Enabling: What Is It and Why Fix It?
Posted: April 13, 2017
Do You Know An Enabler?The term “enabler” is often used to describe a person who is involved with someone addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behavior. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to enable someone is to “provide with the means or opportunity” to achieve something. With this definition in mind, it’s easy to see how enabling can be both positive and negative. Parents who pay for a child’s college tuition enable the child to earn a college degree which is a positive thing. In contrast, a wife that takes over all household responsibilities because her husband drinks too much enables her husband to keep drinking by removing the consequences of his inaction. The second example demonstrates the type of enabling which is often present within relationships affected by addiction.
Enabling Vs. HelpingWhile it is noble to try and help a person you care about, there is a line between helping and enabling which gets blurred in relationships impacted by addiction. A behavior which is done to “help” the addicted individual often has the unintended consequence of enabling the bad behavior. The result of this dysfunctional pattern is the enabler feeling burned out and overwhelmed, and the addict continuing down a path of destruction. Not sure if you are an enabler? Here’s a list of common “symptoms” of enablers:
- Feeling like you are “doing it all” in the relationship
- Making excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family
- Performing “disaster control” such as cleaning up vomit, broken items, or throwing away evidence of the substance use
- Helping move your partner into bed after passing out elsewhere
- Always putting your needs aside in order to help someone else
- Lying to cover up the mistakes of your partner
- Worrying that if you do not take care of something that your partner will be angry, threaten you, or even leave you