Love Is as Love Does

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.


Buy-BoundariesReady to go deeper on this topic? Discover how to set healthy limits in any situation and prevent unnecessary burdens from controlling your peace and energy in The New York Times bestselling book, Boundaries.





  1. Pamela says

    I am currently in the beginning process of divorcing my husband. He is a chronic liar and has an addiction to pot.
    I have done my best to set boundaries. Each time I discover that he is smoking pot it ends up in a very predictable pendulum of anger, cursing, denial verbal abuse then crying and apologies and “I love you so much” “I need you to help me” “If you would be more of my wife and get behind me and help me…” There is a lack of financial responsibility and accountability that leaves me very distrustful and unsafe. After the last episode of hours of cursing and swearing that he was not using only to confess that “Yes, he was smoking pot and yes , he had lied about it but that I made him lie” I said that I had enough. This was a second marriage for me. I have 2 of my 4 sons living at home. They have experienced the abuse and dishonesty and inconsistencies. They have also at times become the object of his rage. Despite all this he still says he loves me and the boys so much. He needs help and I can no longer help him. He needs to help himself. I need to protect me and my family and move on. I need him to do the same but fear he won’t.

  2. says

    Maybe a period of separation from him would be good. The meaning of insanity is dong the same things over and over again, and expecting a different result. He does not take responsibility for his actions, he is blaming you, he had distorted thinking and until he seeks the help he needs the behavior will not changed.

    • Done says

      We did separate 3 years ago for the same reasons. After a period of time and what seemed like a revival for him and me we came back together again. But not shortly after (4 mo) I discovered pot. And the same pattern of denial,lying, verbal abuse, and apologies and promises. I told him then he would need to choose. This has been a continuing issue and trust has been so distroyed. I have been living a paranoid life not feeling I can ever let my guard down. Just when I think I can and I think that maybe we can actually have a future…I find it is just a lie and I am deceived again. No more.

      • Lesha says

        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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *