Friday, March 19, 2010

Healthy Love vs Enabling Love

I was recently asked if I thought true, authentic, real love was possible.

A reader of mine mentioned that my blogs and articles tend to imply that 'taking care' of others is always the wrong thing to do. She expressed confusion, because it was unclear to her why taking care of others is such a bad thing. She had been taught to be a caretaker since the age of three, when her father died and her mother took up to drinking.

"But I love my mother Lisa. Aren't I supposed to take care of her? Aren't I supposed to worry about her? She is all alone, and she drinks all the time. There is no way she could take care of herself?"


Life is not so cut and dry, and never is it completely black and white. Of course it is natural and good to take care of the ones we love, but when that caring becomes enabling, then it has crossed the line.

Self reliance requires that each of us born learn to care for ourselves as completely as possible. When we learn to take care of our own needs financially, mentally, and emotionally, we free the people up in our lives to be who they were born to be. When instead, we lean on, whine to, drain, and put the ones who love us in a position that involves them doing things for us we can do for ourselves, we have crossed the bridge into the forbidden zone.

This woman has no memory of not worrying about her mother. So what then has become of her own view of the world, and of her self? How has the experience of constant worrying about someone she loves, cost her as an adult? How can she know the needs or wants of her own spirit, if when she has had to worry so intensely about a mother who was so ill?

Enabling is not always so easy to spot. It is often the most difficult quality to see in ourselves and in others....

When in relationships, it is essential that each person involved know and respect their own needs, boundaries, and self.

When relationships are unbalanced, individuals can often unknowingly deny parts of themselves for the sake of maintaining peace in the relationship. For this woman, she forgoes confronting her mothers addiction for many reasons. She is uncomfortable confronting the drinking, because it may lead to an argument, which may lead to emotional distance between them, which may lead to guilt in her for upsetting the mother she views as a victim of life's uncertainty.

Somewhere in this young woman's mind, she taught herself to shut off or deny her own desires so that she could continue enabling her mother. Although this young woman will say she loves her mother { and surely she does } what she fails to recognize is that all she has accomplished for not expecting her mother to learn to deal with being alone has helped her stay stuck.

When we are in relationships that raise red flags that we ignore, we are enabling. When we deny what we know is true, we are enabling. When we do for others what they can do for themselves, we are enabling. When we allow people to push us past our boundaries, we are enabling. And when we don't learn to confront the things we know we should, we actively participate in the stalling of our own lives.

It is healthy to say "No", and "I have had enough", if this is your truth. It is healthy to walk away from a relationship you feel drains you, even if no one else you know understands why you feel the way you do. It is healthy to expect the alcoholics in our lives to get better, and to distance ourselves from them if they don't start taking care of themselves. It is healthy to ask for clarity from another person, if you need it. And if the people you are asking clarity from care for you, they will offer it to you rather than try to make you feel guilty or less than for asking....

And yes, I do believe in real, true, and authentic love. But I believe you must become it, before you can experience it in a relationship.