“It is easy to say we love others, but difficult to allow them the freedom inherent in love. When they do not want to do what we want them to, then we ‘hunt them down and kill them’ in various ways. We pout, cry out angrily, send guilt messages, and attempt to control them. These actions kill freedom and will, and eventually, they will kill love. Love cannot exist without freedom, and freedom cannot exist without responsibility. We must own and take responsibility for what is ours, and that includes our disappointment in not getting everything we want form another person. The disappointment that comes from our loved ones exercising their freedom is our responsibility. We must deal with it. This is the only way to keep love alive” (from the book Changes that Heal by Henry Cloud. p 117-118).

Boy does this quote hit home in my life right now! If you’ve been reading for very long, you know that I love to talk about boundaries. I believe that we have to respect the no of other people, and I believe that we 100% have to own our own reactions if we want to be healthy people in healthy relationships. Easy to type, but way more difficult to put into practice.

This becomes especially hard when someone we love is doing something that we don’t like or appreciate. Sometimes we want to try to control this person as a means of “making it all better”. The problem is that control isn’t love, and it’s toxic to a relationship. Love can’t exist without freedom, but this can be a terrifying prospect.

I’m currently watching a relationship grow more and more toxic by the week because these individuals are doing the absolute opposite of what is outlined in the above quote. I’ve tried to explain to them why what they are doing is toxic, but they have chosen not to listen (which is within their rights!). So now it’s on me to own my reaction to it, understand that I don’t own their reactions, and allow for them the freedom to do as they please. It’s not easy- relationships aren’t.

So again I’m issuing a challenge to each of you, my readers (and a reminder to myself as well!): love doesn’t exist without freedom. Check your responses to determine if you give the person you are in relationship with the right to say “no” without punishment. When people make those hurtful choices in our life, do we choose to lash out, or do we make a responsible decision on how to react? Watch yourself this week as you move forward in relationship with those around you. It’s tough stuff, and I think it’s stuff that we’ll each end up working on throughout our lives. It’s part of our humanness.