Lorena Duncan’s Blog

When Someone You Love Makes Poor Choices You Can’t Control…

He’s always calling asking for money.  I’m worried she’s using drugs again and it’s only been five days since she got out of rehab.  He called me for the third time this year and said if his electric bill doesn’t get paid today PG&E is going to turn off the electricity.  She came at Christmas and started a fight with my daughter just like last year.  I don’t have anyone else in my life who is such a taker.  Wherever she goes drama and chaos ensue.

What do all of these comments have in common:  tough decisions that involve the discernment of boundaries.  Where each person draws that line is personal and can create major tension in couples and within individuals themselves who have differences in opinion or ambivalence about what constitutes “helping” their loved one who struggles to survive in this world.  I can’t offer a clear-cut answer about where to draw that line but there are some guidelines to consider when facing these types of boundaries.

First:  Get clarity on what you can and cannot control in your loved one’s life.
Short of babysitting your loved for 24-hours-a-day, there is only so much you can do.

Second:  What constitutes creating healthy boundaries for connection?
The key word is “healthy” which gets extremely confusing when you worry about your loved one’s welfare, particularly when their welfare is being affected by choices they make that you cannot control.  Healthy boundaries create opportunities for your loved one to receive a hand up and not a hand out.  A hand up implies that in addition to your action for help, your loved one is also taking action towards health as well.  Where the line between helping versus enabling can be confusing and is often not about the loved one at all but about your own relationship with yourself: what it means to be a good person, what it means to “love” another who faces hard times, what it means to you if you set a limit for health and your loved one takes a turn for the worse.  Loving someone who makes poor choices that you cannot control is one of the most emotionally distressing issues that enter my office.  I encourage you to get support in whatever form (therapy, support group, spirituality, friends, family) to break through any confusion you may feel when faced with these tough boundary decisions.

Contact Lorena Duncan, Marriage and Family Therapist in Pleasanton for couple’s counseling session appointment.

Contact Lorena for Individual Adult Counseling or Couples Counseling

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