How to stop enabling others

How to Stop Enabling Others

Helping vs. Enabling: The difference between “being there” and helping until it hurts. Recently, I had a patient say to me, “Of course I’m going to help him. I’m his mother!” I understood her sentiment, but I also knew that this woman was practically unraveling her own life for the sake of a grown son who hardly seemed to notice her sacrifices. She’d lost sight of the difference between helping and enabling. It’s important to learn how to stop enabling. In fact, over the past few months, I’ve noticed an increasing number of talks with my patients about the subject of enabling. But the conversations rarely start there. Instead, they start with a parent or spouse or significant other telling me they believe they need to “be there” for the person they love. Then they go on to detail the emotional and physical toll “being there for them” requires. Husbands feel it’s their “duty” to support their wives. Wives can’t “turn my back on him when he’s down.” Parents can’t stand to see their kids struggle and go to great lengths to help, telling me “it’s what a caring parent does” even when their kids are adults. Kids, too, struggle to help their aging parents, even to the great disruption of their own lives, and justify the hardship by asking me, “If I’m not there for them, who will be?!” No wonder we struggle. Relationships can be immensely difficult to navigate. It’s not that people don’t understand the general difference between helping someone and enabling them. As more Husbands feel it’s their “duty” to support their wives. Wives can’t “turn my back on him when he’s down.” psychological concepts make their way into our culture, I find that people are both aware of and can articulate the risks and consequences helping too much. The challenge isn’t about awareness. It’s about applying that knowledge in a healthy manner to our most personal relationships. This is where I come in, in teaching people how to stop enabling. So, back to my recent discussions with patients. After they’ve described their struggles to help a loved one, I ask how they can tell the difference between helping and enabling that person and how to stop enabling. “How do you know you’re not enabling him?” I say. Most often, they answer, “I don’t.” The good news is that the line between helping and enabling is …

Good Advice or Hurtful Advice?

Is Your Advice Helpful or Hurtful? Ask Yourself These Four Questions: It’s a common scenario—one partner offers unsolicited advice to the other, only to find out that his or her partner doesn’t find it good advice at all. In fact, they find it critical and hurtful. Cue the resentment, unhappiness and discontent. If this sounds familiar, or even if you’re just curious about whether you’ve been guilty of offering unhelpful advice in the past, here are four questions to ask yourself before offering up any future guidance.   1. Were you specifically asked for your advice before giving it?   Until you’re asked for your opinion, it’s best to keep your mouth shut. Unsolicited advice is rarely helpful and more often than not, it actually harms a relationship by driving an emotional wedge between partners. There are, of course, appropriate occasions to offer unsolicited advice, but they mainly occur between individuals in a hierarchical relationship like boss to employee or parent to child. In these relationships, one person is specifically responsible for guiding the success of the other. Not so, however, in a relationship of equals. When you give unsolicited advice to your partner, you are really telling that person, “I want you to [look/act/speak] this way.” That’s not love or respect; that’s control.   2. Is your advice honest?   Believe it or not, the topic of exercise comes up in couples counseling more often than you might expect. For example, one partner may offer unsolicited advice to the other about her exercise patterns, but disguise his advice as concern. He says, “I’m just worried for your health” or “I’m just concerned for you.” Truth test, folks: That’s not honest. Yes, the partner may be concerned for the other’s health, but his choice to comment on his partner’s behavior is not a demonstration of concern, it’s a demonstration of control. Again, it’s equivalent to saying, “I want you to do what I believe is best.” In contrast, it would be honest for him to say, “It makes me worry when you don’t exercise because I want us to live a long, healthy life together.” This way, he gets to be honest about his real concern without pointing blame at the other.   3. Are you an expert on the subject?   People like to be problem solvers. The straighter the line to a solution, the better. It’s a terrific …

How to Build Emotional Connection in Your Daily Life

How to Build Emotional Connection: Increase Intimacy  by Looking at the Destructive Patterns in Your Relationship   What increases intimacy in the bedroom? The intimacy outside the bedroom. There can be intimacy in your daily life, and there should be to have a healthy relationship. Most people who come to me with relationship problems have this problem. The intimacy is not there daily, which, in return, causes their sex life to suffer. Let’s focus on the importance of changing your approach, with the result being increasing intimacy. A lot of people are in the weeds of their relationship. They’re very focused on the details and daily life routines, and they’re not stepping back and thinking about the destructive patterns that have developed over the years. Almost everyone who comes to see me has these destructive patterns. The arguments aren’t all separate things. If you look closely at a broader angle, you’ll see that the patterns are similar. If you can get ahold of a pattern, all you need to do is change one part of the pattern, and all of the arguments that fall in the pattern change, often for the better, and this is how to build intimacy in your daily life. Take a look now at the patterns that you contribute to the destructive patterns in your relationship to increase emotional connection.  Think about the arguments you’ve had in the past. Are you the one who backs down, let’s things go, doesn’t want to approach anything because it might get ugly or tense? Are you avoiding confrontation? Or are you the go-getter, “I’m not letting that go, I’m going to tackle this, I’m going to prove my point,”- are you that person? Do your arguments tend to start with you making your point? If you’re that person, this is a pattern that may be destructive in your relationship. The key is, people tend to idealize one of these approaches. Typically, one partner idealizes one, and the other partner idealizes the other. Which one are you? If you’re the one who’s the passive one, you must see that, sometimes, passivity isn’t the best choice. Avoiding confrontation and aggression is not the key to a happy relationship. There are times to be passive, but there are also times to be aggressive, constructively. Constructive Aggression Constructive aggression includes going for a gold medal, asking for a raise, swerving to avoid a …

family issues causing stress

Family Issues: Tension Between Your Parents and Your Spouse

Should You Choose Your Family or Your Relationship? How to Resolve Family Issues Between Your Parents and Your Spouse Let me start with a story about a good guy trying to do right by the people he loved… “Tony” came from a great family and was happily married. Tony loved his parents and his siblings; he loved his wife and his kids. He was a lucky guy. So it drove him nuts that whenever he and his wife spent time with his family, they ended up fighting the entire drive home—she didn’t like their comments about the kids or the gifts they gave or the unhealthy food. Whatever happened during the visit, his wife would find a way to be unhappy about it. Tony felt the pressure of what felt like family issues. He remembers finally yelling at her, overcome with rage. “It’s so unfair— you actually make me dread spending time with them.” He just wanted everyone to be happy. And more often than not, we’re just like Tony. We want the best for the people we love. So why does his dilemma seem so impossible to resolve? The issue wasn’t that Tony didn’t love his parents or his wife enough. The issue wasn’t that his wife was unreasonable. The problem wasn’t even that his parents were at fault. The issue was that Tony wasn’t prioritizing his marriage over his relationship with his family, which in return, was causing the family issues. I see the same conflict play out every week in my practice. Regardless of the specifics of a situation, I tell my patients that to resolve this conflict; we must remember two truths: 1. If we want to keep our marriage, our marriage must always come first. 2. We don’t owe our parents anything. My patients can’t help but argue with me. They say, “But Dr. Dabney … “ … my parents did so much for me. I don’t want to seem ungrateful.” “ … my parents are getting older. They need my help.” “ … I don’t want to be mean.” “ … I don’t want them to think I don’t love them.” “ … they’ll make me feel guilty.” “ … it’s expected of me.” “ … that’s just how things are in our family.” “ … they don’t mean the things they say.” “ … my wife just misinterprets everything.” “ … she just …

How to Build Intimacy

Three forms of intimacy and how to build intimacy Intimacy outside the bedroom- It’s a whole new frontier for some people. That is kind of sad and important because intimacy outside the bedroom is what makes intimacy in the bedroom better, or there at all. Some people come in, and they complain that they aren’t having intimacy in the bedroom, but there isn’t any intimacy in their relationship, period. I’m going to share with you three forms of intimacy and how to build intimacy.   1. Do things together. This may sound obvious. It’s all over social media, movies, etc…- you see a happy couple, and they’re doing something together. People get busy. You work and your significant other works, you come home, and someone is making dinner and someone watching TV or with the kids. He’s on his phone; she’s watching a movie. And then they wonder where the intimacy is, or they think it’s okay because they’re going to have a date night. Then something happens, the babysitter can’t watch the kids, you’re too tired to go out, so the date night gets canceled.  Doing something together doesn’t have to be sex, or it doesn’t even have to be talking, it can be anything. If you think about things that you do that you can invite your significant other to join you or can you join your significant other. Something as simple as getting ready in the morning, can you go to the bathroom and get ready at the same time? It doesn’t have to be an in-depth conversation to be intimate. It can be just hanging out together. What if your significant other is cooking, and you go in there and offer to be the taste tester or to chop up some vegetables, or sit and have a glass of wine together while she’s cooking.  There’s a lot of different ways you can hang out together to increase intimacy. It doesn’t have to be a big production; it doesn’t have to involve a babysitter — just time hanging out together. You’ll be amazed at how much that can help out, one little change. 2. Are you an avoider of confrontation? Most people divide themselves up into avoiders of confrontation or ones who dive head-on into a confrontation. No one likes confrontation. I’ve never had anyone come to me and say, “I like confrontation.”  If you’re the action avoider …