What is Enabling?

Sometimes we do things which we think are motivated by love, but instead enable a destructive behavior. How can we tell the difference?

We enable when we eliminate naturally occurring consequences of another’s behavior.

Some examples are: allowing your son to go with friends even if the family rule is “no friends until chores and homework are finished”; covering up for an addict’s behavior; making excuses for a spouse’s angry outburst; or bailing your teen out of jail after she broke the law.

Therapist Darlene Lancer writes: “…Evidence has shown that an addict experiencing the damaging consequences of his addiction on his life has the most powerful incentive to change. Often this is when the addict “hits bottom”…For instance, you may fear your husband will lose his job. Yet, losing a job is the greatest incentive to seeking sobriety. You may be afraid the addict may have an auto accident, or worse, die or commit suicide. Knowing a son is in jail is sometimes cold comfort to the mother who worries he may die on the streets. On the other hand, one recovered suicidal alcoholic said he wouldn’t be alive if his wife had rescued him one more time.”

Often acting in love means saying no, confronting destructive behavior, holding the line, creating boundaries and allowing negative consequences to invoke change in a loved one’s life. It takes courage and inner strength to love in this way; yet, here one finds freedom from codependency and inner peace knowing what you are doing is for their highest good.






  • Amy Gonder on May 12, 2015 Reply

    I’ve seen this happen with family members time and time again it doesn’t help them get better just gives them a safety net, once that safety net is taken away and consiquences hit then they change for the better . Thanks Raychelle for the reminder to allow consiquences in each of our lives that’s how we grow and are refine.

  • Jan Marie on Sep 28, 2014 Reply

    Very poignant. Well spoken. Thank you.

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