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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4 responses to “How To Be in Relationship Without Enabling

  1. It’s hard to find experienced people on this subject, but you sound like
    you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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