The problem comes when we forget that what we hope for is not the same as what we need or have the power to compel. Unenforceable rules warp our judgment. We try so hard to get our rules obeyed that we do not see the damage that ensues from that effort. We blame our lovers for breaking our rules, and we withhold our love when they do so. Our pain and frustration cause us to do things that harm our relationship rather than help it….
The first step in unraveling your unenforceable rules is to recognize them. When you finally realize that you are making unenforceable rules, you are taking the first step toward helping yourself. Simply by doing this, you have taken back some of the power you gave your spouse to hurt you. This is true whether your spouse failed, or was selfish, or stood firm defending his or her quirky behavior, or loved you wrong, or forgot your birthday.
When you challenge your unenforceable rules, you take the next step in learning to forgive. The good news is that challenging unenforceable rules is a simple process. Unenforceable rules make their presence known. You do not have to look far to find them. Every time you are more than mildly upset with the actions of your lover, it is because you are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule. Every time you are more than mildly upset with your life, it is because you are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule. Every time you are more than mildly upset with yourself, you are trying to enforce an unenforceable rule….
What you need to realize is that underneath your most painful feelings are rules you are helplessly trying to enforce. Once you start to challenge your rules when you first feel upset, then your bad feelings won’t last and will not be as severe….
None of us have the ability to force our lovers to comply with our demands, and therefore they often break our rules. It can be difficult to accept the fact that your lover does not have to make your life easier or better or lessen your suffering when you want him or her to. You will only suffer more, however, when you try harder to enforce your unenforceable rules than challenge them.
— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Love, p. 116-120