Two weeks ago, when I began this series about enabling, I did not realize that it would be so hard! It has taken me a while to complete this post. If you are reading this, you may have found this blog through a search engine. Here is the link to the first part of this series: Climbing the Mountain of Enabling (a mountain that will never be scaled)
Everyone has a different story and even though some of have similar stories, our lives end up going down different paths and in different directions, even then.
I feel like I must share some of my story:
I began enabling at a very early age…it’s pretty obvious, having spent my growing up years in a home where I was either a victim or ignored at any given time. It was prime and fertile ground for the roots of the destiny that God HAD NOT planned for me, to take a stronghold.
I never thought that I was good enough, I always had body image issues and because of this I unconsciously set out in life, setting my primary goal as to try to prove to everyone who I came into relationship with that I was good enough. How can one prove to anyone that they are good enough if they don’t believe it themselves? It can’t be done but I did not know this for many, many years!
One of the biggest parts of the disaster occurred for me when I came into relationship with someone in my early twenties who told me that he loved everything about me except that I needed to lose weight. I promised that I would lose weight, we got married and the tone was set for the marriage. Although he was sometimes violent, had all of the earmarks of an alcoholic and never did much of anything in the way of care for our home or children, he was a fair financial provider and I quickly became the one who never quite measured up because I just could not get my weight down and keep it down in an acceptable way to please him. Many Saturday mornings were spent at the kitchen table drinking coffee with him and me serving him hand and foot while I was getting lectured about my weight and how disappointed he was in me. If I argued it became a disaster.
Enough said, but this set the wheels for enabling much more strongly into motion for me.
No matter how much I overachieved in my marriage, no matter how much I did, it was never good enough, I was never good enough because I was less of a person because I could not keep that promise that I had made before we ever got married. Folks, it is absolute hell to live under this kind of guilt. Bottom line as I see it now is that I should have told this guy to take a hike if he did not accept everything about me unconditionally.
Even with these major obstacles, the marriage lasted for about 15 years. I became engrossed in my children’s lives, especially the three youngest. In my way of thinking, if I could not be an acceptable wife, I would be a better than acceptable mother! I spent my time pouring into them, making sure that they had all of the right clothes, my presence at school, good meals, homemade cookies and treats, etc. etc. etc.
I decided that because of the investment that I was making in my kids that they would always love me unconditionally. If I was a good mom, my children would never leave me, right?
Ultimately, my fear was that if I did not measure up that I would be abandoned by all! And because of this, I became so afraid of dying alone! Fear of abandonment was my motivating factor in almost everything! That and I loved my children desperately.
I just want to note that I am opening up the door and letting you into what was my messed up, screwed up way of thinking. They call it “stinking thinking” in AA and Alanon circles. It is not uncommon, but I had the impression that it was unique, only to me and I was not about to let anyone know what I was thinking!
At this point, I had not faced the fact that there was anything wrong with what I was doing. When I got very depressed, when things went awry with the children although part of me went off of the deep end by trying to fix what was wrong, I still did not take any responsibility for my own part in all of it. I blamed outside sources. I blamed my alcoholic/workaholic husband who, eventually, became my ex-husband. When he remarried, I blamed his new “perfect” wife who was also an enabler. I blamed other people for not backing me up.
When teachers talked to me about problems that my children had in school (especially with my youngest child, a son) I immediately jumped to conclusions and blamed the teacher for either not understanding him, for singling him out, picking on him or not liking him. Of course, the blaming took place in my heart and I would pretend that I understood and agreed with the teacher.
When my children came to me because of a problem with another child or parent of that child, I was on the parent’s doorstep challenging that parent. In many ways I was a mama bear, for all of the wrong causes! The older I got, the older the children got, it became a personal affront to me if someone challenged me about my children’s behavior. One time, my grandmother who is still one of the most respected women in my life told me that I could not be both father and mother to my youngest son and that I needed to stop. Even in her ignorance over many other things and with only a high school education, her wisdom was showing through. Although I loved her, and listened to her I was very offended by what I labeled as her meddlesomeness, but now, hindsight is 20/20. She was right on target! As much as I was trying to cover up and fix, even in her eyes it was not working.
In closing, my biggest goal in this post today is to let you know that enabling is not something that just happens, it begins in both parties (the enabled and the enabler) sometime early in the relationship and early in the lives of each individual. Those of us who enable are not bad people. We are not failures. Neither are the enabled. I shared the roots of my enabling and I know that yours are probably totally different. Enabling is a common problem with the characteristics being the same, although the circumstances and causes are always unique to each person.
Just to note:
Don’t say that you don’t want to be “like” me, ever. By saying that, you are judging me and for some reason, those statements have an eerie way of coming around to haunt us by happening to us! My prayer is that you see the signs and change them before it happens to you!
Love and blessings to you!