When Love Doesn’t Look Like Love: My Choice to Stop Enabling

I couldn’t do it anymore.

What do you want to do?

I don’t want to pick up his pieces any longer – I don’t want to continue to clean up the mess from his bad decisions. But I also don’t want to hurt him – and I know he’ll be very hurt (and angry) if I stop.

I didn’t think I should knowingly do things that would disappoint my husband, but instead go along to get along. Values that were taught in my family – they were taught in my church, taught in my community. Peacekeeping was valued over peacemaking and real, authentic relationship.

Yes, he will be hurt – and he’ll feel like you’re abandoning him.

Well, aren’t I?

Yes, you will be essentially.

But the real crime was that I abandoned myself many years prior.

I was talking to my therapist. Trying to work through my current state of pain to find myself again. I owned a business with my husband. Like any good co-dependent, I had taken on too much in an attempt to ‘help’ – which was code for ‘control.’ I took on his problems as my own and he liked it that way. It was easier that way. There was poor decision making - on his part and mine as well. Because when you’re living in crazy, it’s hard to make good decisions. These decisions made it impossible for the work to get done effectively which in turn hindered cashflow – and well… I couldn’t pay the bills with no cash and he wouldn’t make the changes necessary to help that situation.

I wanted out – I needed out. Of the business, not the marriage, that came later.

In ‘helping’, and holding it all together, I was enabling. Which made me insane and prevented him from taking responsibility. The problem was, I knew instinctively that if I didn’t, our world would begin to crumble.

The enabling needed to stop – both in the business and in our marriage.

I felt terribly guilty. I had no grid for what I was about to do – there was a risk I might be making a terrible mistake.

My enabling prevented both of us from growing. Many will look at enabling and call it love, but I can tell you, it’s the furthest thing from it. Accepting and justifying someone’s unacceptable behavior is the most unloving thing you can do. This is love’s ugly counterfeit.

He was living life at my expense. Which is typical in dysfunction. Someone had to be around to pick up the pieces of our chaotic and unmanageable existence and I was a willing volunteer. I was the master fixer– it was the pool from which I drew my self-worth.  I became very, very worthy in its tide.

 

The choice to stop enabling and unravel myself from the dysfunction created shock waves in our life and in our marriage. When I stopped, everything began to fall apart.  Sometimes things need to fall apart so they can be rebuilt stronger, better.

There were those around me who suggested my behavior was unloving. He certainly thought so. But I believed and still believe that the most loving thing you can do for someone (and yourself) is to allow them to take full responsibility for their own actions, attitudes, and beliefs. Step back and allow the chips to fall where they may. Partners, children, friends, family – no one is exempt. I am no longer in the business of head lifeguard and rescuer. I’m no longer anyone’s savior. I’ll leave those things up to the appropriate powers at be.

This is a bold way to live, I know. But it works.

Here’s to making it great.