How To Be in Relationship Without Enabling

Relationships can get dirty, especially when you take on others emotional dirt and debris. When you absorb others problems that you have no authority to change, you will get frustrated quickly.

You may feel sorry for your friend or family member, so you rescue them from having to face the natural consequences of their actions. Or maybe you try to solve their problem for them, except the problem keeps continuing.

These are all ways to describe enabling others problem behavior by trying to solve their problem or relieve their consequences. The more an enabler helps, the more irresponsible the other person may become. In this way, some helping can actually let the other person off the hook so much that it hinders their own problem solving. And I know you don’t want to be a part of the problem you are trying to solve!

If you are tired of feeling responsible for others problems and absorbing others emotional dirt, then get ready to establish some boundaries. Allow others to clean up their own emotional and behavioral messes by better defining your choices. In doing so, you value yourself as much as you value others.

What is a boundary?

Most people are very confused about setting boundaries, and they think it is a way to get others to comply with their expectations. Well this is my thought on what a boundary is and is not in relationships:

  • A boundary is NOT getting others to do what we want.
  • A boundary IS defining what we are/are not willing to do.

In this way, setting boundaries may mean you don’t do something even if the other person doesn’t do it either. Deep breath, let’s explore it further.

Boundary Making Steps That Liberate the Enabler:

If you are wanting to stay in a relationship with the person you have been enabling, then make steps towards respecting yourself as much as them.

1. Know Your Choices

You may not realize that you have a choice. How many parents want their kids to be happy, even if it costs them? Or, how many spouses will give in to make their spouse happy? If you step into others choices, you will collect some dirt. I know I have!

Your choices are questions that only you can answer. For instance, a mother pays for her adult son’s rent. She feels sorry for him, and says “he just can’t seem to manage his own money.” This mother has a choice.

2. Define Your Position

Is this mother okay with continuing to support her adult son financially? She is afraid to let her son experience consequences. Yet, she is tired of paying for two rent payments each month. She doesn’t want to let him move in with her, and she doesn’t want to keep paying his rent.

This mother sees her choices and is becoming clearer on her position. That is, what she is willing and not willing to do. Now how does she tell her son?

3. Communicate Your Boundary

Here’s where it gets hard. This mother will come face to face with her fears. Will he still talk to her? Will he argue with her? Will he still need her?

She takes a deep breath, and tells her son, “December is the last month I will pay your rent.” She makes a decision to stop avoiding this difficult topic. She is clear and direct.

This mom doesn’t try to convince him to be more responsible or give him more suggestions on managing his money. These would all communicate that he can’t possible make it without her. She is ready to let him grow up even if he stumbles.

4. Follow Through With Actions

Our actions often speak louder than our words. When you communicate your position, you will need to follow through with your actions.

Your loved one may try to avoid getting dirty, by convincing you he doesn’t know what to do with the “dirt.” He may try to pull you back into being responsible for him or his problem. Be ready to hold onto your new boundary even under pressure from others to cave.

5. Respect Other to Solve Own Problem

When you refuse to fix, rescue, or shape up your friend or family member due it out of respect for them to find their own answers. You are respecting them enough to find their own way, even if that includes experiencing some consequences along the way.

And sometimes when you don’t take responsibility for someone else’s irresponsibility, they just might surprise you by finding a way to manage the problem on their own. Even if it’s not the way you would do it, you are now carrying less of others dirt!


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Love Your Imperfect Parts Too



“I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy.”                                                                              Free to Be Me by Francesca Battistelli

I haven’t always felt free to be myself. I covered up the dents. I showed the world the best of me. The perfect me. It wasn’t arrogance, it was a cover up.

I coped with life’s challenges by being put together. By being smart. By being the healthy one. The one that knows better. Yet, if you looked under the surface, I was just as dented as others.

It has been freeing to embrace my imperfection. In doing so, I accept all of me. My desire for perfection leaves me self-critical, impatient, and irritable but self-acceptance frees me.

What about you? Are you embarrassed to show all of yourself to others? Or does perfectionism keep you stuck and afraid to mess up? Break through and embrace the journey of your life.

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

5 Ways to Journey to Self-Acceptance:


You are you.

You are not your mistakes, your symptoms, or diagnosis. Dump the labels. Trash the shame. Instead fall, learn, stall, and grow. Thrive in knowing yourself.


Embrace all of you.

We are made up of many different parts. Strengths and weaknesses. Maturity and immaturity. Some parts are shiny and some are dented. Each part makes up the whole.


Accept others as equals.

We are all on this journey of life. Doing the best that we can. We are not worse, nor better than others. We have more in common than we think.


Live in your own skin.

Be comfortable with who you are. Not having to prove yourself to others. Let go of trying to convince others of your worth. We don’t have to prove our point to be comfortable with ourselves.


Let others know you.

Be authentically you with all the ups and downs. Connect with others on the journey. Relate to others, as they find their own way too. Valuing others but not overvaluing their opinions of you.

“Inside imperfection lies something much more interesting and honest – something worth exploring – our wild ambiguity, our randomness, our difference, our humanity.” Katie Tallo of Momentum Gathering

What’s one thing that you love about yourself? Something that is both positive and negative, depending on your view.

I love that I am a reformer, a change enthusiast. It makes me strive and persist in face of challenges. Yet it invites impatience and perfection.

I’m learning to love the journey, more than the outcome. And I’m learning to love the perfectly imperfect parts of me. I can show my dents as much as my shiny parts.


If you would like to work on accepting yourself while connecting with others, try free introductory coaching session with Coach Marci!

Photo Credit: “Acceptance” by Jay from Norway

6 Tips for Fighting Less About Money

What do you fight about most with your spouse? Money is one of the most common topics couples argue about. It doesn’t matter if you have a little or a lot, managing money together can stir up differences and emotions quickly.

If you have different ideas and spending habits, how do you navigate money management when you share bills and money? Do you keep separate accounts? Or do you sit down each month and pay the bills together? I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to manage your shared money.

Yet I do think the more you can take emotions out of money management, the more cooperative you will be when discussing money matters. Here are some signs that your emotions may be holding you captive when it comes to money:

  • Spending beyond your means/income
  • Hiding debt/credit cards from spouse
  • Never opening bills/looking at bank statements
  • Letting someone else manage the money for you
  • Managing spending for someone else
  • Not wanting to talk about financial details
  • Overspending to get even with spouse/feel better about self

Do any of these sound like you? Before you go pointing a finger at your spouse or significant other, try to only take an inventory of yourself. Once you recognize your part, you can begin to calm the emotional waters under the surface of the conflict about money.

6 Tips for Couples to Fight Less About Money:

1. Sort out worry from the financial facts.

With the unemployment rate higher than usual, it’s really hard not to have some worry about finances these days. Yet when you can tease out your worry from the facts, you better understand your financial reality. Maybe it’s worse than you thought, but maybe it’s not as bad as you had feared.

For instance, Jane worries about her husband Ted’s real estate investments. Jane fears that the real estate mortgage may have to be paid by the family budget. When she looks at the facts, Jane is able to recognize that Ted has never paid for his investment property out of their joint account. So how did this worry get stirred up?

Jane shields Ted from money matters. She handles all the bills and bank statements. She does not want to upset her husband. Ted grew up “dirt poor” as he describes it, so spends freely as he makes it. Ted worries that the money will run out, so he better buy it when he has the money. If there is ever a money problem, Jane figures out a solution. Jane usually spends less to accommodates Ted’s spending habits.

So how does this couple get back on track? The first step is to identify the facts, meaning what they make, what they spend, and how it varies or stays the same.

2. Communicate the facts.

Once both Jane and Ted have separated their money facts from their money worries, they can choose to communicate the facts or the worries with each other. They will soon find out that communicating the facts is much calmer than talking about their fears and worries.

For instance, Jane can include Ted in the bill paying process by stating, “I can’t pay (bill name) this month.” And Ted can also communicate the facts by stating, “I want to buy a new weed eater for $150 next month.” But if Jane or Ted revert back to communicating fears, such as “you never let me spend money” or “I always have to solve your money problems,” then the conflict will return.

It is much easier to discuss the facts then your worries. This approach invites problem solving by keeping emotions turned down. Once couples are more cooperative and open with each other about their money facts, they can get down to the practical steps of getting their finances on track.

4. Identify your financial goals.

When you are steeped in conflict and differences, you may not think you have a common goal. While you may differ on the small things, I bet you have a common value or goal: To get out of debt? Save for vacations, home repairs, or emergencies? Or to replace your car? Invest in retirement?

Once you have identified your joint long term financial goals, also identify your short-term, individual goals. Examples of short term individual goals are joining a sport league or getting weekly manicures.

Whatever your individual goals are, decide whether it is realistic to make both the couple and individual goals happen. If it is realistic, take turns sharing your ideas on how to make your goals a reality!

5. Develop a plan to make your goals happen.

Find a system for defining how to live within your current income. Financial guru, Dave Ramsey urges us to “spend it on paper first.” (Click here to download free budgeting forms.)

Writing it down helps you see the facts as well as your choices. Define for yourself what you are willing to do and not willing to do. For instance, if you want more cable channels, what are you willing to give up? Is someone willing to make more money or spend less in an area?

6. Follow through with your plan.

I think this is the hardest part. Following through with your financial plan and continuing to manage your emotional reactions with your spouse.

By now you have identified what gets in the way of managing your money better, both inside yourself and between each other. When old habits and heated arguments start to peak their ugly head, ask yourself this: Do you want to act based on how you feel in the situation or your long-term goals?

Don’t let fear and money be your master! Identify the facts under the emotions and let them be your guide.

What helps you c0-lead money management matters with your spouse?


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