One day I was discussing abuse with a friend who had had a similar experience to my own. I was asked “How did you enable him?” I was perplexed by her question because I wasn’t sure what she meant by ‘enable’ and the very term within the context of abuse sounded sinister. This was her explanation; sometimes without meaning to or even being conscious of it, the victim’s behaviour perpetuates the behaviour of the abuser. The fact is that certain behaviours make the perpetrator feel powerful enough to behave in the way they do because there are no real consequences. The victim’s intention isn’t to encourage the abusive behaviour, the crux of the matter is to understand what enabling is about and how it determines the interactions in the relationship. Behaviours such as keeping the peace, being compliant and submissive are done in an attempt to make life manageable. The victim is pretty much walking on eggshells all the time. Paradoxically, this only serves to enable the abuser and no one should have to be in that position. Ever. What will he be like when he returns from work? What will he be like when he wakes up in the morning?
The following article is an excerpt from Narcissistic Family Files https://narcissistfamilyfiles.com/2018/09/10/enabling-the-narcissist-how-and-why-it-happens/
It was an interesting question and not something I had given much thought to. This was real food for thought.
Unquestionably accepting his version of reality: he always maintained that the church family didn’t perceive him in a positive way. He felt pre-judged by them and as such never made any real attempt to get to know them or even try to be civil towards them. In particular he disliked Sister Viola and her husband. He often complained that they slighted him, and that in his bible study class her husband (who was his teacher) would make illustrations that mirrored his (Mr Impatient’s) past. I accepted that this is how he viewed his world. I never challenged the fact that it was likely his snobbery that caused others to stay away from him. Enabling.
I didn’t stand up to him when he did or said things that made me deeply uncomfortable. I was generally occupied with his wellbeing because if he was happy I would be left alone, enabling. He had this thing; when he was driving we had to hold hands. Being a non-driver at the time I questioned the safety of this. He was offended since he had been driving for x amount of years and he insisted that we do it. I didn’t challenge him or refuse to do it, enabler. I absolutely hated doing this after we had argued or while arguing in the car but I never removed my hand from his. I always let him let my hand go. Enabling.
Hiding or cleaning up his mess. I made excuses for him when he didn’t attend church. I remember hurriedly walking to where he had parked after service one day and realizing that he had left me. A brother who saw me realized I was looking for my then husband said “That’s funny, a man who loves his wife would never leave her at church, doesn’t even matter if they’ve had an argument.” I pathetically replied that I didn’t mind walking.
Acting as an apologist. On another occasion we attended the funeral of somebody I knew. He dropped me at the church so that I could save us seats while he tried to find parking. Halfway through the service when he still hadn’t materialised next to me I went in search of him. When I eventually found him we ended up arguing over something petty. I was agitated and irritable. On my way back to the church I bumped into a cousin of mine. He asked where I was coming from because he had seen when I had walked out of the church. I explained why I had gone to look for him. Then my cousin inquired why my husband wasn’t with me. I don’t remember what I said but I know I made an excuse for him. Enabling.
I never blamed anyone for his behaviour. There was a history of neglect and abuse in his childhood. I know the impact brokenness has on an individual. I do not accept that an abused past is a valid reason for mistreating others. I informed him once that he wore his abusive past as a badge of honour to inflict pain on me. He was totally responsible for all his choices.
I started this blog sharing my conversation with Lauryn and I will end with her. Our actions are on a spectrum of behaviours. There is sympathy and compassion for abusers because they were abused. Not everyone who was abused becomes an abuser, but most people who become abusers were themselves abused. Are there abusers out there who were not abused themselves? The relationship between the victim and perpetrator is a dyadic one because of the way they inter-relate and create a dynamics within their relationship. What is it that attracts abusers to me? The beauty of all this is that there are those who go through these situations and come out the other side and are able to educate others. There are so many men and women who don’t progress or grow because they can’t grasp their freedom and they remain trapped. The cycle of abuse is then preserved in future generations. Education then is the key and specifically understanding our own behaviour.
If you recognise that you are in an abusive relationship please hear me clearly. Depending how long you have been with your partner, you probably realise that you are an enabler. I know that you must be tired of the rat race that has become your existence. Nothing has changed. The reason this is true is because they truly believe that they are the best thing that ever happened to you. You and I know this could never be true. It is time to think of your wellbeing and put yourself first.
That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me. Colossians 1:29 The Message Bible.
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