When enough is enough

I recently had to make a very difficult and painful decision to sever my relationship with a family member. I won’t get into specifics here, because it is ultimately a family issue. Just know that this was not a decision made out of anger or spite, and it was made after setting a firm boundary on what was appropriate, warning what the consequences would be, and yet that boundary was not respected.

As a woman, parent and spouse, I make my decisions regarding relationships of any type based on certain criteria:

  • Is this a healthy situation for me or my family?
  • Is there mutual respect and consideration for feelings, opinions, values and preferences?
  • If there are issues, can they be resolved in an amicable manner?

There are also some tell-tale red flags, behaviors or tendencies that I pay attention to, such as:

  • Racist, xenophobic, sexist, anti-religious and other defamatory statements aimed at specific groups, such as minorities. My husband and I don’t support or engage in that kind of thinking, nor do we want our children exposed to it.
  • Abusive language or behavior – emotional, verbal or physical. It doesn’t matter which one it is – it creates irreparable damage. And if you do it to me, how can I be sure you won’t subject my children to it at some point in the future? My responsibility as a parent is to protect them from harm. My responsibility to myself is to protect me from harm.
  • Disregard for the feelings, opinions, values and preferences other people express. You don’t have to like or agree with anything I (or anyone else) says. But there are ways to respectfully dissent without being insulting, and there are also times when it’s prudent to just stay silent.
  • Lack of empathy. If you can’t relate to the feelings another person is having – even when you’re the cause of their pain – there’s some psychological work that needs to be done. Probably the most important thing I can teach my children is to empathize with others. Empathy is the root of compassion and is the foundation for leading a spiritually centered life.
  • The refusal to apologize for wrongdoing or take personal responsibility for actions. It’s not a weakness to say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” It’s a strength of character.

We all have our good and bad days. Sometimes we say and do thoughtless, stupid or insensitive things. Most people can forgive an occasional issue or lapse of judgment. But a consistent pattern of negative behavior demonstrates – at least to me  – that there is a sickness within the heart. While I can empathize with that, I also do not want to be continually subjected to it. At some point, you have to stand up and say enough is enough. 

Being compassionate doesn’t always mean giving someone else an out. Sometimes it means taking difficult, direct action in order to help them realize the truth of their situation. Some people eventually get it; others won’t. The ones who get it are the ones who truly evolve as people, even if it comes as a result of a great loss. The ones who don’t get it will continue to be angry and blame others for their lot in life.

I took great comfort today from this quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer that my friend and author Sherri Lane posted to the Seeing Miracles Every Day: A Course in Miracles page she facilitates on Facebook:

…Living a life of our own choosing involves the unquestionable willingness to endure the slings and arrows that could come your way when you respond to your inner knowing rather than to the opinions of your family….You don’t belong to you immediate family; you’re a member of the HUMAN family. You don’t own your children, nor are you a possession of your parents. You’re not obliged to fulfill the wishes or a destiny dictated by kin. It’s important to consciously know that you’re here to create your music, and that you don’t have to die with your music still in you.

It took me a long time to realize this, but I’m here to sing my life. It may be a sad song at the moment, but I own it completely.

(Photo credit: judysfunnyfarm on Flickr)

6 responses to “When enough is enough”

  1. Great post thanks for sharing. Family is something that I truly care about in life. You have a great blog here I enjoyed coming here today.

  2. Thank you so much for posting. I too, went through releasing an unhealthy relationship with a family member. I found it was a very scary thing to do, but very liberating as I did it out of a space of love and no anger. I was sad, yet felt a source of strenth in choosing the most loving act for the both of us by stepping away. I look forward to sharing this post with others.

  3. I think we talked about this before, but I understand where you are coming from. It’s a hard decision, but in the long run you will find peace with it. I know after some time had passed (along with some therapy) I did.

  4. Dana,

    I’ve set those boundaries myself. Sometimes it’s so sad that I feel like my heart is going to break. Most other times, I enjoy my freedom to be me and to be free of the “cheap drama” (to borrow Marianne Williamson’s phrase) that occurs when I try to be in relationship with them.

    I resisted setting the boundaries for years because I was afraid. And you know what? The FEAR was much worse than the actual act! Funny how that works!

    Thanks for posting, I admire your courage and honesty. The more I get to know you, the more I see we have in common. Isn’t life grand?


  5. I severed the relationship with my brother and his family on Christmas night. Actually, I had done it months before, but my mother begged me to come to Thanksgiving and Christmas. She wanted us to “kiss and make up”. Out of respect for my mother I did this. My brother’s wife is just not happy unless she keeps the pot stirred and I just can’t be a part of this anymore. It us unhealthy and keeps me upset.

    Many years ago in therapy I was told to get rid of unhealthy relationships which I did not do. It has take me 21 years to do this.

    I worship the ground my brother walks on and it hurts me greatly to not have that relationship anymore. Also, with me being the single one in the family it also means I am no longer a part of family gatherings. So in reality, I have had to dismiss the whole family because of one. Hopefully, one day my brother will wake up and see the path of destruction she leaves behind before it is too late. I will not continue to walk on eggshells like everyone else for the sake of unhealthy family gatherings where everyone leaves angry. I may be alone, but the stress and hurt is gone.

    Good luck to you and the others who have left comments on staying strong and sticking to your decision. We all deserve better.

    1. Hi Cyndy,

      Thank you for your comments. They are honest and brave. It takes a lot to turn away from people who are negative, abusive or create divisiveness within families or social groups. You did what you needed to do in order to maintain your wholeness and integrity and I hope the rest of your family comes to terms with that at some point soon. Your brother may not, but it is also his choice to remain married to her too. In these situations, I try to remind myself that we can love them, even if we have to remain apart from them for our own good.

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