The Oxford dictionary’s definition of enable is to give (someone) the authority or means to do something, also, ‘to give strength’, ‘to make firm and strong’. Notice how all of these are positive interpretations yet, the word also has a very negative, if not corrosive, interpretation. 

As humans we love. We really don’t have any choice in the matter, whether it be a family member, a life partner, a friend or even our favourite football team, before we know it and without warning, we’re bitten by the love bug and we love.  From that moment forward, we’re generally putty in the hands of the object of our affection.  There isn’t much we won’t do to be with them, please them, preserve their health and safeguard their happiness.

A friend will help you move but that a good friend will help you move a body. I think there may be more truth to that than initially meets the eye (or in this case, the text). Ask yourself, if somebody you really loved took the life of somebody else, would you have the strength to see them brought to justice?  No, really, think about it for a second. Whilst you agonise over what may be morally correct, I can tell you, the reality is that the majority of people would be unable to forsake the ones they love.

Now, why do you think that is?

What exactly is it about this cruel an unusual scenario above that would stop a human being from doing what they are morally obliged to do? It’s love. However irrational it may be, however wrong, the love of somebody else compels us to act in what we believe is in the best interest of our loved one.

But are we?

In this particular circumstance there’s a very good argument in favour of the fact that by lying to cover up the crime of our loved one we’re actually encouraging them to commit the same crime again.  Now hold up, just before you start arguing that. Of course there are mitigating circumstances, as we don’t know all of the details of this example; how and why the crime took place, was it premeditated, and so on. These things will all have a bearing (and certainly would in a court of law) on how we view the case but the reality (or morality) remains the same; if our loved one does not assume the responsibility for their crime/ actions then how on earth are going to truly appreciate the severity of the deed and refrain from repeating it?

Okay, so maybe the above is an extreme example, here’s a more everyday occurrence. Grandparent takes 5 year old child into a candy store, 5 year old says he’d like some sweeties; grandparent refuses the child, stating that it’s nearly time for dinner, child throws itself onto the floor proceeds to scream at the top of its voice until the mortified grandparent, with eyes of unhappy shoppers on them, concedes and buys the child some sweets. Next time round, the process is repeated. Who’s at fault here; the grandparent or the child? Why the grandparent of course. But for the fact that they indulged the brat previously, they would not be in the situation now. By yielding to and thereby condoning the child’s behaviour, the grandparent set a precedent and sent just one message ‘if you scream loud enough, you’ll get your way’. It is this very reason why governments do not negotiate with terrorist because if they give into one, all of the freaks would come crawling out the woodwork demanding the same treatment.

And am I comparing a spoilt brat to a terrorist? I this situation, hell yeah!

Making excuses for a disrespectful loved one, consistently loaning them money and never asked for it back, solving their problems for them, doing things for them that they could and should do themselves are just a few of the crimes committed by an enabler.

Now, many of you are going to see the above as just ‘caring’ for somebody and you’d be absolutely right but there’s a fine line between being supportive and being an enabler hence these saying, “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” Why do you think somebody came up with this? There’s nothing wrong with you taking care of the one you love but enabling them is a whole different story. E.g. using the examples above, by not making excuses for the person you love and have them confront their own scenarios teaches them that what they are doing is either wrong or unacceptable.  Loaning somebody money but asking for this money back teaches them not only to respect the fact that you had to earn your hard earned cash and that it doesn’t just get handed about and that they too should take on the responsibility of seeing a job to support themselves and their potential future family. Supporting somebody in solving a problem rather than solving it for them, teaches them that life isn’t always easy and there will come times when you’re going to find a challenge but, because you’ve been dealing with these throughout your life, you’re not going to fall apart when you need it the most and are going to rise to the occasion rather than relying on somebody who may not be there anymore. And so on, including some of the most famous enabling scenarios; parents who consistently clean up after their teenagers. This is not good parenting, this is bad parenting; you’re enabling your teenage child to be a) a lazy slob and b) stumping their psychological growth in becoming a responsible adult who respects themselves, others and their environment (as this kind of behaviour often translates into life. e.g. work, living with a partner).  Basic things like cooking for your teenager all the time without allowing them to ever step a foot in the kitchen, is hardly teaching them life skills, what do you think?

These are just some of the enabler’s traits and many of you are going to see them as a natural part of life and, especially, parenthood or marriage.

But remember, there’s a fine line between supporting the one you love and enabling them.

Have you ever heard of somebody being referred to as a ‘feeder? And no, I’m not talking about someone who cooks you breakfast and dinner, like your mum; I’m talking about a person who actually gains sexual satisfaction from the act of gorging their partner.

‘Feeders’ are quite common and generally tend to be men who seek out overweight partners and encourage them to gorge themselves. Yes, this is somewhat ironic given the stereotypical practices of most heterosexual men today is to seek out females as many years their junior as possible (within the law, generally) and for them to be as ‘fit’ and as ‘supple’ as possible. Not the feeder; he or she actually derives pleasure from the process of ‘feeding’ (generally gorging) their partner with the objective of making them gain more weight and thus become even sexier and thus propagating the ‘feeding’ cycle.

Yes, it truly does take all sorts but that isn’t the disturbing part of this story. What’s disturbing is the fact that these days, unless you’ve been living under a rock, it will be difficult for you not to appreciate the fact that being overweight, obese or morbidly obese (which most of the feeder partners are) is in no way good for your health since it elicits a whole battery of illnesses, yet the practice continues.  I guess it’s right up there with many other things that may be wrong yet ‘so right’.

Anyway, there’s another term for ‘feeder’ and I bet you can’t guess what it is. Sure you can, it’s ‘enabler’. This was the case for Arizona couple, Mark and Gina.  Mark actually left his wife when she decided to go on a diet to lose weight but he was naturally delighted when he met Gina. Gina became Mark’s project; to create the world’s fattest woman.  And he succeeded; Gina reached a total weight of 380kg, that’s 837lbs or 59 stone, 11 lbs.  Mark almost killed his partner in the process. In fact, things became so critical that Gina had to undergo surgery much to Mark’s dismay. Even now, he doesn’t understand what the fuss was all about. The grim reality is that Mark imprisoned Gina in herself.  By ‘feeding’ her and by growing her weight, it became more and more difficult for Gina to do things for herself so Mark would literally feed her, bath her, and generally ‘think’ for her, which meant Gina’s own personality disappeared, she became  not just a surrendered person but a surrendered mind. Her partner was killing her and she didn’t even notice it.

So, okay, this is an extreme case and a distant relative to the everyday occurrences of enablement that take place in our homes and work places and that many of us have, are or will be guilty of at some stage.

We’ve all done, do it, made excuses for and on behalf of somebody else because they were not fit or inclined to make the excuses themselves, be that whilst pulling a sicky so as to avoid a day at work or even visiting relatives. The issue here is not the act itself but more the psychological impact that this has on the offending party. E.g. psychologists believe that by ‘enabling’ somebody there’s no psychological impact on them to correct of modify their behaviour which in turn encourages them to repeat the behaviour.

Interestingly, some psychologists believe that one of the most difficult aspects of battling an addiction, or other pathological behaviours, is not necessarily the psychological weakness of one person. E.g. it’s not just the person with the behavioural problem but he or she may have an unhealthy synergy with somebody who is an enabler or even, in the case of alcoholism or drugs, a co-dependent.

Whilst writing this post, I’ve read a few cases where the partners of an alcoholic regularly lie or ‘rationalise’ on behalf of their partner to their partner’s employer, making up excuses why they are unable to report for work, inventing all sorts of creative stories about muggings, accidents, family traumas rather than the truth which is their partner is in a drunken stupor and in no fit state to be leaving the house and moreover that this person needs to get help otherwise they’ll continue to be in that drunken stupor on a regular basis. I, like many before and after me, know this the most, as I lost a good friend to alcoholism last year. She was enabled all the time by her rich family and those around her who rather than seeking help for her, enabled her to slowly kill herself because she was such a ‘lovely person’.  Those very close to her just wanted to see her happy. Oh the irony as that isn’t quite how things have turned out for all of us who have mourned the loss of such a wonderful person but, sadly, one who was in denial.

There are stories of women who have stated categorically that they had no idea of their partner’s criminal activity and yet had no rational explanation for how they were living a life of luxury. There are also stories of friends of dead heroin addicts who’d ‘loaned’ them money through the years leading up to their deaths who couldn’t fathom, in retrospect, why they would have done that, knowing full well what their money was being used for.

It should be said that not all enablers are bad people, they’re simply misguided; they believe that they are acting in the best interest of the person they care about. Others have darker motives.  For example, there is the not so uncommon case where husbands and wives indulge their partner’s addictions in order to gain a more meaningful relationship with their children (as the only reliable parent in the household). There are those who seek out weaker business partners with the sole intention of undermining them to project a far more impressive picture of their own success.  And then there are the voyeurs, the sinister, psychological hitchhikers who actually get a kick out of watching the emotional train wreck of others. E.g. they’ll watch and even encourage a gambler to lose a fortune whilst they’ll stand idly by or even encourage alcoholics to drink themselves into a state and goad them into performing dangerous and or violent acts whilst they look on with amusement at no risk to themselves.

Excluding the sociopath (and who knows, maybe even they ‘like’ someone in ‘their own way’), we all have one or many people in our lives that we care about. And it’s this caring that compels us to look out for their best interests, we’ll generally want these people to be happy, to live long and literally prosper and it’s in our makeup to do everything we can to support this be that providing nourishment, support and often a helping hand when they need it the most. It gives us pleasure to make those people happy or, in my sister’s case, you may even dress it up with the statement that they probably wouldn’t do a good job anyway. However, there are boundaries between expressing affection for the ones we care about and enabling them to avoid core psychological growth and moral responsibility. A wife of a rude husband may feel inclined (some believe it’s there duty) to justify his manners with those he may come into contact with. Rationalising is what women, primarily, do very well on behalf of their partners, but the reality is that by supporting this unacceptable behaviour, the wife is actually perpetuating it rather working with her husband to correct it. She isn’t being supportive, she’s enabling him to be a…well, one of those words that I wouldn’t and shouldn’t write on a blog.  Similarly, indulging a child every time they throw a fit so as to avoid ‘distressing’ that child is not in the child’s interest, nor is it in the interest of innocent bystanders who’d rather shop in peace than to the dissonant sound track of a brat.  Instead, setting boundaries for that child as to what is and what is not acceptable behaviour ensures that everybody can enjoy a peaceful and enjoyable trip to the shops!

Whatever your thoughts on the this post and however you choose to love the ones you love, make sure you’re acting not only in their interest but also your own.

Happy Sunday!


  1. copine says:

    Very Interesting Blog,I am sure many of us reading this Article this Morning will Recognise traits that were described .
    No doubt a lot of Folk will be thinking about what you have written Today .

  2. harberk says:

    Another true reflection on life, with words and expressions which I totally agree with, but slip into an enabler most days….. Enjoyed your piece though, I always do….. I just want to keep reading . Karen

  1. […] LAZY SLOBS, TANTRUMS AND GAMBLERS…ARE YOU AN ENABLER? – We’re all guilty of it one way or another, we think  we’re doing the best by […]


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