Cuts both ways. What do I mean? When you have to cut off a loved one to make them stronger, you actually may be the blade that gets sharpened. Recently I told a loved one that I was limiting my help and within the next 6-12 months ending it entirely. I finally realized I slipped from helping into enabling. There were warning signs that I ignored for years. I thought I was just a great little friend that occasionally ran short on patience. But I was being nagged by my intuition to do the right (albeit less popular) thing. I was worried about being liked by this person as if we weren’t friends before I extended them a helping hand. I also enjoyed feeling needed. I had no significance (or so I thought). So when this person started spinning their web I thought they needed me. Then to further rationalize my behavior I told myself that in some monetary way I would benefit from this “agreement”. And even though I spelled out my terms, all they heard was they were getting a break from adulting. I wanted to believe they would adult and turn their lives around with this one last boost from me. I was proven wrong in my logic and embarrassed for believing in them. And more embarrassed still that I felt I was the missing link to them getting their life together. I needed some extra money and they needed a “temporary” dwelling so I thought it would be an even exchange. I asked for money because I needed it and I thought I was creating an environment that would build a disciplined well budgeted adult. This is half the expense of an apartment so there is no reason this wouldn’t work smoothly for both of us. Unfortunately, it has been a bumpy ride. It has been a final realization that I was enabling. The payments have been late and incomplete. And all the reasons have been filled with poor planning and emotion. I have understood every empty promise to “catch up” on payments. I have given breaks and discounts but nothing prevents the inevitable. In spite of attempts to stand my ground, I have felt the ground slip from under my feet. Enough is enough. She will have to figure the world out without her backup plan.
So now that I have realized my wrong. I want to identify the 4 warning signs of enabling.
- Help has limits and enabling doesn’t. That person will grow to depend on you to relieve them of responsibility. If you have always helped them pay their rent when they are in a tight spot, they will never try to improve their ability to pay. After a while they will stop asking and start expecting. Then the requests will get more ridiculous! It will go from “Can you loan me $50?” to “Can you cover my car payment this month?”
- Everyone else that helped them has walked away. Enablers usually walk alone. But make no mistake you won’t feel alone. The enablee will keep you company because they don’t want to lose their good thing. They may even make you feel like you’re all they have in the world. Which creates #3.
- Enablers feel obligated. Enablers walk around with the weight of someone else’s world on their shoulders. You will find yourself in deep thought about how someone else can get out of their hole. But understand you are the only one concerned. The enablee has one plan and it’s you!
- Enablers are always in some state of frustration with the enablee but never stops helping. Because “one day they are going to get their act together”. But the jokes on the enabler. The enablee has saddled up and plans to ride them for all eternity.
So what do you do when you have been paying half of your sister’s rent for over a year and you finally realize you need to stop?
- Prove to yourself she can do better. Did you always pay her rent? What did she do then? Why can’t she do it now. Offer her some alternatives to just taking your money and ask the tough questions to get her in a different frame of mind. Empower her with your words not your money. What’s important here is not leaving any room for guilt.
- Even if you think she will fall, remove the safety net. Try it one month. (I withdrew my help for about 4 months and was shocked at how resourceful they became.) And if they find another sucker don’t feel sorry for them. Run while you can! If you lose a little love so what. If they’re family, they will always be around. If it’s a fake friend, you’re better off without them. But each month will get easier. And if they begin adulting they may appreciate your decision. However, SOME PEOPLE ARE TOXIC. If things get ugly walk away. Life is too short to subscribe to their issues.
- Invest your resources or give to a worthier cause. Eliminate the opportunity to fall back in the trap. In my case I have donated cheap and sometimes free room and board. So once I have my two bedrooms back I’m creating a den and an office with furniture I already own.
So heres a quick status report. I will have a roommate for 6 more months, I’m still on target to pay my car off by August 6th. I am even more overwhelmed with needed home repairs and much desired improvements. I have zero confidence in myself to do this work on my own so looks like i will live with everything as is for a while. I also rescued a wonderful little doggie but he comes with a few new bills. So recalculating the budget to accommodate him. No audio books for a while. (I told yall I’m my own biggest obstacle to debt freedom.) He was in bad shape when he wandered into my yard. No microchip and no tags. He was hurt and hungry. After getting him healthy, I couldn’t let him go. And he has added so much joy! I regret nothing.
Meet Joseph. The best pics are of him sleeping.