It’s easy to look at a violently dysfunctional relationship and see how the person who’s being abused is enabling their partner. But enabling doesn’t just happen in such desperate circumstances. It happens in small things too.
Any time anybody disrespects me and I don’t defend myself, I’m sending them a message that what they’re doing is okay. It happens all the time, so it’s high on the list of things that have to change if we want to have great relationships, be treated as equals, and experience love and respect.
But enabling isn’t just about letting the other person do something neurotic or disrespectful.
We always hear about enabling our partners, but actually what are we doing with ourselves? When I enabled past partners, I allowed them to avoid responsibility for discounting me, disrespecting me, emotionally abusing me.
But when I blamed them and stayed stuck in that blame, I enabled myself to avoid responsibility for my own actions – the choices I was making that kept me from being able to be real, and from protecting myself. I hated having to face this! But enabling does cut both ways, there’s no escaping it.
If I avoid listening to my emotions and feelings and I won't let myself express them or meet my needs, I'm enabling myself to be unimportant. If I know I have low entitlement and self esteem but I don't do anything about it, I'm enabling myself to be powerless.
If I’m letting you avoid the truth of how badly you’re behaving yes I'm enabling you. But I'm also enabling myself not to face the truth - that I have to change if I want to be happy, if I want love and respect from you.
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