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Where is the fine line between tough love and emotional abuse?

7 Answers
Last Updated: 11/14/2015 at 6:26pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Tracy-Kate Teleke, M.A., LMFT

Marriage & Family Therapist

I assist adults and couples in CA experiencing relationship challenges and interpersonal struggles including anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other life challenges.

Top Rated Answers
January 24th, 2015 10:50am
Tough love is kind of an oxymoron, because if it's "tough" it's not really love, is it? It is often used as a euphemism to justify mean spirited, judgmental behavior. It IS possible to challenge someone's assumptions, and respectfully disagree. It IS possible to be honest and direct in telling someone you love that you think they're headed for trouble, and you're worried about them. I think that is a very narrow definition. What many people call "tough love" includes the following unacceptable behaviors: belittling, badgering, shaming, name-calling, intimidating and harassing--and even physical restraint, abuse or neglect. Those behaviors have NOTHING to do with love, whether they are directed from a parent to a child, a teacher to a student, a counselor to a patient, an older brother to a younger brother. Remember, helping someone understand the consequences of their actions to avert further suffering is love. But punishment rare is.
May 2nd, 2015 10:13am
tough love is supposed to help you grow and develop even if it's tough but it's still LOVE emotional abuse does the opposite it cripples you and makes you stuck where you are
May 3rd, 2015 2:45am
In my experience, when you find yourself crying often and can't relax in the presence of this person at all it's time to question abuse
September 8th, 2015 4:34am
I don't believe there is a fine line between the two. Tough love is about setting clear boundaries, holding to expectations, allowing natural consequences and not enabling destructive behavior. Emotional abuse is about power dynamics and deficiencies in the abuser.
May 30th, 2015 1:44pm
With tough love, you may say things that hurt, but you should keep a positive side to whatever you say. An example of tough love is: "Alright. You got dumped. You can feel sorry for yourself all day or you can try and move on. Things won't get better until you decide to make them better." Compared to emotional abuse: "Ok. You got dumped. Big deal. If that person meant so much to you, you shouldn't have done whatever got you dumped. They're over you. Time to move on. You can cry about them all day or you can find another date." Tough love is more supportive and has a friendlier tone than emotional abuse, and the point of tough love is to give a sort of a wake up call to get the person to look at things differently.
September 7th, 2015 9:45pm
Tough love means I expect things from another, but in a reasonable manner. I don´t abuse or shame you if you don´t do what I want, nor do I expect you to automatically do what I want. Tough love can be best described with a parent saying : "Now go do that, because I told you so" instead of "youre a bad child for not doing it"
November 14th, 2015 6:26pm
I don't think they are even remotely related.