How to Live with and Help a Difficult Person (and Yourself)

by: Velinda Peyton


If you live with or have someone in your life who is difficult due to behavior or mental issues or substance abuse, life can be very difficult. If this person is someone you love, it can become a situation of co-dependence.  Life is not happy when living with a self-destructive person. If that person is a child, it pulls at the heartstrings like nothing else can.  

What do you do to help them and Yourself?

Never give up on them:  The alternative is harder and (in my opinion) not an option.

Try again and again and again…..

Use the Power of Love:  Tell them you love them over and over again, especially when they are unlovable.  They need to hear this and be reassured of it. 

Be there for them when they fall:  No matter how many times that is.  They need you there.

Encourage and inspire them:  Everyone likes to hear good thoughts about themself and no one wants to hear that they are not valued.  Do not disparage them.

Get them help or help them get help:  People with serious issues are not likely to overcome their problems without some kind of intervention.  This is critical because frequently people refuse to listen to family or someone close to them.  Outside intervention can open up new thought patterns and ideas family could never have thought of as well as the expertise of professional intervention.

Get yourself help:  People dealing with or living with difficult people can be hurting just as much as their loved one, if not more.  The stress can be overwhelming.  Take very good care of yourself and take frequent breaks. You matter too.

Never allow self-destructive behavior, abusive behavior, or crime:  This is enabling and will perpetuate the situation.  If you allow this, it is the same as contributing to it.  You can never allow another person to abuse you.  If you do, it will continue.

Stand up for yourself and your values:  You cannot make a positive impact on another person if they don’t respect and admire you.

Set boundaries:  Your home is not a crash pad for the unmotivated or for someone who is simply taking advantage of you.  Give them time frames to get a job or go to rehab, etc. Let them know where you draw the line and what you won’t tolerate.

You have to walk your talk and mean what you say:  If you give them ultimatums, you have to stick by them, so be careful what you say.  And the best example for them to change is a good role model.

Make them earn it:  Bad behavior or destructive habits should not be rewarded.

Make sure they understand the consequences:  They alone are responsible and accountable for their actions. There’s no negotiating this one.

Listen to them:  Everyone wants to be heard and made to feel that what they have to say is important.  Listening can open up new ways of communicating, solve problems, and give a person a chance to express themselves.  Problems can be solved from listening alone.

Change perception:  Look at their issues from a different perspective.  People who are acting out or misbehaving (as in children) are crying out for help.  What is underneath their pain?

Teach them about life:  Life is not drugs, alcohol, defiance, abuse, laziness, crime, or depending on others.  Life is about standing on your own two feet and facing the world.  Life is about caring…for yourself and others.  Life is hard work…get used to it. 

And tell them over and over again how much you love them:  Everyone wants to be loved, valued, appreciated and respected.  The power of love alone is healing. 

This does not mean you become co-dependent and a life-long martyr to someone who just won’t get the message, refuses to help themselves or doesn’t care about anyone else.  However, no one wants to live a life of pain and hardship caused from self-destructive habits or behaviors.  Encouragement, inspiration, the right example, tough love and never giving up comes shining through stronger than negativity. It may take years but you don’t want to live without your loved one.  Some people are simply so weak and sensitive that they need that initial push to get them through.  Many people have overcome the worst of personal problems to lead meaningful lives because someone was there for them when they needed it the most.