Love That Is Tough Is Love That Is Real

woman sitting looking tough
Mark Skeet

A love that is tough is a love that is real.

It comes in many forms, from a father, a best friend, a lover – tough love is tough love – and it stings. 

It stings immensely for a moment, like when skin gets burnt by slight heat, but after a few, the sting subsides and you realize what has happened and why. It stings less as the time goes by, the initial burn fading, fading, slowly…but you learn to be more careful next time, when you come to encounter bigger, stronger, fires, especially if the first time has left a scar – at least you remember.

Using such an analogy for tough love may be far fetched, but tough love today saves you quite a bit of heartache tomorrow. 

“He doesn’t love you anymore, you need to get over it.” Does that sound unsympathetic? Cruel even? To the common population, yes – definitely yes. Hearing those words come out of someone’s mouth other than my ex-fiancé’s left me breathless as if I had only just realized he truly didn’t love me anymore – despite all he’s said and done.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you perceive it, those words were my wake up call. 

Words that shattered this mirage in my brain, of summer rain pouring and being kissed by someone that I blindly hoped and believed would take me back. Clearly not.

They were words that made my aching heart and body want to bleed until it was no longer in existence.

But they were the words that made me move on faster than I ever thought possible. 

As I watched this honest statement come out of my best friends mouth, it caused a rage within me that told me I didn’t want to see her ever again.

But I did – when I realized that her words had brought me out of this hellhole I was digging for myself without even knowing it. It had made me cautious in my next relationship. It made me appreciate honesty as a characteristic even more.

The tough love stemmed from the true love and friendship she had for me – the tough love that, little did I know, would make me a better person in the long run.

The rage and heartbreak within me imploded, and time seemed to stop. My senses seemed to disappear. I was brought to another time – I had time traveled. I was about to witness tough love from another time, from yet another person I loved. 

The smell and feel of freshly- cut green grass beneath me felt like I was running on clouds, in a time where all I cared about was which flavor ice cream I should choose next and how long I could stay out in the yard with my friends. Hard decisions.

8 p.m. Sky is a dark blue, almost black. A little girl with brown curly hair walks through the front door, in a dress covered in mud. It’s not 7:30pm? That’s ok, Dad will be ok with it. 

Dad wasn’t, though. Worried sick, as pale as a sheet – he looked like he had just seen a ghost behind me. “You’re 30 minutes late! And you got your clothes all dirty. 8 p.m. is no time for a young girl to be outside. No going outside to see your friends anymore for a week, I told you what would happen if you were late.” 

A week?!? My mind was spinning. I couldn’t believe him. He’s my dad, he must be joking like he always does. He loves me, he doesn’t truly mean that.

Oh, but he did. Me being a little girl, I didn’t understand. I was angry because I never thought that my dad, with whom I shared a special bond with, would make me suffer like that. But this passed too, and finally, I was allowed to go and play with my friends.

7 p.m. Sky is a light sea-blue. A little girl with curly brown hair is home early, with not a single stain of mud on her clothes. This was to happen every day. 

Not once did I dirty my dress or come home late after this. Even as a child, this punishment may have initially stung for a while – but I understood. I realized that this was my dad showing me tough love. A punishment that seemed cruel at the time, that made me angry, but eventually made me better. I realized that the tough love came from the genuine, pure love he held for me underneath.

In a way, there is a thin line between love, and what seems like cruelty at first, but once we open up to the necessity of tough love, we learn. We learn that the people who show us tough love are the ones that truly love us, the ones that make us stronger.

They protect us with their shield while we are young, and soon we know how to hold our own shields because they have taught us how to fight in battle. 

Tough love is like a test from the people we are closest to in our lives, a test that stings, if only for a little while, if only for a fraction of a second. A test that burns, yet prepares us for what is to come when we’re exposed to the real world, which will likely not be tough love.It will be actions and words that leave you breathless because of how much pain they bring. Not tough love, but it will be bigger fires that leave bigger scars – scars that stay forever. With tough love from the people that love us the most, we work together, them helping us along the way, although it may not seem it at the moment, to send these fires crashing down.

We become bigger and more powerful than the fire itself. Other people will no longer be the ones deciding how much damage they do or where the damage is going to be; the heart or the mind.

Tough love may feel like multitudes of pain waves in the moment, because it is that unexpected – honesty – becomes unexpected to us, because when we’re vulnerable and hurting, we don’t wish to hear the truth. But we do, the tough love forces us to hear it.

We didn’t think that someone who loves us would act in such a way – in a ‘tough love’ way. But we need tough love. We do.

Tough love fills our souls with the truth. Tough love made the little girl with curly brown hair stronger, which she didn’t know at the time, but realized soon after. As she grows older, she feels a sting, or countless stings, much more painful than the ones caused by tough love. So many stings that they no longer feel like stings – they burn more than anything she has ever felt – but she can take it. 

Imagine then, if she hadn’t felt tough love before, by the people closest to her. The pain of the stings would have taken over her entire body, mind, soul. Impossible to bear. 

This is why we need tough love. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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