Many of us tend to have a deep-seated desire to “save” someone by turning their life around. If this sounds like the situation you’re in, kudos to you for making a difference in someone’s life. But before you give yourself a pat on the back, consider the possibility that you may be doing more harm than good.
You always put your partner’s needs before your own. This can easily be mistaken as selfless and you may even feel good about yourself for doing it, but this is seriously unhealthy! By refusing to account for your own needs in the relationship, you’ll slowly deteriorate into someone who feels they aren’t worthy of having needs at all. It’s OK to say no and make a beeline for the day spa.
You’re blatantly ignoring the unhealthy behavior. If you were living with a toddler who was tearing through the house, decorating the walls with a fresh box of crayons, would you just ignore them? No way—they’d totally be in a crayon-free time out. Just because your sig o is an adult (or attempting to be one) doesn’t mean they should be off the hook for bad behavior. If they have a pizza addiction and order a large pie with the works several times a week, an enabler will sit down for a slice to make them happy. Yes, pizza is delicious, but ignoring the problem will not make it go away.
You apologize way too much. Most of us, especially the ladies, are cursed the bad habit of apologizing simply for existing. “Sorry! Let me get out of your way!” or “Sorry to bother you but…” The truth is that enablers hate conflict and will do anything to avoid it. This includes apologizing for something that is not their fault. The fighting may be over, but the problem is still alive and thriving. Grow a pair and stop giving in. This will lead to longer arguments and sometimes unresolved fights, which sucks, but it’s definitely more productive.
You blame yourself for their shortcomings. You are not their keeper. You are not responsible for their actions. Stop blaming yourself. Treating them like children will not hold them accountable for their actions. If they’re not accountable for their actions, there will never be an improvement in their behavior.
You’re afraid to express your feelings to them. Unexpressed emotions create a breeding ground for animosity and resentment. They’ll grow and fester until you can’t contain them anymore, at which point they release in a passive-aggressive manner. No one likes a passive-aggressive jerk.
Your life literally revolves around your partner. Just because they’re your other half doesn’t mean that you’re literally half of a human without them. It’s important to have hobbies, passions, and friendships that are separate from your relationship. Enablers tend to put their own interests aside in order to prioritize those of their partners.
You encourage irresponsibility. No one wants to be the nagging partner. Like Regina’s mom in Mean Girls, you try to be the cool one who offers alcohol to the high school girls. You want your partner to be happy and you want to be the one to bring the happiness. In theory, that’s sweet. In reality, you’re fueling their bad behavior. You’re making it so, so much worse.
You treat them like they’re a helpless, fragile being. It’s easy to confuse enabling with empowering. You find yourself cleaning up their messes, showering them with affection and constantly checking in. By coddling your partner, you’re making it impossible for them to become stronger. You’re also probably annoying the hell out of them.
You lie to cover up their mistakes. We all had that friend in high school that our parents hated so we covered up their screw ups so that we could continue to hang out with them. Newsflash: we’re not in high school anymore, so why are you taking the blame for your partner’s mistakes? Even if you’re a super good liar, lying is absolutely exhausting and you should be saving your lies for fake sick days at work and getting out of that dinner with your mother-in-law. In order for them to become a fully-functioning adult, they need to be held accountable.
You’re starting to resent them. I’m going to be the bad guy that tells it like it is. You may as well save yourself the time and call the relationship quits now. You’re internalizing your emotions, lying to defend their honor, missing out on your passions and cleaning up their messes. Have I left anything out? And here’s the worst part about it all: you’re making their recovery harder than it needs to be. If this sounds at all familiar to you, it’s time to seek some help and reclaim your independence for their sake and your own.
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