How to Love the Difficult Person in Your Life

Have you ever thought about what makes someone unloveable? Do you find it hard to love the difficult person in your life? Maybe they are unkind, controlling, annoying, or don’t like other people.

On the flip side, what makes a person loveable? Is it the things they do or say? Does it matter how friendly, sweet, or fun they are? Maybe it’s how much they love other people?

It sometimes seems like the people who like us most are the easiest to love. The thing is, our brains get confused. Here is a little secret. What makes someone loveable is that you choose to love them. It has nothing to do with who you love but your capacity or ability to love other people.

One of the great things about life is we get to have different opinions and preferences, and we’re blessed with various capacities and experiences all affecting how we view other people.

I thought it would be fun to glean from the wisdom of some of my blogger friends. So I asked them: How do you choose to love the difficult people in your life? I appreciated their honesty and insight — and I’m sure you will too!

This post is a long post. So take a second and pin it to your relationship, mental health, or love Pinterest board now. This will allow you to come back to get a refresher on your favorite pieces of advice.

Janeen Alley | Vibrant Wellness

We all have opportunities to love others who are difficult.

I get it. I’ve had family members decide they don’t like me and are fine if they never talk to me.  Ever. And I’ve been flipped off numerous times by strangers.

And it’s all good.  It really is.

I don’t think returning hate for hate is the answer.  Yes, it spreads hate, but the bigger reason for me is selfish.  When I respond with hatred, I feel horrible! When I am thinking or feeling negative things about someone else, I am the one who feels terrible.  I suffer. Here’s the great news: I know I can opt-out of that emotion.

I know I can decide to love instead. It makes me feel so good.  

I’d rather do the work to choose love than giving in to my knee-jerk reaction to get defensive, offended, or judgemental.  When I am reactive, I become disempowered.

Unconditional love comes from a decision.  Sometimes we have to decide over and over. It’s like forgiveness.  Sometimes we have to forgive the same person over and over again. And that is okay.  

It makes it easier to love others when we choose to love ourselves first.  All of us. Our mistakes, our extra weight, our short-comings. The whole package.  If we have trouble loving ourselves or give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, we struggle to do the same for others.  When we cut ourselves some slack, accept our flaws and imperfections, we can easily see when others are “practicing” or trying their best.  

We can change our entire lives by noticing our thoughts and emotions.  By becoming aware of what we are thinking and feeling, we can start to change.

And when we change our thoughts, we change our lives.  

It’s a simple formula.  Easy? Not for me. I imagine it’s a life long work: to consciously choose to love and let go.  It’s okay. I’m totally game because I know I’m the one who wins.

How to Love the Difficult Person in Your Life 1

Cary Mac Arthur | Dare to Find Your V*O*I*C*E

I don’t choose to see people as “toxic” or difficult, that doesn’t mean toxic relationships don’t exist. I know relationships can be difficult.  In my experience, however, whenever I focus on the other person being “difficult,” I’m giving that person a portion of my ability to be happy.

I prefer not to lose some of my power to the idea someone is trying to make my life difficult. The truth is, the “difficulty” usually comes from the stories I tell myself about the other person’s behavior, from a belief that they intended to hurt me. I never can really know anyone else’s intentions, so why does it benefit me to focus on the idea that anybody is trying to hurt me—even if they are?   

Here’s my way of looking at it.

A relationship involves more than the other person— it also includes me. The only person I have control over is myself.  

The law of vibration states that I attract who I am being. So I have learned to ask myself “what do I want from my relationships?” and then I turn my focus inward and look for those things inside myself. In other words, I see ways to strengthen my relationship with myself.

Sometimes this means I intentionally distance myself from the other person to focus less on the difficulty and more on how I want to feel. Other times, the distance happens naturally because I attract who I am being, and sometimes the relationship is strengthened merely because the focus changed.  

I love to look at other people not as having an intention to hurt me but as doing the best they can with what they have. I know I wouldn’t want anyone to consider me as difficult or toxic, and I honestly believe (and I know there are exceptions to every rule) it’s not my job to judge whether or not someone has bad intentions toward me. My job is to nurture the good in myself and to look for the good in others~and what I focus on, I find.  

Kim Milius | Kim at Home

A long time ago, when I was getting frustrated by bad choices other drivers made on the road, I had a thought take root in my mind to help keep me from getting angry.  I realized sometimes I make mistakes while driving too. I would want others to forgive me when I mess up, and so I try to do the same.

I work to remember we are all doing our best.  Applying this principle, to life in general, means when someone is hurtful or challenging to get along with, I take a step back and realize they are doing the best they can with the tools they’ve been given — just like the rest of us.

Melanie Phillips | Melanie’s Library & Teach Me To Walk in the Light

The key to dealing with difficult people in my life, I have learned, is to make sure I don’t mirror that person. Don’t judge them because they judge me, don’t criticize them for criticizing me, or be mad at them because they’re mad at me. It comes down to realizing the one thing they don’t have control of is my feelings, I do.

Harboring anger towards someone is just punishing myself for someone else’s mistakes. It does no good. I’ve also learned you can love someone who doesn’t love you back and there’s nothing they can do about it 😉 Learning how to return love for hate is the hardest thing anyone can do, but it feels so much better.

Jen Schultz | Midday Mornings

The thing that has helped me love difficult people the most is learning to love myself better. I think a lot of people have heard – in some way, shape, or form – the admonition to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Well, if you don’t love “thyself” very well, it can be that much more challenging to love a person who is already challenging to love.

Knowing, truly knowing, I’m worth respect, love, and compassion allow me to create healthier boundaries with people who tend not to give those things. Those healthier boundaries can create less time with that individual or just different kind of time with him/her.

I think that this concept of loving ourselves and finding the right boundary for each relationship in our lives is a process, a journey. You’re going to make mistakes – we all do. But people who are worth keeping around are those who will work with you to stick around.

Michele Tripple | Confessions of Parenting

We run into difficult people in our lives for various reasons. Maybe it is the lady who cut in front of us at the pickup line or the man who offended us by questioning why you have so many kids. We can either allow these situations to run our lives or choose to view them differently.

One way I have decided to overcome difficult circumstances and love more is by giving others the benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps the lady who cut in front of you in line is picking up kids for a friend. Helping her friend is going to make her late to her doctor’s appointment. Or the man who questioned you for having so many kids — maybe he never experienced the joy of parenting because his wife died at an early age leaving him a widower.

We never really know what is going on in someone’s life. Or why people are sometimes challenging to be around.  When we give others the benefit of the doubt it makes it so much easier to love them.

Jennifer Wise | Life Tales Books & Personal Publishing

When I’m dealing with someone, and it feels like we’re looking at each other over a chasm, I have to remember my end goal is love.  Learning to deal with a person is not the same as learning to love a person.

I work to understand his/her personality, and I work to make sure my thoughts and expectations are serving me well, but the goal is love.  Love is what will make the differences between us unimportant. Love is the magic eraser.

How Do You Love the Difficult Person in Your Life?

Pretty great responses, right? So as you were reading was there a challenging person who came to mind?

What would you say, or think about this person? If you were to give a one-sentence summary, what would it be? What makes it most challenging to love them? What denies or blocks feelings of love?

Here’s a news flash for you — Every human being is 100% loveable precisely as they are. The truth is it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with your ability to love. You get to choose.

It’s interesting how our brains are experts when it comes to noticing what we don’t like; they are so good at pointing out words, actions, and opinions to make a person seem difficult.

When we allow those thoughts to generate negative emotions it doesn’t feel good. We automatically assume it is the person who is making us feel bad when it’s really our thoughts about the person.

The thing is, none of those emotions feel good.

When we think negative thoughts about another person it doesn’t punish them or make them want to change; in fact, they are often unaware of what is even going through your mind. No, we mostly punish our self when we feel those feelings.  

Letting Go

Love is not a one and done kind of deal — love them and check off the box. What it comes down to is a continuous work of letting go of the negative thoughts and embracing the good within them.

Stop believing this person should be different than they are and choose to love them because love always feels better.

One last thing to remember. When we choose to love someone it doesn’t mean you don’t protect yourself from them. Loving doesn’t mean we approve or condone their behavior. We can’t change someone and make them different than they are. We can only love them for the good we choose to see.

Leave a comment about how you’ve chosen to love a difficult person in your life?

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12 thoughts on “How to Love the Difficult Person in Your Life”

  1. Maybe I’m just a little harder to crack, it’s difficult for me to love or want to spend time with hard to love people…my husband is for certain one of those and my mother is another…I can also add my mother in law to that. I’ll start with my husband, and his mom rolls into it…he is a very hateful person, always negative, never says anything nice or gives me or our daughter compliments (I compliment him all the time), I do charity work, he criticizes it, I work out, he tells me I’m fat, it doesn’t matter what it is, he is just a miserable, nasty person…I believe any other woman would have done been gone and I can say that if I was employed I would be too, I am a stay at home mom and it’s hard to just uproot and find another place to live and get a job when you have no money. He’s not bad all the time but I would say at least 95% of the time he is hard to love…that’s where his mom comes in, she is also nasty, hateful, negative, she criticizes my and my daughter (her granddaughter), especially hard on my daughter…it’s very hard to be around her and I’m sure that’s where my husband got his ugliness and so the cycle continues. Now my mom, she is also negative but she’s very self centered and self absorbed, she only wants people around when she needs something and other than that she doesn’t want anything to do with her family, she doesn’t care about her kids or her grandkids, if I call to say hey she gets mad and wants to know why I’m calling to bother her. I’ve made the choice to not be around her simply because she brings me down with her negative and hateful ways. Does any of this mean I’m perfect? Of course not, but I can say I’m not negative or hateful and I don’t make a room unpleasant for someone to be in.

    1. Veronica, I don’t think you’re harder to crack. It is totally normal to not want to be around people that are difficult to love, but as you’ve pointed out. Sometimes they are so ingrained in our lives there doesn’t seem to be much of a choice. The one choice you do have is how you respond when you are around them. You get to choose how you want to feel about yourself and your daughter. Maybe practice being curious about why they say and do what they do, but don’t allow it to have any meaning about who you are. I have a couple of other articles you might find helpful to read. Why I Stopped Trying to Fix My Life and How Do You Respond to Your Circumstances. I hope they help you find ways to see the good in life even if it isn’t with those who are hard to love.

  2. Penelope Silvers

    I loved all these responses, but Kim’s stuck out to me. That is, we are all doing the best we can and if I keep that in mind, I can be more forgiving. There are a couple family relationships right now I have to keep turning over to God in prayer. This also changes my feelings and reactions toward that person and I can choose to love instead of harboring a grudge. #heartandsoullinkup

    1. I’m glad you found some insights about how to love the difficult person in your life. Turning them over to God can be a powerful way to learn what love is really about. Thanks for the comment, Penelope!

  3. So good Lori! SO many good things… I loved what you said at the end about wishing other people were different. They aren’t, so wishing they were different only creates frustration for you. xo!

  4. Being one that is difficult to love one thing to consider is their ability to trust or identifying what created the distrust. I am not saying I am unloveable by any means but I do have issues with identifying healthy boundaries so I do not become overly vulnerable. Those that I have successfully come to learn to trust and love are those willing to be patient and be okay with where that relationship is at that time. Eventually they will come out a bit further and be able to see themselves in a new light. Try not to get frustrated sometimes you need to take two steps back before proceeding further.

    1. I find we increase what we pay attention to. If I pay attention to the annoying habits, cruel words or irritating personality quirks, then that is all I will see eventually. I make a conscious choice to make lists of that persons positive aspects and focus on those. No one is all bad, everyone has redeeming features. It’s all about what you focus on.

      1. I like your idea to make lists of a person’s positive aspects – our brain can only focus on one thing at a time and why not make it the positive!

  5. Great thoughts! I loved Janeen’s suggestion that unconditional love is a decision that you sometimes have to make over and over. When I think about a person who is personally difficult to love, I realize that I often expect that I just choose to love and then that’s it. And that’s not reality in the slightest! I have to decide again and again to approach this person with love (and giving the benefit of the doubt along with several other strategies mentioned here). So that is a good thing for me to keep in mind. 🙂

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