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When to Give In, How to Push Back
By Tim Clinton, Pat Springle
WORTHY PUBLISHINGCopyright © 2012 Tim Clinton and Pat Springle
All rights reserved.
IN THE NAME OF LOVE
Like thunder needs rain Like the preacher needs pain ... I need your love
—"Hawkmoon 269" by U2
Sarah and Matt have been dating for about five years. "We've had some really good moments," she sighs. "But right now, I'm just not feeling it. More than anything, I want to know that he loves me. I want to feel safe with him ... to be happily married someday.
"Of course, we've been together long enough that I've seen some patterns I don't like. Matt gets upset easily. Sometimes, he'll yell and scream at me for no reason at all. And his work is so demanding that he sometimes completely tunes me out ... for weeks at a time. He's also stayed close with some old girlfriends, but he promises me that it's not a big deal.
"These things used to bother me, but I've learned that's just how Matt is. Most people can't see it, but he really is a good person. My parents and close friends keep telling me to break up with him, but they just don't understand him. The truth is, I'd rather be with Matt than be alone. And, besides, he needs me."
Janelle, a frustrated mom, tries to explain herself. "You just don't understand," she insists. "The reason I haven't told my husband about Tommy's drug use and gambling is because I love him so much. I know Tommy has blown a lot of money—my money, our money. But I worry that if my husband found out how bad it really is, he'd kick Tommy out of the house. That's why I've lied to him repeatedly about Tommy ... How could I not? Tommy's my son.
"Tommy's biological father was killed when he was very young, and the poor kid has had such a hard life. Then he got involved with the wrong crowd. This week he was arrested for dealing cocaine, but I think I found an attorney who can get the charge dismissed. It will drain our savings, but I'll do anything to help him get through this.
"Sure, Tommy is twenty-four, but I really believe he will grow out of this stage. He's just in a rough place right now. He doesn't have a job, so he desperately needs me. I'll do anything to help him. I couldn't possibly turn my back on my own flesh and blood!"
Counselors and frustrated friends hear variations of these stories all the time. And some of them may be your own! Like Sarah and Janelle, most of us desperately want to help the people we love, but some relationships suck us in like quicksand—and before we know it, we're stuck ... emotionally, financially, and perhaps even physically. If we express true love by saying "no more," we could unleash a horrible nightmare. If we draw a line in the sand and put boundaries in place, we can't control the outcome. The fear of the "what ifs" can overwhelm and paralyze us.
What kinds of craziness have you put up with or made excuses for ... all in the name of "love"? Check all that apply to you. (It's okay, don't be shy—Pat and I [Tim] have been there too!)
 Keeping secrets
 Tolerating abuse
 Closing your eyes to irresponsible behavior
 Sacrificing to cover up someone else's mistakes
 Catering to a lazy person's whims
 Caving in to an angry person's demands
 Making excuses
 Justifying bad behavior
 Accepting the blame for something we never did
 Enabling an addiction
 Lying to yourself or others
In the name of love, we bail out people who won't help themselves. Each time we insist, "This is the last time!" But it never is.
In the name of love, we endure name-calling, the silent treatment, temper tantrums, even violence. We try to assure ourselves, "Deep down he's a good person with a kind heart ... he'll change." But he never really does.
In the name of love, we cower in the face of an angry person's demands and settle for whatever peace we can get. Which isn't much.
Why? What keeps us there? A misunderstanding of love.
What the world calls "love" often isn't true love at all. If our version of love is destroying us or someone we care about, then let's not call it love. There are lots of other names for it, but it's not love.
If that's you, if you or someone you know has been mistaking counterfeit love for the real thing, then you need a breakthrough—a flash of insight and a dose of courage to take action and change the status quo. And that's what this book will give you.
Change doesn't happen quickly or easily, but stick with us. Step by step, you can learn—and live—authentic love, wise trust, genuine forgiveness, and real freedom.
Snapshots of Crazy Love
While most of our relationships may be healthy and satisfying, we typically have one or two people who change the rules and get to us—a sibling, a spouse, son or daughter, coworker, boss, or close friend. These strained relationships drive us crazy, yet we seem to be helpless to exercise true love and move toward a more healthy relationship. Perhaps you will see a snapshot of yourself or a loved one in one of these examples:
Bethany's husband, Rick, began acting a bit strangely a few years ago. Their sexual relationship became more intense, but less regular. She couldn't figure it out, and he didn't want to talk about it. One morning, Bethany opened Rick's computer and found a dozen porn sites he had viewed the night before. When she checked the history, she realized what he'd been doing all those nights he claimed to be "working late" before he came to bed. Rick got busted for visiting porn sites at work too.
Bethany and Rick's marriage was on the rocks. I've been such a fool! Bethany thought. I should have known something like this was happening!
She confronted Rick, but he insisted it was "no big deal" and "all the guys do it." When she didn't agree, he turned the tables, blaming her for not being sexually attractive enough.
He's right, Bethany reflected. I have gained weight. If only I were as beautiful as I was on our wedding day. But I still do everything I can to please him sexually.
Bethany had countless conversations with her closest friends to try to sort out her thoughts. But no matter what they said, Bethany insisted, "I know Rick loves me. It's my fault that we aren't where we should be. Yes, I know pornography is wrong, but it's what men do."
Jackson and Susan were conscientious, attentive parents. They went to all of their son Bill's ball games and gave him plenty of guidance to stay out of trouble. When Bill went off to college, he made good grades, but he also made friends with a wild group of kids who partied every weekend.
A few years after Bill graduated from his master's program, they discovered he had been addicted to hydrocodone and Xanax since his junior year. "I knew he drank a lot," Jackson lamented to a counselor, "but I had no idea he was on drugs."
Bill had racked up huge debts, so Jackson and Susan brought him home to live with them. For two long years, they pleaded and threatened to get him to give up drugs. They did so much for him, but nothing worked. Several times, when Bill was really strung out, Jackson even called Bill's employer to tell him Bill was sick.
"I know it's wrong," Jackson defended himself when a friend questioned his actions, "but I can't let Bill lose his job. He would lose his health insurance and ruin his credit. It would devastate him, and I love him too much to let that happen to him. I just wish he would turn his life around."
From the time her dad walked out the door, Rachel lived with her mother. But her mom was so emotionally distraught and overworked that she didn't have much left to help Rachel and her brother grow up. Rachel felt emotionally abandoned by both of her parents, and she grew to hate her mom. Dad abandoned me once, she thought to herself. But mom abandons me every day.
When Rachel got married and had a daughter of her own, she was determined to protect her from the pain she had endured. She smothered her daughter with attention—which was kind of cute when she was three, but a problem when she was fifteen. Rachel was consumed by wanting to know every detail of her daughter's life. She read all the postings on her daughter's Facebook page daily. After her daughter went to bed at night, Rachel looked through her schoolbooks to find notes her friends had sent her.
When Rachel told a friend what she was doing, the friend was alarmed. "You'll ruin your relationship with your daughter," the friend warned.
"To protect her, I have to know what's going on in her life," Rachel insisted. "I check my daughter's text messages, read her diary, and try to listen to every conversation she has on the phone. I've got to tell you, the things I've found out make my hair stand on end! She's in big trouble! I don't want her to make the same mistakes I made. I love her too much to let that happen!"
On their first date, Kim and Jasper fell madly in love. They shared a common commitment to Jesus and enjoyed being together. Kim admired Jasper's strength and confidence. When they married the following year, everyone said it was a match made in heaven.
Soon after the honeymoon, however, Jasper began questioning the way Kim spent money. It wasn't that she was irresponsible—quite the opposite. She tried to explain that he could trust her, but that just made him angry and more demanding. He gave her mixed messages of tender affection and intense questions—probing accusations that were more like the cross-examination of an attorney than the inquiries of a loving spouse.
Kim realized that she had married a total control freak who treated her like a child. Jasper dominated her every moment and every action: How she folded the laundry, washed the dishes, and prepared the meals. Who she talked to on the phone. How she dressed and where she shopped. Even how much toilet paper she used! Seriously! He was breaking her down fast.
She began withdrawing emotionally and physically but felt guilty for not wanting to have sex with Jasper. He quoted a passage in 1 Corinthians about the wife's body belonging to her husband, but his use of Scripture didn't do a lot to promote feelings of intimacy. She felt dominated, falsely accused, and hopelessly trapped because no one outside their home had any idea what was going on. Most of her friends still thought it was a match made in heaven.
From the time he was a little boy, James heard his dad—a pastor and highly respected man in the community—tell him, "People are watching you all the time because you're my son. Make me proud, and make Jesus proud." But when he was in junior high, it seemed to James that his dad was more interested in his own reputation than how James' behavior reflected on Jesus.
Every night at dinner, his dad recited a litany of expectations: "I want the best for you, son. I want you to excel for the glory of God." But his dad's reaction to his failures told a different story. His dad employed the heavy guns of guilt and harsh condemnation instead of the gentle assurance of loving correction. The slightest infraction was severely punished, and even his friends' mistakes were viciously condemned. If James ever tried to protest, his dad became angry and violent: "Shut up, son. Shut up and do as you're told. One day you'll thank me for tough love."
At the end of each diatribe, his dad always said, "It's about doing God's work and being God's man." James wanted to live for God—he just felt so confused. His dad said he loved him, but then he lashed out in anger whenever James made a mistake. Is God the same way? he wondered.
James felt paralyzed to confront his dad about how much he was hurt. Any back talk was met with angry criticism. Over time, James grew to hate his dad, and eventually, God as well. The young man drifted into a deep depression, which greatly displeased his father, who continued to heap on the legalistic expectations. James felt trapped by his dominating dad and a seemingly disengaged and disinterested God.
Truth be told, these snapshots don't just illustrate what crazy love looks like, they demonstrate counterfeit love. And though it may be easy for us to see its devastating impact in these stories, it's not so easy to see the truth when the story is our story.
When it comes to our most cherished relationships, we want to believe that the people we value really love us. We want to believe that we matter to them. That's just a part of our relational DNA. Most of the people we're close to—even the ones who are not loving us properly—do care about us in some fashion, but at the same time, they may care even more about themselves. Or they may simply not know how to love.
Regardless of the choices they make, you can learn the secrets to loving well. You can learn to recognize and receive real love when it comes your way—and push back when it doesn't. You can learn to really love the people in your life—and know when and how to help them. And that's what this book is for.
Difficult people distort our perceptions about love with:
their pleas and demands ("If you really love me, you'll ______.")
their threats ("If you don't______, I'll leave you!")
their spiritual accusations ("You call yourself a Christian?")
For Christians, our response is often complicated by sermons that emphasize:
"Turn the other cheek."
"Sacrifice like Jesus, who gave to the point of death."
"Don't be selfish."
"Honor and obey your parents."
"Give, expecting nothing in return."
"Don't let the sun go down on your anger."
While each of these statements is biblical, counterfeit love takes them out of context and so twists them around that they become nooses around our necks instead of guidelines to live by.
It's no wonder we often turn a blind eye to the truth that others plainly see!
Often, our misunderstandings about love are born in disruptive family relationships, where someone was either one-up or one-down to an extreme. There is an appropriate and necessary difference in the balance of power between parents and young children, but in the best situations, there should be no power struggles by the time those children have become adults—just deep connection, trust, and respect between people who sincerely care about each other.
In disruptive families, children are taught to remain one-up or one-down into adulthood. And this produces immature adults who either seek to dominate others (one-up) or who allow themselves to be dominated (one-down) in their relationships—one powerful and one needy, one enabling and one addicted, one decisive and one confused.
In relationships with these people, manipulation abounds. Especially when they start to feel out of control.
At the first hint of any threat to their security, dominant people will look to control others. Sometimes this expresses itself as you'd expect: pushiness, demands, insensitivity, and selfishness. But there are also dominant people who come disguised as helpers. They will naturally gravitate toward needy people—especially those who are most out of control—so they can "rescue" yet another soul, which makes them feel even more powerful.
For those in the one-down position, they'll either drift toward isolation when under pressure—avoiding relationships to protect themselves—or they'll lose themselves in someone else (enmeshment), letting that individual define their purpose, values, and desires.
People who tend to isolate don't feel safe, so their solution is to avoid meaningful interaction at all costs. To them, meaningful connection is a threat, because they define love as "no demands and no risks." Instead of experiencing a healthy connectedness with others, isolaters bounce off people like billiard balls. And usually everyone gets hurt, including the isolated one.
For those who are prone to enmeshment, they have almost no sense of identity apart from another person—and so, when someone "threatens" their overattachment with the desire for a healthy, interdependent relationship, they latch on all the more. Instead of being a distinct individual who shares ideas, love, and life with another distinct individual, the cling-on will opt for one messy entity—like two blobs of mud stuck together.
The term enmeshment was first popularized by Salvador Minuchin, who described it as "an extreme form of proximity and intensity in family interactions." This uber-closeness produces weak boundaries and an inability to function as individuals, apart from the family. However, you can be enmeshed, or entangled, with anyone. It's not just for families!
Enmeshment creates codependent relationships—a dance, if you will—between two people that is "characterized by preoccupation with and extreme dependence (emotionally, socially, and sometimes physically) on a person or object." Given enough time, this dependence on another person can become so rooted in our lives that it affects all other relationships.
Why Do We Keep Dancing?
Entangled relationships come in all shapes and sizes, but inevitably, one person takes the lead and dominates from a position of strength and authority, and the other complies from weakness and need in a toxic sort of tango. The weaker person constantly checks himself to see if his thoughts, attitude, and behavior will please (or at least avoid the wrath of) the dominant one, while the stronger person decides and dictates the life of the weaker one.
Excerpted from Break Through by Tim Clinton, Pat Springle. Copyright © 2012 Tim Clinton and Pat Springle. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
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