Enabling is a term used to describe behaviors and attitudes that enable another person’s lack of responsibility. Enabling can take a variety of forms and is often seen in relationships where one party provides the other with financial or emotional support, allowing them to avoid taking responsibility for their own behavior. In this article, we will define enabling and discuss the dangers of giving someone your unconditional support come what may.
Define Enabling – What is it Exactly?
The word enabling is mostly used is in the context of a toxic relationship, when an individual continues to provide resources, support or assistance to their partner despite being aware of their toxic behavior.
This can include excusing bad behavior, enabling destructive habits and providing financial aid without asking for accountability or change from their partner.
Unfortunately, enabling in a toxic relationship can be damaging to both parties and can lead to longer-term psychological and emotional damage.
Define Enabling – The Characteristics of Enablers
Enablers have a tendency to be deeply empathic and compassionate, often putting others’ needs before their own.
Unfortunately, however, the fact is that unconditional support can lead to an unhealthy dynamic in relationships, as it keeps the recipient from learning how to take responsibility for their own decisions and successes.
Additionally, enablers often end up feeling taken advantage of and resentful once the other person does not reciprocate their support.
Enablers are often people who are empathic and compassionate, meaning they feel the emotions of others and want to help them.
They can be overly generous with their time, resources and attention, sometimes at their own expense.
Enablers tend to not set clear boundaries or expectations in their relationships, which can make it difficult for them to identify when someone is taking advantage of them.
Enablers put other people’s needs before their own and may have difficulty standing up for themselves when necessary.
They have a tendency to become codependent on the person they are enabling, investing too much of their emotional energy into the relationship instead of focusing on themselves.
Enablers often put a lot of pressure on themselves to fix problems that don’t necessarily have an easy solution – even if it means sacrificing any chance for personal growth and development in the process.
They lack self-awareness when it comes to recognizing how their actions may be enabling another person’s negative behavior or attitudes and how this could be harming them in the long run.
Define Enabling – Examples of Different Types of Enabling Behaviors
Financial. Enablers may provide financial support to someone who is in need, such as helping them pay bills, buying them food or clothing, and even loaning them money.
Emotional. Enablers may also provide emotional support in the form of listening, offering advice, and providing a shoulder to lean on when things get difficult.
Protective. Enablers may protect their loved one by defending them to others and intervening if they think the person is being mistreated or taken advantage of.
Excusing behavior. Some enablers excuse bad behavior by making excuses for their loved one’s mistakes or bad decisions instead of holding them accountable for their actions.
Denying problems exist. An enabler may ignore signs that something isn’t right or deny there is an issue at all in order to avoid conflict and protect the other person from having to deal with it.
Making decisions for them. An enabler may take on decision-making responsibilities for the other person, which can result in enabling irresponsible behavior and keeping that person from taking ownership of their own life choices.
Advice for Enablers to Improve the Quality of Their Relationships
People who have enabling traits need to practice setting and communicating clear boundaries about what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not tolerated in the relationship.
This could mean being honest, acting respectfully, and avoiding manipulative behavior.
Making these expectations clear upfront will help both the enabler and their loved one by setting a healthy foundation for the relationship.
Enablers should be firm but fair when setting boundaries.
They should be willing to give support with the expectation that the person being enabled will take responsibility for their own choices and actions, rather than just providing unconditional assistance without expecting any effort from them in return.
Doing so will foster a healthier environment where both parties can grow independently yet still rely on one another when needed.
Give Support that is Conditional
Totally unconditional support is unhealthy for everyone involved.
People with enabling tendencies should give their loved one assistance, while expecting them to take responsibility for their own behaviors, decisions, and outcomes.
This approach encourages autonomy and independence, encouraging their loved one to rely on themselves more rather than depending too much on others for help.
By providing support with a set of expectations, enablers can foster a healthier relationship without becoming too emotionally invested in the person’s struggles or taking on too much responsibility for their outcomes.
Doing so allows both parties to maintain an atmosphere of respect and trust which is essential for any healthy relationship.
Hold Them Accountable
When someone crosses a boundary or takes advantage of the enabler’s generosity, it is important to let them know so they can learn to take better care of themselves and those around them.
This could mean having a constructive conversation about the issue or taking away privileges if needed, as long as it is done with respect and understanding so that both parties can come to an agreement.
Enablers should also be mindful of their own behavior and make sure that any consequences are proportionate to the mistake made.
Doing so will ensure that everyone involved learns from the experience and a healthy boundary system is established for the future.
Practicing self-care is essential for people with enabling tendencies.
It can be easy to get caught up in taking care of someone else, but enablers need to remember to take care of themselves first if they want to be able to give from a place of abundance rather than scarcity.
This could mean setting aside time for yourself each day, whether that’s journaling, reading a book, or going for a walk – whatever it is that helps you feel recharged and refreshed.
Don’t Play Parent
Avoiding playing a parental role is essential for people with enabling tendencies.
While it may feel natural to try and fix someone else’s problems, it’s important not to overstep into a parental role as this can create resentment or codependency issues down the road.
Instead, enablers should strive to empower their loved one to come up with their own solutions to their challenges.
This could involve providing guidance and advice when necessary, but ultimately giving the individual space to make decisions and foster independence in order to develop the skills and confidence that comes with being autonomous.
Final Thoughts on Enabling
Enabling a toxic relationship is never ideal, as it can lead to potential harm that may take years to heal.
It’s important to break the cycle of enabling by establishing healthy boundaries and creating an environment where both individuals can learn and grow, while also allowing for space and time apart if necessary.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that everyone deserves a safe and loving relationship and unhealthy behavior should never be tolerated.