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tough love (uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic) The compassionate use of stringent disciplinary measures, to attempt to improve someone's behavior.
    • 1995 April 12, Jane E. Brody, "Personal Health: Intervening with someone who drinks too much," New York Times (retrieved 6 April 2015):
      [H]e found himself surrounded by a circle of caring friends and relatives who told him one by one that they loved him but could not continue to live with him or be his friend the way he was. As one of his closest friends recalled, it was a show of tough love.
    • 2002 Aug. 19, Tim Padgett and Andrew Downie, "Bush's Lost Continent," Time (retrieved 6 April 2015):
      [W]hen it came to Latin America's economic travails, Bush adhered to the principle of tough love: no more bailouts.


tough love (third-person singular simple present tough loves, present participle tough loving, simple past and past participle tough loved)

  1. Alternative form of tough-love
    • 1986, Joseph A. Muldoon, ‎James F. Crowley, One step ahead: early-intervention strategies for adolescent drug problems, page 137:
      She could not be "tough loved" into improving her behavior and saddling her with full responsibility for her problems would have been inappropriate.
    • 1997, Anthony Walsh, Correctional assessment, casework, and counseling, page 241:
      These folks "tough loved" Jim into sobriety.
    • 2013, Jeffery P Dennis, Queering Teen Culture: All-American Boys and Same-Sex Desire in Film and Television, page 33:
      The biggest fear of the adults and the audience was that they would fall prey to the gangsters who offered cars, zoot suits, and dough in exchange for a few minor “jobs,” but all they needed was a caring newspaper reporter, cop, or priest to tough love them onto the straight and narrow.