Don’t call us, we’ll call you

January 25, 2009

Limits of our loyalty

I wrote about my second family member interview here and here and here.  If you had asked me during the summer which interviewee would have the greatest impact on me, I don’t think I would have said her.  But it turns out she comes to my mind quite often…this time while teaching my Marriage Enhancement class on Thursday.

Our topic was loyalty and I drew a lot of my material from two sources: my grad school mentor extraordinaire Vickie (I LOVE this girl!) and Dr. Blaine Fowers, a marriage therapist and scholar.  Since the purpose of the class is to enrich the students’ marriages and most of them are still very newlywed, we don’t talk a lot about the darker sides of marriage.  But it seemed important at this point to discuss the limits of our loyalty.  I quoted from Dr. Fowers:

“When a spouse is abusive, unfaithful, or addicted to alcohol or drugs, a wife or a husband must question the degree and form of his or her loyalty. Deciding how loyal we should be can be difficult at times, even excruciating.”

I was really struck by one part of this statement in particular: the form of loyalty.  I thought of this woman again, how she kicked her husband out of the house before he was arrested because his alcoholism was too destructive.  But even as she kicked him out, she helped him get an apartment, managed his money, drove him to and from AA and work, hired a lawyer.  The form of her loyalty had to change, but who could doubt that hers was still a deep, profound loyalty.

It is a strange thing to think that there are times when our deepest loyalty may be demonstrated by doing something that appears in the moment to be hurtful or harsh. I love this woman for all the things that she taught me that I am still discovering.



  1. I love it when you write. I think I will be digesting this piece for a while.

    Comment by Audrey — January 25, 2009 @ 11:14 pm

  2. As one student said to me after the class I taught on loyalty, in situations like this, it would be disloyal to our spouses NOT to take such action. If we really love our spouses, it is disloyal to let them engage in behavior that is so destructive to themselves and others.

    Comment by Vickie Blanchard — January 28, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

  3. Hey girl, I find that I never immediately respond to your posts because I find myself thinking about them quite a lot until you post again, when I have something new to think about.

    I recently finished reading a book by the military commander of the UN mission that was in Rwanda when the genocide started in April 1994. Even when there was the opportunity to pull the UN mission out, and such a move would have been supported because of safety reasons, he never chose such a path.

    He and the personnel with him saw horrendous hatred and suffering and yet their loyalty to protect Rwandans that sought shelter in UN secured areas never faltered. They would remain as long as there were people to protect. An amazing story of love and dedication in a time of utter chaos and absolute hate.

    Being loyal is often hard during times of extreme trial. But being loyal at these times is often the easiest because there is such a distinct outcome that can be seen from either choosing to be loyal or choosing to not be. It is when the gray areas come up that loyalties are truly tested.

    Comment by Kirsten — February 9, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

  4. This discussion of loyalty is profound. As an extremely “loyal” person I have had to learn when to be loyal to myself as well. It can be so easy for some of us to self-sacrifice b.c we feel it is the right thing to do, but when our sacrifice is taken advantage of, ignored, or out-right abused, we have to look deep within ourselves and decide at what point do we have to hold back our “love” so that person can fail just enough to learn how to pick themselves back up.

    When you are dealing with addictions of any sort, sometimes it is more loyal and more loving to let them drop below the radar, so they can recognize that they are the only ones who can make the change and fix the situation.

    And, even then, it doesn’t always work…

    I feel forever grateful, that I was able to be strong enough to realize when someone was taking all of my strength from me. It was a harder decision to realize my loyalty was just enabling, and it would be a disservice to us both, if that sort of commitment continued. And thankfully at that point it was something we could both agree on.

    Comment by Robin-Elise Call — February 20, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

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