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Dealing with ‘Hot Stove’ People

A few thoughts on the people you should keep at arm’s length.

I grew up in the 80s. Back then, there was no such thing as child-safety measures. We didn’t wear seatbelts in the car. No, there was no furniture anchored to the wall. There were no such things as outlet covers. I remember this kid Trevor sticking a paper clip in an electrical outlet during a middle-school geometry class. Sparks flew from the wall, a loud popping noise, and a sudden paper clip burn mark was left imprinted on Trevor’s fingers.

We all laughed, including Trevor. And you know what? I never saw him do it again.

You see, this is how parenting went down in the ’80s. If you decided to build stairs out of your chest of drawers, your mom would come to preach to you while you were still buried under the tower of wood and underoos before she would save your ass.

Eighties parents would let you touch a hot stove so you’d know hereafter, “Wow, that stove is hot.” I did that once. That was all it took. My parents had these cabins in Colorado with a wood-burning stove. A wood-burning stove gets hot—really hot. Every last inch of it gets hot. Want to know how I know that? I touched it. Not only that, I leaned on it with my full palm lying flat on the top. I think that’s where my fingerprints on my left hand remain to this day. IT HURT!

I walked around with my hand in a cup of ice water for days. But guess what I never did again? I never touched that hot stove again.

It’s called learning everything the hard way.

But let me ask you this.

Why are those lessons easier to learn than those involving “hot stove” people? You know the people I’m talking about. They drain your batteries and always leave you worse for the wear. But still, you keep coming back for more. Even if you get burned every single time.

It can be a lot of varying degrees of hotness—anywhere from selfishness to psychopaths. Yet, we continue to keep their company. Sometimes you can’t help it if they are in the workplace or a part of your family but still we don’t have to allow them to continuously burn us.

So, why do we do it?

It can be for many different reasons, but I think it comes down to a choice few.

We often don’t understand or embrace our value in relationships.

And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships. I’m talking about all relationships. Family. Work. Friendships.

I’ve discovered that it can quite often be a lack of self-love in my life. I think I “have to” play nice. I worry about what people would think of me if I didn’t play nice all the time. And since when does “playing nice” equate with treating yourself poorly?

I also have found it’s a significant lack of boundaries. Good ‘ole fashioned boundaries. One of my favorite quotes from the Queen of codependency is this;

We cannot simultaneously set a boundary and take care of another person’s feelings. It’s impossible; the two acts contradict..”

Melody Beattie

And what happens when you set a boundary with a “hot-stove” person? I can tell you that they aren’t going to like it. And they will do their very best to punish you. You may be met with anger, invalidation, or distancing. They may do all of those and more simultaneously. But you know what?

That’s okay.

We don’t have to control outcomes with others. We can love ourselves and care for ourselves to the best of our abilities. We can do our best to love others healthily and responsibly. But we don’t have to keep returning to the hot stove repeatedly to touch it and see if it will keep burning us.

It will. Want to know how I know? 😂

So it all comes back to the same lesson that repeats itself over and over and over and over (infinity) in my life. The answer is letting go and giving ourselves the love and value we need. Stop touching the stove because the stove can only burn us if we continue to return to it.

Peace, love, and moxie!

~ Betty

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