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Posts tagged ‘enabling behaviors’

Marriage/Relatonships: Does Love Cover A Multitude Of Sins?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick/AACC

A woman struggling in an emotionally destructive marriage once asked me, “Doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins? (1 Peter 4:8).  She continued, “Who am I to hold my husband’s sin or blindness against him?   The Bible teaches us, ‘It is good for us to overlook an offense’ (Proverbs 19:11).  Shouldn’t I just keep quiet and minister to him, and pray that he will see God’s love in me?”

Many counselors working with those in destructive marriages struggle with this same question.  Jesus makes it clear. We are not to judge or condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1,2).  God instructs all his followers to forbear with and forgive one another.  We know we all fail one another (James 3:2), and we know that Jesus tells a person to take the log out of their own eye before attempting to deal with the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). To bring up each and every offense in any relationship would become tiresome indeed.

Love does cover a multitude of sins but not all sins. Paul tells believers that we are to distance ourselves from those who claim to be believers yet live immoral and destructive lives (1 Corinthians 5:11). He instructs us to warn those who are lazy (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and that we ought not participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).  Paul also encourages believers to restore someone who is caught in a trespass (Galatians 6:1) and James exhorts us to bring a brother back who has wandered from the truth (James 5:19), When someone deeply offends us, Jesus says we’re to go talk with them so that our relationship can be repaired (Matthew 18:15-17).

Yes, we ought to forgive and forbear, overlooking minor offenses hoping others will do the same for us. And, we are to speak up when someone’s sin is hurting them, hurting others, or hurting us.

Serious and repetitive sin is lethal to any relationship. We would not be loving the destructive person if we kept quiet and colluded with his self-deception or enabled his sin to flourish without any attempt to speak truth into his life  (Ephesians 4:15).  Yes, we are called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love, however, let’s be careful that as Christian counselors we do not put a heavy burden on someone to do something that God himself does not do.  God is gracious to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have close relationship with both. He says our sins separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 5:25).

When someone repeatedly and seriously sins against us and is not willing to look at what he’s done and is not willing to change, it is not possible to have a warm or close relationship.  We’ve at times misrepresented unconditional love to mean unconditional relationship. Jesus’ conversations with the Pharisees are examples of him challenging their self-deception and pride so they would repent and experience true fellowship with him (Matthew 23). He loved them, but they did not enjoy a loving or safe relationship. Jesus never pretended otherwise.  Let’s not encourage our counselees to pretend and placate. Jesus never did.

A marriage or relationship that has no boundaries or conditions is not psychologically healthy nor is it spiritually sound.  It enables a repeatedly destructive spouse to continue to believe the lie that the rules of life don’t apply to him and if he does something hurtful or sinful, he or she shouldn’t have to suffer the relational fallout. That kind of thinking is not biblical, or healthy, or true.  It harms not only their marriage, it harms everyone involved.

For the welfare of the destructive person and his or her marriage, there are times we must take a strong stand.  To act neutral in the matter only enables the person’s self-deception to grow unchallenged. Scripture warns, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:18).

The destructive person desperately needs to see God’s love, but he or she also desperately needs to see himself more truthfully so that he can wake up and ask God to help him make necessary changes. It’s true that we are all broken and in desperate need of God’s healing grace.  The problem for the destructive person is that he or she has been unwilling to acknowledge his part of the destruction.   She’s been unwilling to confess or take responsibility or get the help she needs to change her destructive ways.  Instead she’s minimized, denied, lied, excused, rationalized, or blamed others.

Confronting someone and/or implementing tough consequences should never be done to scold, shame, condemn, or punish. As Christian counselors we have one purpose—to jolt someone awake with the strong medicine of God’s truth or the reality of tough consequences.  We hope that by doing so, they will come to their senses, turn to God and stop their destructive behaviors for the glory of God, their own welfare, and the restoration of their marriage.

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Leslie Vernick, M.S.W., is a popular speaker, author, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and relationship coach with a counseling practice in Pennsylvania. She is a best-selling author of seven books, including The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and her most recent, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. Leslie currently serves on the Board of Directors for Lighthouse Network, a Christian mental health outreach ministry. She received her Master of Clinical Social Work degree from the University of Illinois and has taken postgraduate training in biblical counseling and cognitive therapy.

 

Marriage: When Trying Harder Becomes Destructive

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick, LCSW (AACC)

Christian women in troubled marriages who have gone to their pastor or a Christian counselor seeking help are often encouraged to work on themselves and try harder to be more submissive, more caring, more attentive to their husband’s needs, more respectful, and less demanding.

In many marriages this might be wise counsel.  When one person starts to try harder it often begets a reciprocal response in the other person. He begins to try harder too.  Amends are made and the relationship is repaired.  This is a good start and when the marriage stalls, someone needs to get some movement forward. However, in certain kinds of marriages it is not a good idea and can actually make the marriage worse.

Briefly, let me explain why, in some marriages, trying harder to accommodate one’s husband, do what he wants and needs and to be more compliant and submissive to what he says becomes destructive not only to her but also to her husband as well as their marriage.

It Feeds the Lie

Some men do not want to be married to a real woman who has her own feelings, her own needs, and her own brokenness. Instead they want a fantasy wife.

A blow-up-doll wife that continues to bounces back with a smile even when he knocks her down. He wants a wife who always agrees, always acts nice, always smiles and thinks he’s wonderful all of the time no matter what he does or how he behaves.  He wants a wife who wants to have sex with him whenever he’s in the mood, regardless of how he treats her.  He wants a wife that will never upset him, never disagree or never challenge him, and never disappoint him. He wants a wife that grants him amnesty whenever he messes up and never mentions it again.

The more a woman colludes with her husband’s idea that he’s entitled to a fantasy wife, the more firmly entrenched this lie becomes.  She will never measure up to his fantasy wife because she too is a sinner. A real wife will disappoint him some times. She won’t always be able to meet every want or need. A real wife also reflects to him her pain when he hurts her and God’s wisdom when she sees him making a foolish decision.

In a healthy marriage where both individuals are allowed to be themselves, couples must learn to handle disagreements, differences and conflicts through compromise, mutual caring, and mutual submission.  Sacrifice and service are mutually practiced in order to love one another in godly ways. When we fail (as we will) we see the pain in our partner’s face and with God’s help, make corrections so that damages are repaired and love grows.  In an unhealthy marriage when real wife and fantasy wife collide, it’s never pretty.

Therefore, how do we counsel wives in destructive marriages? We must help her gain a vision for God’s role as her husband’s helpmate. According to the Bible a helpmate is not an enabler, but rather a strong warrior. It means she will need to learn to fight (in God’s way) to bring about her husband’s good.  She will need to think and pray about how God can use her to meet her husband’s deepest needs, not just his felt needs.

I often give women in these situations this challenge. Ask God what are your husband’s biggest or deepest needs right now.  Is it to continue to prop him up, indulge his self-centeredness and self-deception or does he need something far more radical and risky from you?

I encourage her to prayerfully and humbly ask God to show her how best to biblically love her husband. It may be to stop indulging his selfish behavior and speak the truth in love. It may be to reflect back to him the impact his behaviors have on her and their children.  It may be to set boundaries against his misuse of power under the guise of headship so that he doesn’t remain self-deceived. It may mean exposing some of his sins to the leadership of the church so that they too can act as a reflective mirror so that he has the best opportunity to look at himself from God’s perspective and repent.

That kind of love is indeed risky, redemptive, and sacrificial as she does not know what his response will be to this kind of love.  But if he wakes up and repents of his demand for a fantasy wife that would be a positive change for her, for him, and for their marriage.

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Leslie Vernick, M.S.W., is a popular speaker, author, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and relationship coach with a counseling practice in Pennsylvania. She is a best-selling author of seven books, including The Emotionally Destructive Relationship and her most recent, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. For more information, visit her Web site at www.leslievernick.com.

The Codependency Checklist: Am I In A Codependent Relationship?

SOURCE:  June Hunt

The Codependency Checklist Test

Are you unsure about someone who is significant in your life? Is it possible that you are in a relationship that others would call “codependent”? If so, how would you know? Read through the Codependency Checklist and make a check mark (√) by what is applicable to you.

□ Do you struggle with feeling loved; therefore, you look for ways to be needed?

□ Do you want to throw all of your energy into helping someone else?

□ Do you say yes when you really want to say no?

□ Do you feel compelled to take charge of another person’s crisis?

□ Do you feel drawn to others who seem to need to be rescued from their problems?

□ Do you have difficulty setting and keeping boundaries?

□ Do you find it difficult to identify and express your true feelings?

□ Do you rely on the other person to make most of the decisions in your relationship?

□ Do you feel lonely, sad, and empty when you are alone?

□ Do you feel threatened when the other person spends time with someone else?

□ Do you think the other person’s opinion is more important than your opinion?

□ Do you refrain from speaking in order to keep peace?

□ Do you fear conflict because the other person could abandon you?

□ Do you become defensive about your relationship with the other person?

□ Do you feel “stuck” in the relationship with the other person?

□ Do you feel that you have lost your personal identity in order to “fit into” the other person’s world?

□ Do you feel controlled and manipulated by the other person?

□ Do you feel used and taken advantage of by the other person?

□ Do you plan your life around the other person?

□ Do you prioritize your relationship with the other person over your relationship with the Lord?

If you responded with a yes to four or more of these questions, you may be involved in a codependent relationship!

When we find ourselves in unhealthy patterns of relating, we need to change our focus, change our goals, and change what is hindering us from running the race God has planned for us. Our primary focus should be not on a person but on Jesus.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
(Hebrews 12:1)

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Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Codependency: Balancing an Unbalanced Relationship (p. 10). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

Not Enabling, But Waiting and Watching

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior.

God does not want us to enable others in their wrongdoing. Neither does he enable us when we choose to walk in disobedience to him. He loves us too much to enable us in our wrongdoing. He knows that we will not come to our senses and change our ways unless he allows us to suffer the natural consequences of what we do.

The great thing is that, just like the father of the prodigal son, our heavenly Father is loving us and watching for us. He wants us to come home and will run out to meet us, showering his love, mercy and forgiveness on us when we return.

Do you need to return? Perhaps you have recently fallen into something you know you shouldn’t do … Your Father is waiting for you.

Perhaps you have been locked into a downward spiral and feel as though there is no way out. God always provides a way. He is just waiting for you to come to him with a repentant heart. His arms are open wide … no matter what you have done. Jesus has already paid the price for your sin. Receive his forgiveness. He loves you unconditionally and is waiting to help you.

Father, I am so sorry for what I have been doing. Please forgive me and show me the way out. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

Enabling: Allow Consequences To Work

SOURCE:  Living Free

“The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.” Luke 15:12-13 NLT

Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior. Enabling behaviors may actually hinder what God is doing in our loved one’s life.

In Luke 5:11-32, we learn that the father of the prodigal son understood the dangers of enablement. The prodigal son chose to take his part of the inheritance and leave home. He went to a distant country and wasted his wealth. Finally, out of money and working in a field feeding pigs, he came to his senses and decided to go home and ask his father’s forgiveness.

Although it had been painful to see his son leave, the prodigal’s father allowed him to be responsible for his own actions … all the while, praying for him and waiting to receive him with open arms when he returned. But in the meantime, the father did not send care packages to the pigpen.

When the son recognized his sin and confessed it, his father welcomed him home and showered him with mercy and love.

It is vital that we don’t try to deliver our loved ones from the natural consequences of their actions, but instead allow God to work his perfect plan in their lives.

Father, help me not to interfere with your plan for my loved one’s life. Help me not “jump to the rescue” when I should stay back and trust you to work in his life. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 

 Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Enabling: Good Intentions Gone Wrong

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Sadly, we have all seen a loved one making destructive decisions. When someone we love is in the grip of a harmful pattern, we naturally want to help so they will have less pain. But in spite of our best intentions, our efforts sometimes end up being more harmful than helpful.

The official psychobabble term for this action is “enabling,” otherwise known as “good intentions gone wrong.”

In this sense, enabling means, even though you are trying to help the person prevent or stop their dysfunctional behavior, your action provides them with the power or means to continue their dysfunctional activities. In essence, your enabling makes it a lot easier for those who are struggling to persist in their self-destructive behaviors.

A major component of our enabling behaviors is they keep our struggling loved one from feeling the natural, painful consequences of their conduct. These consequences could significantly influence them to stop their dysfunctional decisions before their problems spiral out of control. Today’s Scripture cautions us that if we start to rescue people from the consequences of their choices, we’ll just have to do it again … and again. We are then called a “nag” or a “martyr” when we try to “undo” the enabling or hound them about the behavior.

Here are some common scenarios that enable others:

  • Do you find yourself covering up or “living with” the behavior of a friend, child, or loved one, or bailing them out of trouble?
  • You might make excuses for them or even blame yourself for their problem.
  • Are you reminding them to do certain chores or tasks so that they don’t get the consequences they deserve?
  • Do you find yourself giving them “one more chance” … over and over again instead of giving them the consequences they should receive?
  • Do you care more than they do about the consequences they might get?
  • Do you feel you are being held hostage by their behaviors?

At the foundation of our enabling behavior is our inability to tolerate negative feelings, both in others and ourselves. These feelings are generated when someone struggles and faces potential consequences. We feel very uncomfortable when they feel sad, hurt, or have to endure a consequence, or when we anticipate their sadness or enduring consequences. We may feel at fault, or feel they will be mad at us for giving them a consequence. So we keep nagging, threatening, or pushing them to accomplish their task. Sometimes we even do the task for them. Perhaps it’s their homework or project, driving them to school after missing the bus, or giving them one last chance – for the third or thirteenth time.

Today, be mindful that your responsibility to your troubled loved one is to be supportive and to facilitate their growth, not to inhibit growth by facilitating their struggle. You need to empathize and pray for them, but not fix their problems. They need to learn how to fix it themselves. You aren’t going to be around all the time. You need to encourage them when they have made an error, but not protect them from the necessary consequences. You must allow them to learn from the natural consequences of their actions and not rescue them. All of us need to look at whether we are helping or harming the struggling people in our lives. And then we can begin the process of being a supporter instead of an enabler. Let God, not you, determine the consequences that will open their eyes, change their behavior, and hopefully, transform their hearts.

Dear God, stepping aside from my loved one’s problems is so hard. My urge is to come to the rescue instead of letting her suffer the consequences. I realize now, that when I rescue her, I am actually crippling her from learning skills to rescue herself. Then I have to come to the rescue again and again … and nothing really gets fixed. Teach me to be a supporter instead of an enabler. Help me guide her to You … help me to trust You more. Give me the peace to tolerate my own uneasiness and the discomfort of others. Help me to allow Your consequences and lessons to play out. I pray this in the name of the One who gives me strength in all circumstances, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. Proverbs 19:19

And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. Luke 15:16-18

Q&A: My Husband is Draining Our Finances With His Addiction. I Don’t Know What to Do.

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

Question: I need help as to what to do with my marriage. We have been married 25 years and, in that time, I have dealt with my husband being an alcoholic with two DUI’S and then his arrest for prescription fraud.

He stopped drinking, but then put pills in its place. He takes hydrocodone and soma for back problems, but he doesn’t just take the 2 per day as prescribed. He takes a lot more. When he ran out, he started buying more from other people and now also buys Xanax. He tells me that he doesn’t buy anything from other people, but I know he is lying. He writes a check for gas everyday which I know he uses to get cash back to do who knows what with.

Because of all this mess, we filed bankruptcy but still can’t get ahead. We are 3 months behind on house payments and just about 2 months behind on regular utility bills. I’ve dealt with all this for a long time. I have told him what I don’t like about it, but he says that all I do is get on him about everything. I know I do, but after so long of just holding things inside, I let it out on him.

I know I shouldn’t constantly tell him what he is doing wrong, but he has put us in a financial mess, and now I’m not sure what to do about staying married. Please help! I’m lost as to what to do and how to handle things.

I love my husband and want my marriage to work, but he is making it very difficult for me to love as I once did. I have a lot of bitterness, anger and even hatred in my heart for all that has happened. I’m constantly repenting for my feelings and don’t want to feel that way. He says he will take pills for his pain till the day he dies, and that I need to just deal with it. And, after about 13 years of not drinking, he has started to drink again. It’s only a couple a day, but an alcoholic shouldn’t go back to drinking should they? I also recently found a joint in his truck. I flushed it, and he got furious at me. He said it helped relieve his pain and said no one understands the amount of pain he is in. I just don’t know what to do anymore. He keeps spending money like crazy and doesn’t leave enough for me to pay bills.

He spends more money than we have in our checkbook, so then we have to catch up and pay NSF fees. I don’t want to lose my marriage or house, etc., but I have also been doing a lot of praying and soul searching as to whether I want to live the rest of my life like this. Thank you so much for your time and any help you can give me.

Answer: One of the most important things you must do if you want help is first distinguish the difference between your husband’s problem and your problem.

Your husband is an addict and is self-medicating to deal with his pain. That’s his problem, and he’s chosen to go outside the boundaries of his doctor or a pain management specialist to cope with this pain problem. You may have some influence in how he deals with his problem, but whether or not he changes or gets the help he needs will be up to him. You cannot fix or solve his problem as much as you want to or as much as you love him.

However your problem is that you don’t like living this way. You don’t like the financial havoc and chronic deceitfulness you live with every day. You don’t like the anger he displays when you try to express your concerns. You struggle with bitterness, hatred and resentment because of all this chaos. That is your problem.

When you can clarify the difference between his problem (which you apparently have zero influence over right now) and your problem, then you can work on your problem.

First, what do you need to do to get more financial stability? For example, do you work? Do you need to put your paycheck into a separate bank account that he does not have access to? Does he work? If not, where is he getting his access to money to buy drugs and write checks every day? If you are enabling that, you can choose to stop doing that by separating your money and not giving him access to it.

Will that make him angry? Yes, but it will help with your financial problems. However that doesn’t solve the marital problems. His sole focus is on himself right now which is true of anyone who is an addict. He’s not thinking of anything other than getting his drugs. Whether or not he’s in as much pain as he claims, we don’t know. Certainly pain is difficult to live with, and you can have compassion for his struggle with pain. But instead of trying to solve his problems in a healthy way, he is resorting to his own ways.

To let go of resentment and anger involves having compassion for a person who is so lost and desperate that he (or she) would do things that have such detrimental consequences, just to get a high–or get rid of pain–whether it is physical and/or emotional pain. However, being compassionate does not mean you have to cooperate or enable his dysfunction to continue to impact your life in detrimental ways. If you can cut off the funding for his drug use, perhaps that will motivate him to seek appropriate help for his pain as well as his addiction.

To get healthy, you will need to create some distance from him financially, emotionally as well as perhaps physically, so that the consequences of his foolishness don’t keep landing at your feet. He’s had two DUI’s and an arrest for prescription fraud. Now he’s buying drugs on the street. How does he drive with two DUI’S? Does he have a valid driver’s license or is he just driving without one? Why does he have access to a vehicle when he is taking drugs and now drinking alcohol much of the time? Who is paying for the upkeep of the car insurance, gasoline, repairs, etc.? Are you? If so, you must stop. If you can’t stop, you need to get help for yourself to be strong enough to set and keep good boundaries. Otherwise you are enabling him to continue to do what he does.

I’m asking you tough questions not to make you feel bad, but for you to recognize that you do not have to continue being a victim and enabler of your spouse’s foolishness. In the Bible, we learn about Abigail who was married to a surly and foolish man. When he made a bad decision, she overruled it and did the right thing (1 Samuel 25). I understand that for many women it’s hard to stand strong, create boundaries and still stay compassionate. If you’re having trouble doing that, get some help for yourself. Go to Celebrate Recovery, attend Al-Anon meetings or seek a counselor to give you the support you need.

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