I’ve been in every side of this situation. Literally. The wife of an addict , the spouse with the problem, the child of the parent with the problem , the parent of an addict, an addiction specialist, and a Christian. I’ve also been married twice.
    I also know that sick paranoid feeling of being lied to constantly and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
    Boundaries is exactly what you need to be exploring as well as codependency. My feeling was that I had to protect my children and myself against someone that was sick. Addiction is a disease that needs serious treatment. I don’t know what your husband did three years ago but if he wasn’t willing to get serious help with a rehabilitation program then he wasn’t serious. This would involve not just the marijuana but the behaviors around and leading to the use of it ( lying, blaming, irresponsibility). Find a local drug and alcohol rehabilitations program with a good reputation that has medical doctors, therapists and ask him to get an evaluation.
    I encourage you to give him the option to get real help. This would include family therapy involving you at some point as well. It could be a long healing process. Marriage is difficult. Oh, so difficult. Our children are watching how we deal with our difficulties. This is how they learn life. Not by what we say- by what we do. I encourage you to remove yourself and your children from an unhealthy person until such time as he gets REAL help and remember that you don’t have to rush into a decision.
    Continue to get support for yourself and kids through your church, local AlAnon, counseling and prayer.

  • Tanya on

    I am proud of you for taking care of yourself and your family. Your sons have been impacted and you don’t want to, in effect, say your husbands actions are “ok” by staying with him. He has had chances. Now you and your sons need to heal. It only begins with divorce. There is healing needed from the divorce itself.

    I had to divorce an abusive, controlling, manipulating man. But then I also had to face all the places in me that led me to him and him to me. I also discovered many other relationships I had that were mild versions of my marriage; including family and close friends.

    This will sound like an advertisement for these books, but it is the truth. Through reading these boundaries excerpts, also Danny Silk and Kris Vallatton books and blogs, and inviting Jesus to show me why I got to the place in life I did, I am really beginning to truly live again at 45! I have a future and a hope! You will too.

  • The Boundaries Books Team on

    Our apologies. The page is down right now. Get your eBooks here:

  • Lesha on

    I’m sorry you are going through this. The cycle of addiction is not easy. Have been addicted and being with someone who was addicted. It takes its toll. I’m proud of you for taking steps to take care of yourself and your children as domestic violence is not a safe or healthy relationship to be in. Contact your local crisis center for assistance. I contacted mine and they were a great help in helping me set up boundaries to stay safe and to process my thoughts and emotions. Blessings and peace in your journey to safety and peace.

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