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Do You Continue to Make Excuses for Unacceptable Behavior?

One doesn't always have to turn the other cheek when disappointed by loved ones.

There are varying levels of excuses. Of course we are all familiar with the standard excuse for being late to a lunch or meeting blaming traffic. How about "the dog ate my homework" or "the alarm didn’t go off"? These are standard and usually forgivable, if not overly used.

But what about the individual who makes a commitment and at the last minute bails for really no legitimate reason and has done this time and time again? The ball is then tossed back into our court to decide what to do, if anything. Sometimes it doesn’t make a difference if that person participates or not and their presence won’t really be missed, but maybe you are disappointed (yet again) and this becomes a good time to go through a little mental checklist to get in touch with what your feelings really are.

Sometimes, it’s helpful if we ask ourselves to take a peek at our expectation chart. This could look like the following:

  • Were my expectations not realized and therefore left me angry, sad, or disappointed by that person’s behavior?
  • Had I been down this road before with this person and therefore I shouldn’t expect any other type of behavior?
  • Maybe one's expectations were understandable considering the importance of the occasion and therefore they should have been met.

This column comes from a session with my client who was deeply hurt, angry, and disappointed when her daughter at the last minute opted to bail out of a very important occasion after having confirmed her presence for months. Everyone in the family said that it was awful that she didn’t come, but quickly changed their tune to justifying her inappropriate behavior with ridiculous reasoning and eventually turned the tables on my client for being so selfish and blaming her for unrealistic expectations.

Needless to say, my client was very confused and couldn’t help but feel angry and betrayed by not only her daughter, but other family members as well. She was having difficulty forgiving her daughter and not embracing the concept of being a loving, caring mother and accepting her unconditionally, and once again echoing in her ears… "Oh well, it’s family … what can you do?” She couldn’t help but think that she was a person to be regarded with love and respect and that it should work both ways. In addition, her daughter made no attempt to right the wrong with a card, gift, or anything to acknowledge this special occasion; just a text that said “sorry."

Since there was no comforting conclusion we could come to regarding the disposition of her family, we decided to focus on why unacceptable behavior goes unchecked.

Here are four concepts that might ring true with differing family members and their emotional needs:

  • One wants to be liked. There are many ways of enabling someone and it’s not just relegated for the family member or friend who is covering for the alcoholic/addict's poor behavior or actions. One can enable by never letting someone know that what they did or say was wrong or if they do, the admonishment is over in a nanosecond.
  • One wants to be the hero. “See, look at me. Aren’t I great because I was the buffer between the angry parent (and whomever) and protected the accused?"
  • One wants to replace the parent, by being the better, more understanding aunt, uncle, or cousin.
  • To continue a long-standing rift between one family member to another for not being the parent or adult figurehead that they should be.
  • One wants to “buy” the love and affection of the person with unacceptable behavior and though not physically spending money, it is emotional money.

Please understand that I’m not suggesting that the person with unacceptable behavior be ostracized or burned at the stake, but it is vitally important, whether it is a family member in recovery or not, that they are not entitled to do whatever they please, when they please, because they have convinced not only themselves but other family members that they are limited in their ability and will only participate in the world as long as it works for them.

Know that there is nothing wrong with taking a break from the unacceptable behavior of others. Maybe it’s a matter of weeks so you can cool off and regroup. Maybe it’s longer and that’s OK.

The bottom line is that all relationships, whether it’s with your family, friends, or our beloved pets, must be built on trust, honesty, and respect. If that doesn’t come through on a daily basis, step back and readjust your wants and needs. Don’t (or try not to) put yourself in a situation where someone continues to take a nibble out of your heart and soul for not stepping up to the plate of your needs/or continuing to support unacceptable behavior from others.

If I can be of service, please visit my website at or call (805) 695-0049 to schedule a phone session. In addition, I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life—You and the Alcoholic/Addict at or on Amazon. My book is available as an audio on my website only.