Friday, September 12, 2008

Enabling

First thing to consider, I grew up Episcopalian, which gives you a do gooder perspective in life and dealing with others. The problem becomes that there is a mighty fine line between being a do gooder and an enabler, just as there is a very fine line between providing support as opposed to blindly sustaining a person's pipe dreams. My mother's profession was as a psychiatric social worker and I spent many years in community based work as an artist and educator, so the do gooder thing seems to be a family business of sorts. I realize in my life, I've crossed the line into Enablerhood once or twice... too often, that is. You see the paradox is that all people at one time or another need support. The problems come when the person needing the support ceases to do for themselves because they feel that the enablers have it.

As both a do gooder and an enabler, you find that you look for the good and the potential within people... the so called diamond in the rough. However, as a do gooder, you have to develop a filtering evaluation system as a lump of coal has the potential to become a diamond, but there comes a time when you must recognize that the lump of coal has no intention of being anything but a lump of coal with stated aspirations of being a diamond ("I've got plans to get it together.") This optimism can and has often spilled over into my romantic life where I've made choices based on potential, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but I often failed to recognize that the potential had expired. While cream rises to the top, shit can also float. Of course, there is always the dangerous aspect that if you are allowing your do gooder/. enabler to make your romantic entanglement choices, you're violating the basic ethic that a counselor never gets romantically involved with their patients. Back to the element of romance and relationships. I developed a new level of appreciation for the aforementioned counselors credo as well as the notion from the Old Testament of partners being equally yoked. Hint: An Enabler and an Co-dependent are not equally yoked.

However, all of this in mind, what happens when an Enabler gets romantically involved with an Enabler? An opportunity for two people to be together without having to fix, cultivate, motivate, facilitate, or complete anything for your significant other; all you have to do is be, enjoy, love, appreciate and when necessary support. Sounds like bliss, right? Wrong! You see, while you can often find haven and 'time off' in the arms of another enabler, you also now have to content with their (and sometimes your own) client base, most of whom are disguised as friends. You see, while in theory these 'friends' are happy for you, that you've found somebody who makes you happy, in practice it's a different matter.

All of a sudden you might not be available to hang out and listen to their gripes about their significant others or gripes about their lacking significant others and all of the things wrong with the opposite sex that led to them either not having a significant other or getting stuck with the significant other that they have. All of a sudden, you're not available for those 3 am calls like you were when you were virtually single and always on call to listen and/ or counsel. This of course creates an interesting situation for the poor partner in the enabling couple, who is now the target of hostility and resentment from a bunch of radical co-dependents  (who are often also passive aggressive). So now, the radical co-dependents  (often unconsciously) start a  divisive campaign, where they become passive-aggressive hostile towards the new partner in social situations are find ways to create social situations where the new partner is not welcomed and brow beat their counselor/ friend into making a choice.

In this society it usually takes two forms: If your a man and it's your friends, they call you pussy whipped and question your ability to function as a man. For some reason though, guys seem to have an easier time relating o their friends significant others in social situations, so it becomes a matter of bringing up all of the clandestine events from your past, either really embarrassing stuff or things about ex-girlfriends. For women, their friends make complaints about never seeing their friend anymore. For the deeper, more troubled set, they start intimating that your man is keeping you away and hint at this as potentially abusive. Women often avoid socially dealing with their friends significant other or engage finding ways to needle him. It would never occur to me to treat my friend's significant other like a servant for example, but I've watched women treat their friend's man like an errand boy, chauffeur, Mr. Fix-it, or the stranger.

I remember one situation where I was hanging out with a buddy because his girlfriend's friends called for a "girls night out". Then three of her friends brought their husbands or boyfriends while my buddy and I hung out in Greenwhich Village. When his girlfriend complained they said, "Well, it's just that we never get to see you."

They say that misery loves company, and this is true. But we can only be company for misery if we allow it.  Meanwhile, to all of the co-dependents out there: if your woman is treating you like crap, or you can't get a woman, or your man is treating on you, or has started a drug or drinking habit, or left you for another woman (or another man), or doesn't like to come home, or men treat you like a whore, or women treat you like a joke, or you can't cover your bills, or your getting evicted, maybe you should put your energies into straightening out your own mess instead of trying to create one for the person you call a friend.

No comments: