Last Valentine’s day I wrote about the importance of letting go of love control and offered a few suggestions on how to do it. Love control comes in many forms. When you advise your loved one about what he or she should do or how to be, you are being controlling. When you repeatedly “suggest” things that you feel will “help” your loved one, you are being controlling.
And certainly, when you judge or criticize your loved one, you are being controlling.
However, love control can also be quite subtle. For example, cajoling, flirting—and pouting–can be controlling. With Valentine’s Day again rapidly approaching, it is appropriate to look at another, less apparent form of love control—Love Enabling.
When we continually give too much or do too much for our loved ones, we are usually trying to control them–and instead risk taking away from them. Thus, a husband’s giving his wife a large allowance so she doesn’t have to work may result in his wife foregoing her own desires and ambitions.
Love enabling can also breed dissension. For example, a wife who gets tired from constantly running errands and taking care of the personal needs of her husband may become resentful because she is unable to take care of her own needs. Further, her husband may similarly be resentful because he feels his wife is too intrusive.
In addiction environments, enabling frequently occurs when the mate or partner of an addict constantly “rescues” the addict, thus saving him from the adverse consequences of his destructive actions. However, the rescuer usually does not realize that the only way the addict will be induced to seek treatment or help is by suffering the painful consequences of his or her actions.
Are You a Love Enabler?
It is not always easy to determine whether someone is a love enabler, because it is only natural to want to “give” and “do” things for the ones we love and care for. It is usually a matter of degree and constancy. There are, however, some probing inquiries or guide lines that can assist us.
Love Enabling Guidelines
Answer these questions as truthfully as you can.
1. Are your actions depriving your loved one of valuable learning experiences and self -reliance? I remember my aunt never being able or wanting to learn how to drive because my uncle drove her everywhere she wanted. After he died, to our surprise, she promptly learned how to drive.
2. What is the real motive behind your action? It is easy to discount our real motives for “helping” our loved ones. Consider whether the main reason you are doing something for your partner is because you want to make it “easier” or “better” for yourself. For example, you may repeatedly help your wife clear her clutter because you believe it will help her stop cluttering. However, the underlying motive may be that living with clutter unsettles you.
In either case, your helping her may exacerbate the problem and impede her personal growth. Why? Because your assistance provides little or no incentive for her to deal with the clutter herself. If you abstained, the clutter may pile up so much that even she can’t stand it anymore. She may then start doing something about it and in the process gain the inner satisfaction and self-esteem that comes from taking care of her needs.
3. Are you always trying to solve your loved one’s problems? If so, you are once again impeding his or her opportunities for personal growth, self-reliance, and inner satisfaction.
4. Do you help because you want things done your way? Aside from depriving your loved one of valuable learning experiences, it usually means that you do not trust that he can do it properly himself, and thus undermine his self-confidence. Instead, try to be more humble. There is more than one way of doing most things and there is no assurance that your way is the best or right way. Most often, it is simply a way!
Some Valentine’s Day Love Challenges
Consider accepting the following “love” challenges for Valentine’s Day and this month:
*Allow your loved one the dignity of solving his problems and challenges.
*Examine your real motives for wanting to “help” your loved one.
*Accept that your way is only the right way for you.
*Listen attentively to the concerns of your loved one—without adding your two cents.
As you progress, please let me know if your love bond begins to glow brighter!
In the meantime, remember to
Let it Go!