When caring becomes enabling
You are coaching your loved one through a
transformation from a world of isolation to a world of
new possibilities. Your relationship plays a key role in
the success of this journey. You need to be intimately
involved, encouraging, creative and emotionally
supporting to your loved one through the struggle. But your close involvement and your passion for helping
can put you in danger of crossing over the line from
providing support to enabling coping behavior that will
defeat you both.
A common and dangerous coping strategy that
crosses this line, one that’s so natural that it’s almost
unconscious, is reaching out and manipulating
caregivers into taking over the problem and doing
all the work. How do you know when you’ve crossed
this line? When, prompted by your desire to help and
to make things feel normal, you find yourself overprotecting
and overcompensating on your loved one’s behalf. You proactively avoid social situations
that might challenge your loved one’s hearing. You
pick up their end of a conversation. You find yourself
maneuvered into interpreting, taking phone messages
and otherwise functioning as a human hearing aid.
In other words, your helpful nature has, almost without
your knowing it, made you a co-conspirator in the denial
and coping that present constant obstacles to getting
help. It’s not always easy to recognize this situation
when you’re in it. Everything seems to run smoothly.
And you’re feeling good, in a codependent way, because
you are helping. In actuality, you’ve crossed the line,
and you’re not helping your loved one make progress.