Category Archives: Relationships

The Difference Between Helping and Enabling

Unconditional love is such an amazing non-reality. Why? Because “unconditional” love means you don’t make judgments, which are absolutely necessary.  We have to discern right from wrong, good from evil, and sacred from profane. And one of the judgments we all have to make at one time or another is the difference between helping and enabling.

Doing a nice thing for someone or helping out occasionally is one thing, but when a person is capable and their responsibilities are handled for them all the time, they are not held responsible. Enabling protects them from the consequences of their choices and actions. And the more you let them depend on you and take you for granted, the less motivated they are to change.

Now let’s talk about the enabler. There’s a payoff for everything in life or else we wouldn’t do it. The enabler enables because it gives them a false sense of superiority and makes them feel needed. They also feel control over the other person (through guilt) by helping them. However, they ironically still end up feeling resentful, frustrated, or unappreciated.

Real love for somebody is being able to step back and allow them to suffer enough to recognize their need to change. That’s the only way to help make them a whole human being again.

Here are some tips to help you stop being an enabler:

  • Don’t lie for anyone. Don’t be the wife who gets on the phone and says her husband is sick when he’s hungover.
  • Don’t make excuses for others when they don’t fulfill their obligations.
  • Don’t clean up after a substance abuser. They should see the damage they’ve done and the chaos they’ve caused.
  • Be accountable for your bills only. If you’re not responsible for it, don’t pay it.
  • Stand up for yourself. You don’t have to be mean, but you do have to put your foot down.
  • Don’t rescue. A person must suffer the consequences of their actions. Which means don’t pay for lawyers or post bail.
  • Stop trying to fix everybody. You’re not a magician and you’re not God. Work on yourself. Get the support of friends, family members and counselors. Join Al-Anon or some other 12-step program. Do whatever it takes to stop yourself from hurting somebody else with your notion of helping.

Ways to Improve Your Mother- and Daughter-in-Law Relationship

If I had to pick the most popular subject people call my show about, it would be mother- and daughter-in-law relationships.  Here’s why:
Mother-in-law’s perspective

The mother-in-law has been the number one woman in her son’s life for the past two or three decades. She gave birth to him, raised him, loved him, kissed him, hugged him, nurtured him, and disciplined him. Then suddenly, a younger, less mature woman comes into the picture, takes over, and (typically) behaves as if there can only be one woman in his life.

In addition, the mother-in-law no longer has a clear idea of her role in her son’s life. For the daughter-in-law, it’s simple – she’s his wife. But for the mother-in-law, it’s not so cut and dry.  The daughter-in-law doesn’t understand this because with her mother, it’s almost as if nothing has changed. The daughter-in-law’s mother isn’t expected to do guy stuff with her son-in-law. All she has to do is be nice when he shows up, hand him a beer, turn on the game, and he’s good to go.

Daughter-in-law’s perspective

The daughter-in-law is the newcomer. She doesn’t like getting advice and opinions from a more experienced and mature woman because it tugs at her insecurities as a wife and mother. Insecurity leads to defensiveness, defensiveness leads to snottiness, and snottiness results in harsh words and hurt feelings.

The solution

The mother/daughter-in-law relationship requires an intense amount of compassion, sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and gratitude on both sides, even when you want to strangle each other.

Mothers-in-law need to realize that it is not a competition. You also must give your son and his wife space. Don’t show up unannounced, and ask if certain things are OK beforehand.

Daughters-in-law need to make their mothers-in-law feel as at home as they make their own mothers feel. Just because a man gains a wife, doesn’t mean he has to lose a mom. Don’t treat your mother-in-law as a problem, and don’t feel annoyed or put down if she offers help or advice.  Giving advice isn’t mean or insulting. We all have something to learn, and besides, without your mother-in-law, you wouldn’t have your husband. Remember: The reason he’s so good to you has a lot to do with the woman who raised him.