Family: When, if ever, do you say, "Enough is enough?"

In The Mexican, an underappreciated little romantic comedy/crime adventure film starring Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and James Gandolfini, two characters are asked the same question:

"If two people love each other, but they just can't seem to get it together, when do you get to that point of enough is enough?"

And the answer is:


I believe this to be true. For two people who love each other and who are in love with one another, there should never come a time when either or both of them stop trying to make it.

That is not to say that people who are miserable in a relationship should try to stick it out; far from it. But if one reaches the point where "enough is enough" then the love is no longer there and it is unfair for either partner to keep trying to breathe life into the relationship.

But I find myself wondering more and more of late how this applies to "non romantic" love relationships.

As in...family.

And when I ask myself the question in a different way, I'm not so sure anymore.

When the people we love are our parents or siblings or any familial relationship forged by birth or some other means, when do you get to that point of enough is enough?

For some, familial love trumps all other love, even the love between spouses, life partners, soul mates. If forced to choose between lover and family, family always wins.

And some, like me, put their partner and the family they create with their partner above all others. I would choose my husband and my children without question. They are my family now.

For many reasons, my relationship with my parents has deteriorated over the past seven years and they have disappointed me deeply. Yesterday I had a conversation over the telephone with my mother in which she said things to me I will never, never say to my own children. In my parents' eyes, I am the one who has disappointed, the one who is at fault. Their words have wounded me, have broken my heart, and I have cried so much that I'm surprised I have any tears left.

But yesterday, when I hung up the phone, I came to the sad realization that I no longer felt hurt or angry or sad.

I don't feel much of anything for them anymore.

Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel famously said, "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference..."

And so my love for them has become indifference. I have a husband and two beautiful sons who need me, who need all of me. Walking around all the time with a knot in my stomach and my mind occupied rehashing conversations with my mother or father, berating myself for what I should have said and rehearsing what I'll say next time is a waste of thought and energy and emotion. The only way I can move on with my life is to let it all go. I don't need to become estranged from them or perform a dramatic bridge-burning exit from their lives because we are at an impasse. Nothing will ever change. And I'm tired of struggling.

My answer, then, to the question of "When the people we love are our parents or siblings or any familial relationship forged by birth or some other means, when do you get to that point of enough is enough?" is simple.

Enough is enough when you no longer feel loved by them.


  1. This is a tough one. I wish I had some answers for you, or some words of consolation or wisdom, but I don't. I'm sorry you're going through this.

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Doc. Is it okay if I call you Doc?

    After writing the post I felt as if a weight had been lifted and the clouds disappeared from my vision. I was able to see the important things that needed my attention and I had the energy to take care of business. As a result, me, my husband and my sons are having a wonderful Christmas! We're spending the day together, alone, no visits from my folks to put me on edge on the horizon.

    The first step of any journey is often the toughest and posting my thoughts here was more than the catharsis I needed to get going.

    It *was* the first step.


  3. Freya,

    You may call me Doc, if you wish- most folks just call me Larry. I'm glad to hear things are a little better. X-mas is sometimes a stressful time for people, and I'm glad to hear yours is going well. I hope everything works out.

  4. I suppose sharing common DNA does not mean that we love each other and want to spend time together but I think the point that you touched on is the key. It requires commitment from both parties. Love does not just happen because we're related. I've often heard that we get out of something what we put into it and I believe this to be true. Sometimes we just don't want it enough and sometimes we are guilty of only seeing through our own eyes. Wouldn't there be so much less misunderstanding if we could get inside the other person's head to see as they see. I don't know why your parents are like they are and if you are unhappy with your relationship and you've done all that you can do to make it better, then you have to do what's good for you. I wish you well with the situation. It's very painful to be at odds with someone that you love.