We all know people who must have what they want and do what they want, despite the cost. Their don’t-care-attitude when it comes to the rest of us is a truly narcissistic trait. Most people really don’t see what is going on, but why are there also people who enable this narcissistic behavior? I believe it is because some get a sense of egotistical satisfaction from this.
Enablers in Toxic Families
In dysfunctional families you will often find one parent who is highly toxic and nasty, whilst the other parent seems to be the one who is intent on keeping the peace and trying to make everyone happy. You could think of the enabler as a good person, but I would strongly disagree. Just because the conscious enabler wants peace to reign, they seem to have an ulterior motive. The enabler wants to be seen by the children as a loving parent. Someone they can come to and talk about their problems. But this trust is often betrayed to the other parent, and the enabling parent allows the toxic parent to do whatever they want. Often without challenging that behavior.
When you see a child being unfairly punished, is it right to let it happen when you have the power to put a stop to it? Do you let your partner disown their own children and you lose contact with them because of the backlash you would receive from that partner? How do you balance your conscience?
I see the enabler as one who will use every trick in the book to let the toxic person get their own way. By this I mean they will placate the children, making it their responsibility to give in to the narcissistic parent. The enabler can still be drawn into supporting the narcissistic parent in front of the children, the excuse being one of concern for the child. They will rarely question the toxic parent, yet actually mimic the same behaviors and join in the targeting of a child.
What I have learned is that most children will think of the enabler as a great parent and will actually delay their departure from their family because of this parent. As one survivor said when talking to her father, who was the enabler: “You only looked good because you stood next to her” (her mother).
Clearly in a toxic family the enabler gets the love and respect from the children until reality hits home.
The Unconscious Act of Enabling
So what about the people who unconsciously enable others, I have to admit I am one of those. In recent personal circumstances. I have discovered that in my own partnership I have, over time, put up with all sorts of behaviors that I am now questioning. The reason for doing so was because I wanted my relationship to work. Now I realize just how much enabling I have done, and although it did not hurt anyone beside myself it was very definitely enabling.
No doubt we are all guilty of this to some degree and the first thing we need to do is to stop repeating the enabling behaviors we are so familiar with. Accept that we are responsible for them and learn to change and insert boundaries into our relationships. Analyse why we have employed the enabling tactics. In my case, being determined to win my partners love and feeling guilt over other failed relationships and trying to explain why you are changing. It might not make any difference at all, but if you don’t try you won’t know what effect it might have.
What I have learned from doing the research for this topic is that enabling is tied up with codependency and addiction. A shocking state of affairs but hopefully a great insight into how to change your life for the better.