Signs of Enabling Behaviors

The desire to help others is a common, noble human instinct. Parents want to help their children succeed in life. Spouses want to help one another navigate stresses. Friends want to help each other with personal relationships. Helping those we love is generally a mutually beneficial action that is admirable, to say the least. However, those great intentions can become harmful when any negative and enabling behaviors are involved. 

What is an Enabler?

An enabler is someone who helps and often promotes an individual to continue their destructive behaviors. Commonly, the word enabler is associated with an individual enabling a drug addict or alcoholic. However, whether your loved one is struggling with drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, codependency, or any other unhealthy behavior – you may be displaying enabling behaviors. It is likely that you are trying to help fix the problem, but in doing so, you are actually preventing your loved one from being held accountable for their destructive or unhealthy actions. An enabler is defined by enabling behavior in which you may attempt to handle your loved one’s responsibilities, so he/she does not have to face the consequences of their actions. Here are a few signs of enabling behaviors. 

Signs of Enabling

When it comes to helping people we love, there is a fine line between helping and enabling. Enabling is when someone offers help that perpetuates unhealthy behavior rather than helping to solve the problem. Here are a few other signs you may be enabling your loved one. 

  • Ignoring your loved one’s negative or potentially dangerous behavior – Negative behaviors are not limited to addictions but involve any type of behavior that may be damaging or potentially harmful. If you are overlooking problems or denying a problem even exists, you are enabling your loved one. 
  • Difficulty articulating emotions – Enablers often withhold their true feelings in fear of experiencing negative repercussions for doing so.
  • Prioritizing your loved one’s needs before your own – While helping our loved ones is natural, enabling behaviors take it a step further. The enabler will neglect his/her own feelings to take care of their loved one. 
  • Running on fear – Addictions and unhealthy behaviors can lead to frightening events in which the enabler will do whatever it takes to avoid such situations.
  • Lying to others to protect your loved ones – Enablers often lie to maintain peace with their loved ones and to present a controlled, calm appearance. 
  • Blaming other people, places, and things to avoid blaming your loved one – In order to protect your addicted or unhealthy loved one, you may find yourself accusing other people or situations as the problem.
  • Resenting your loved one – The result of the mentioned enabling behaviors is that you will likely feel angry and hurt. You may find yourself resenting your loved ones while continuing to enable your loved one.

If you notice these enabling behaviors to be common in yourself, then you may be enabling your loved one.

How to Break the Cycle of Enabling Behaviors

Enabling behaviors are dangerous not just to you, but to your loved one as well. Breaking enabling behaviors can be extremely difficult. In order for your loved one to recognize the consequences of their behavior, you must break the cycle of your enabling behaviors. Here are a few tips.

  1. Leave the consequences where they are – It is not your job to clean up the messes left behind by your addicted or unhealthy loved one. Leave the consequences where they are.
  2. Take time to weigh your options for long-term and short-term pain – Will helping your loved one cause pain for you?
  3. Protect yourself – You should always avoid any situation with your loved one that disrupts your mental, physical, or spiritual wellbeing.
  4. Follow through with plans – Regardless of whether your loved one participates in a planned activity, follow through with them.

How to Learn More About Enabling Behaviors

When attempting to rid yourself of enabling your loved one, the process can be extremely difficult. In order for everyone to heal, the enabler must recognize that their help is causing harm and quit enabling their loved one. The best way to end the cycle is to seek help from a professional recovery coach. One of the hardest things you can do is to gain the courage to ask for help. At alteredSTATE, we believe that we’re all recovering from something because we’ve been there. Creating sufficient and long-term lifestyle changes means more than just putting down the bottle, the drug, or that negative pattern. It means healing interpersonal relationships & behavior. Creating attainable action steps to reach realistic goals is what works. Tony has lived it, and he’s here to guide you with a program that works – helping you create a life of possibilities and free from enabling behaviors. 

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