Enabling behavior

A friend of mine is going through a terrible time with her husband, she continues to catch him talking and texting other women. He is also an alcoholic (In my opinion). I would really like to give her some sound advice.

I believe in recovery, I have told her that she needs to worry about herself and to get herself well. She doesn't want to do this for herself, but continues to cry on my shoulder every time something goes wrong in her marriage. Any advice?

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Nov 09, 2009
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Some thoughts...
by: Don

Here are some thoughts I have when I hear of these things...

First of all, for you, beware of getting into a situation where you end up "enabling the enabler". When she comes to you to vent her frustrations it's hard not to try to cheer her up or tell her what to do. But the fact is that a genuine enabler is ADDICTED to enabling. They cannot respond to "sound advice" anymore that an alcoholic can respond to it. (See the entry on DENIAL located on the same page your entry is located)

Second, understand that your friend is trapped in this relationship by her fear of abandonment -- the fear of being left alone outweighs the pain of staying in the current relationship. Her denial helps her stay in the relationship even in face of evidence that it is not in her best interest.

Also please understand that I never advise someone to stay in, or get out of a relationship. That's a highly personal decision and many people will avoid counseling or reaching out to others for fear that the counselor or other person is going to tell them to leave -- something that feels impossible for the fear of being alone.

I do advise them to take certain measures if they are unsafe and help them develop a safety plan.

A good approach to take is to have the phone number of a counselor or the location and time of a local Alanon meeting to give to them anytime they bring it up. On the first occasion you might say something like -- "I really care for you and I'd like to help, but this situation that you are in is more than I am able to help with...I do have some contact information of someone who CAN help you sort through this", then hand them the information.

I am also aware that there are a lot of other people out there who have been on both sides of the fence in this scenario...perhaps they will add their thoughts to the discussion -- thanks for submitting it!


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