Are You An Enabler?

Being an enabler is a term that is commonly discussed in the context of addiction, but it can also apply to a wide range of situations. Essentially, an enabler is someone who supports or enables unhealthy behavior in another person.

What is Enabling?

Enabling can take many forms, and it can be hard to recognize when you are enabling someone. It can involve anything from making excuses for their behavior to actively encouraging their destructive behavior.

Some common signs of enabling include:

  • Making excuses for someone’s behavior, even when it is clearly harmful to themselves or others
  • Paying for someone’s expenses when they are not taking responsibility for their own financial well-being
  • Continuing to lend money to someone who is not paying you back and shows no sign of doing so in the future
  • Ignoring obvious signs of addiction or other destructive behavior
  • Allowing someone to be emotionally or physically abusive because you feel sorry for them or hope that they will change

Why Do People Enable?

There are many reasons why people may enable others, and it is not always easy to recognize when you are doing it yourself. Some common reasons include:

  • Fear of conflict or confrontation
  • Love or loyalty to the other person
  • Guilt or a sense of responsibility for the person’s behavior
  • Belief that the person will change if given enough support
  • Desire to avoid the person’s anger or disapproval

Whatever the reason, enabling behavior can ultimately do more harm than good. By supporting unhealthy behavior, you may be preventing the person from getting the help they need to address the underlying issues that are driving their behavior.

What Can You Do Instead?

If you suspect that you may be enabling someone, it is important to take action to change your behavior. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Recognize your own role in the situation
  • Set clear boundaries for what you are and are not willing to do
  • Encourage the person to seek professional help
  • Don’t make excuses for their behavior
  • Hold them accountable for their actions
  • Be supportive in a way that promotes positive change

If the person is not willing to accept help or change their behavior, you may need to consider taking a step back from the relationship.

Conclusion

Enabling can be a difficult pattern to break, but it is an important step towards promoting positive change in the people around you. By recognizing your own role in the situation and taking steps to change your behavior, you can help the people you care about achieve their goals and live healthier, happier lives.

If you suspect that you may be enabling someone, reach out to a counselor or support group for help. They can provide valuable guidance and support as you work to break free from this pattern of behavior and build healthier relationships.

FAQs

What is an enabler?

An enabler is someone who enables or allows another person’s negative behaviour by making excuses or helping them avoid the consequences of their actions. The enabler may believe they are helping the person or trying to avoid conflict, but they are actually perpetuating the negative behaviour.

How can I tell if I am an enabler?

If you frequently make excuses for someone’s negative behaviour, cover up their mistakes, or take on responsibilities that they should handle themselves, you may be enabling them. Enablers often feel a sense of guilt or responsibility for the other person’s actions, and may fear confrontation or conflict.

What can I do if I am an enabler?

If you suspect that you are enabling someone’s negative behaviour, it is important to set boundaries and let them face the consequences of their actions. This may include saying “no”, refusing to take on responsibilities that are not yours, or encouraging the person to seek professional help. It is also important to seek support for yourself, as enablers often experience stress and burnout.


References

1. Wilson, J. E., & Smith, B. H. (2019). Understanding and responding to enabling behavior in addiction. Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy, 14(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13011-019-0237-4

2. Shorey, R. C., Juliano, L. M., Brasfield, H., & Temple, J. R. (2015). The role of enabling behaviors in emerging adult dating violence. Journal of interpersonal violence, 30(11), 1873-1892. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260514542675

3. Pincus, A. L., & Gomez, A. F. (2016). Changing enabling attitudes in intimate partner violence: A randomized controlled trial of a psychoeducational intervention. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 84(2), 147-157. https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000071