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Applying ‘tough love’ in your relationships


Bishop Charles Ighele

Like I wrote last week, the phrase “tough love” is what we use in marriage and family counselling to describe a situation, where you need to take tough action to prevent people you really love from misbehaving. Some time ago, my wife and I had a phone call on a Saturday morning. The caller, who happened to be the husband of one of my first cousins, sadly informed us that he just lost his wife. The story was that she had made up her mind to deliver her baby in a prayer house and not in a hospital for spiritual reasons.

The husband said he applied all necessary pressure on his wife for the baby to be delivered in the hospital, but she refused. She delivered the baby quite alright, but she died a few days later, due to complications, which the prayer house people did not have the medical skill and equipment to handle. “Why didn’t you force her to the hospital,” we asked in restrained and unnoticed disappointment. His reply was, “my wife would not listen to me.” He further told us that he tried his best to move his wife to the hospital, when complications arose.

But my wife Carol and I felt that his best was not good enough. We didn’t tell him how we felt, because he was still in deep shock and mourning. But how can a man force a grown woman to the hospital against her personal wishes and desires? This is when the husband ought to have applied “tough love.” He should have lovingly bundled her to the hospital for delivery. Na by force? Yes, na by force! If I were the man, I would have gone to mobilise her relations, friends, well wishers and church members to apply mental, spiritual and physical pressure on her to make her go to hospital for delivery.


No strong willed woman will like this kind of action being taken, but it does not matter. “Tough love” should be applied to save someone you love from harming himself or herself. If I were her husband, I could have considered the option of going to the police. Ha! Bishop, police? Yes ooooo, police. I would have told the police to come and lovingly bundle her to the hospital. But bishop why would you want a matrimonial matter to be taken to the police? Dis one don pass matrimonial. Na death we dey talk about. It’s about the life and death of someone you love. To me, this is about one of the few instances where I will apply the Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means.” In this instance, what mattered most was saving the woman’s life, using all legal, spiritual, emotional and physical means. A basic principle in parenting is that you do not allow your child to misbehave.

But when your child has made up his or her mind to misbehave, the parents should also fully make up their minds not to allow him or her to misbehave. If my late first cousin’s husband had made up his mind not to allow his wife decide the way she did, she would not have died. If Eli (under the law) and Ananias and Sapphira (under grace) had applied “tough love” to restrain their children and spouse respectively from misbehaving, Eli and his sons and Ananias and his wife would not have died the same day. In applying “tough love,” the person has to repeatedly hear that you are doing what you are doing, because you love him or her so much.

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In this article:
Charles Ighelelove
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