By Bernadette A. Moyer
There are all kinds of enablers some may be knowingly enabling and others unknowingly. My father was an alcoholic and my mother the classic enabler. It was a typical co-dependent relationship. I am sure she thought she was helping him. She was a registered nurse and in a “helping” profession. She loved him and supported him and stayed with him even when his behaviors dictated that she shouldn’t have.
As a parent I am sure we enabled some behaviors that we would not have accepted from any others. We loved our children and often thought we were helping them. If we had it we wanted to share what we had with them even after they became adults. This often showed itself in “arrested development” the more we did for them, the less they did for themselves. This often leads to resentment on their side and our side too.
There is often a fine line between helping and enabling. What I have learned as a parent is that as hard as it is to watch your child fall and fail you have to step back and let them pick themselves up. Trust that they will figure it out, it is part of learning and growing up. Once they learn to pick themselves up they start to build their own confidence and become successful in life.
I hear about “enablers” quite often in my estranged parents support group. This is usually a person or a family that supports the “victim” the “co-dependent” and helps them to go against their parents. The “enablers” support them in making decisions they might otherwise never have made without the assistance of these “enablers.”
A friend’s daughter recently was married and mom and dad were not invited, to make matters worse the grandfather gave the bride away. The grandparents took the young daughter in and supported her in estranging from her mother and father. What were they thinking and why? These are life altering decisions that will last forever. Dad is not only feeling betrayed by his own daughter but by his father too. Would the grandparents want this to have been done to them?
What should they have said and done? How about go home and work it out, all teenagers and young adults have struggles with their parents, you only have one mother and father, we love you but you have to go home and work it out.
I experienced this twice now myself with both my teenage daughters who found women to take them in and go against mom and dad. And it was always over a boy. One woman I never met even though I asked to meet with her. She “enabled” the behaviors of a struggling teenager. This woman has now raised my grandson who recently turned 18, my grandson who has no real relationship with his birth mother and who never met his maternal grandmother. So who won here? And I am left to wonder what kind of woman involves herself in another woman’s family without even meeting them for yourself and making your own opinion? Who has a better life because of her “enabling?”
Second daughter returned home seven years later, she sees now in her own words that she was “young and dumb” she got used by people that “enabled” her poor teenage behaviors. She admits to being a “defiant teenager” sadly the “enablers” used her for their own gain.
I think a lot of “enabling” points back to ego, thinking they know better or are better. Today I don’t question the young teenager who naturally rebels against her parents as part of growing up but I do question the real and true motives of the people that have enabled them. What was in it for them?
Motives, agenda and egos all play a role in the type personality that enables, ask yourself what is your true motivation and agenda and what part does your ego play? Are you helping or are you hurting? If you are doing things to impact another family that you would not want anyone to do to your family that is probably a good litmus test.
If you really want to love others and help others, stop enabling and start trusting that the people that you think you are helping will figure it out for themselves, they will! And they will love you and appreciate you all the more for not stunting their growth and allowing them to develop into their own mature and successful selves!
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