Unenforceable Rules

Nearly all relationship problems begin when our partners break an unenforceable rule.  Your frustrated attempt to enforce such a rule is at the root of your anger toward your loved one.  Feelings of anger, helplessness, or depression are all indications that you are trying to enforce something that cannot be enforced.  Your anger is telling you that things are not working out the way you want them to.  These situations are painful because you are not able to control them, even though you try over and over to do so….

If most of your partner’s actions cause you a good deal of emotional distress, you may be trying to enforce an unenforceable rule.  We cling to our unenforceable rules and refuse to accept our partner’s mistakes, flaws, and disagreeable traits, thinking that we should not have to put up with them.  This is like clinging to the anchor of a ship you fell off of.  As you gasp your last breath, you’re still complaining that the anchor was there to keep your boat safe, and damn it, dragging you to the bottom of the sea isn’t helping.  The anchor is wrong.  It hasn’t read the anchor rulebook and doesn’t know the right way to do its job….

When you try and fail to enforce one of your unenforceable rules, you become angry, bitter, despondent, and helpless.  Trying to force something that you cannot control to go your way is an exercise in frustration.  You can’t force your spouse to love you or to stop cheating; nor can you force your kids to treat you respectfully.  The more unenforceable rules you have, the more likely you are to feel agitated and disappointed with your marriage.  When you cling to unenforceable rules, you leave yourself open to pain every time one of them is broken.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 111-112

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