What is an enabler and are you one?
An enabler is somebody who helps their loved one, partner in the case of my work, to be helpless, to be rescued. In situations where one partner is always, or not always but usually, the victim, with that comes a rescuer and even though both roles can be mutually frustrating, both are totally dependent on each other. If you are finding that you are in this situation with your partner, if your partner is, let’s say for example, the victim and considers themselves to be at times helpless, getting it wrong, unable to do things, either physically or being emotionally stable or strong, then what do you think you are doing to support that? Now this is this is a huge area and really quite complex, but often couples come to me or I work with women, where they feel very frustrated that their partner isn’t doing what they want them to be doing or doing what they feel like they should be doing and it can often come across as being quite one-sided. I work with females so my experience is mostly working with females, unless I’m working with a couple… so often my female clients will come and they will share their frustrations with their partner that their partner isn’t doing XYZ and they feel like they are doing all of the hard work, carrying the load, running their business, running the home, like life, basically. But sometimes, whenever I ask the ladies that I work with, what is it you are doing to support this? What are you doing to keep this cycle going? We often then start to uncover something quite different. Usually if we are talking about victim and rescuers, rescuer /enabler .. what is it that the rescuer is getting out of the cycle? Ok fine frustration, yes, anger, yes, but actually is there a need that is being fulfilled by rescuing? Is there an element there of feeling wanted, needed? So I’m not necessarily coming at this from a hierarchical point of view, meaning like power, but rather that there is a codependency for the rescuer to go in and somehow feel validated, even amongst the frustration of the rescue. In these situations it can be really difficult to break the cycle because it’s a cycle and each role fulfils and feeds the other. So if you are relating to this and if you consider that maybe you might be the rescuer or the victim, what do you think that you need to do to break the cycle? These are big, these are big questions with big answers, because you know, when you’re.. with the women that I work with, thinking about the rescuing mode, it comes from a place of love.. it doesn’t, you know, there’s nothing nasty about it. It comes from a place of not wanting to see your partner or husband upset. There’s genuine care there, exactly the same as when I have worked previously, both in my social work capacity and in my counselling and coaching capacity, working with parents of children, adult children, teenage children, with significant problems.. you know, I’m talking about criminal problems. But there are some mums that literally keep going into protective mode because it’s love.. but there is a crossover between love and enabling and that’s when it becomes very difficult! So if you are rescuing your partner, what do you think that you need to do to step away from the problem? What are the triggers that come up constantly and what do you think that you need to discuss between you so that you have some ground rules for when this happens: ‘This is how I’m going to respond because this is the only way that we are going to break the cycle’. Have that conversation, you know, talk about what is going on for you both how you are both perpetuating the cycle and then you can come up with some rules together about how you’re going to break it.