We all can agree that when we think about toxic relationships we think of those relationships where physical, verbal, or emotional abuse is present. Dysfunctional relationships such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and even workoholism fall into this category also.
As I have studied people and relationships over the years, I have come to understand that toxic relationships can be much more subtle than that. We need to broaden our scope of thinking to include such partners that might be classified as enablers.
Why is a relationship with an enabler a toxic relationship? Quite simply, enablers don’t hold you accountable for what you say or do. When things don’t go as planned, they may say “It’s all right.”, “Maybe it will be better next time.”, “It wasn’t your fault.”, and on and on. Now, these statements in and of themselves are not hurtful. However, if your effort is less than 100% in whatever you were trying to do, they are not holding you accountable. It doesn’t matter whether you are working on a business project, a home project or your relationship, If you are not being held accountable for what you say and do, they are hurting you! They are not helping you be the best person you can be.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t stumble and fall. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have hard times to work through. What it does mean is that they are allowing you to do things in a half hearted manner…including your relationship. This also means that the enabler does not value themselves. They are settling for less than the best from you. They are telling themselves that they can’t or maybe shouldn’t expect the best from you, themselves or anyone else.
We all should strive to be the best partner we can be. Enablers remove most of the accountability. So, why should we be any better than our partner expects us to be?
An extraordinary relationship is built on both people giving 100% to the other. If you’re not being responsible or accountable you’re not the person you have the potential to be. If you are the one that is the enabler, you are settling and setting yourself up for continuous disappointment.
As I look back on my relationships, I have found that I have been attracted to enablers. Why? Because it’s the easy path in life. I have found that the most fulfilling life I can lead is the one where I am fully accountable, fully present, fully participating in the relationship. This can only happen when I am maintain my personal integrity and follow through on my daily responsibilities, goals and desires.
Ultimately it falls on each of us to recognize and admit our own weaknesses and to prevent the enablers in our lives from accepting less from us.
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