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Monday, February 20, 2012

Are you a supporting friend or an enabler?

We all desire to be a supportive friend.

Our goal is to be there for the phone calls, the tears, the struggles, and the fun times; I mean isn't that what friendship is all about? But what happens when it all becomes overwhelming; choking the life out of us and our friendship. We go from supportive friend to bitter companion who is stuck listening to every possible complaint. If you're like me, I sometimes find myself avoiding the person all together because they seem to always have something to gripe about.

While we all love to listen and give advice, if we're honest, sometimes being supportive can be draining.

I'm not talking about the friend who just lost her job, parent, loved one, or pet. Those are the times we should be there and lend our extra support. For those moments, we drop everything we're doing and show up at their house with a bucket full of cookie dough ice cream. These are the times that we listen intently, stuffing our face as well with the chocolatey goodness. (I mean friends don't let friends eat those types of calories alone).

I'm referring to the friend who has a boyfriend, they break up, you're there for her, they get back together, you're there for her, they break up again and the cycle just repeats itself.

Or what about the friend who hates her job but refuses to step out and apply for other positions? Instead she complains day and night about how much she hates, hates, hates what she does.

Don't forget the friend who's always complaining how broke she is. In fact all she talks about is her financial troubles but always has her hair and nails done. Not to mention she always has a new outfit on.

Seriously, how much can we take?

So the question is, when do we go from a supportive friend to an enabler?

The definition of an enabler according to Webster is: one who enables another to participate in self-destructive behavior by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.

Now before you think that self-destructive behavior has to be about drugs, let me show you otherwise. Self-destructive behavior can be sleeping around, running up credit cards, staying in an not so good relationship, living beyond their means, and/or making excuses for their repeated bad decisions. I'm sure there's tons of other things, but we'll start there.

So are you a supportive friend, or simply an enabler? Check our list, you may be surprised:

Characteristics of a supportive friend:   
  • Your friends know you're just a text or phone call away but they understand there are times when you're busy and they respect that. They know you'll get back to them.
  • Listens and offers advice when asked
  • Not afraid to be upfront and honest
  • Looks at the bigger picture in order to pin point the real problem. (Even if the problem is your friend).
  • Helps to create a plan of action
  • Pushes a friend past their current situation and encourages them to live a better life.

Characteristics of an enabler:
  • Every time there's a conflict, your friend calls and gives you a play by play. (Even if its the middle of the night). In essence, you're her sounding board; she never has to figure out her problems on her own. If you're completely honest, you like feeling needed. 
  • Listens but seldom speaks
  • Afraid of being brutally honest so you stay quiet, or simply beat around the bush.
  • Never addresses the real issue(s)
  • Let's a friend continually wallow in their misery. 
 Where did you fit in?

While it's great to be a supportive friend, nothing's worse than being dragged down, bogged down, and overall drained by a friend who wont do better for themselves. You can offer all the advice and comfort you want, but if they refuse to take the steps to start solving their own problems and moving towards positivity, it may be time to remove yourself from the equation. After all, friendship is about being honest. Even if it means being uncomfortable in speaking the needed truth.

We hope this article has helped your view on friendship.
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  1. My personality is very goofy and at times when I see my friends complain about a vicious cycle of behavior I like to use humor and apply the "fill-in the-blank drama scenario" For example, the friend who keeps breaking up and getting together...

    I like to say. He did ________, so you are going to __________. He needs to say __________ and you're going to be back together, right?

    Once they see it in this funny, yet true pattern they either A: come to their senses. B: Stop telling me about it because they feel they are going to get the SAME questions from me.

    Either way, it works for the both of us, I won't have to hear about it again, and/or she will move on to better pastures!

    ta da!

    1. Lol Luce thanks for your post! As I read it, I totally laughed out loud. My dog looked at me like I was insane. You're clearly a supporting friend.

    2. Awesome post. This helps a lot.

  2. Hi

    I found your website on Friday after looking at the lauren conrad website.

    Reading your post is really useful. I noticed before christmas that I was an "enabler" friend. My friend would phone me up and speak to me for hours about her problems, not wanting to form her own opinion and then asking ofr mine. I would reply and give her advice. I realised I wasnt in fact being supportive. I decided to try to change our relationship. As a result we havent really spoken in a couple of months. Friday there, she text me to tell me another of her problems. I replied politely that I was busy and that I could speak to her at another time. She has has not replied to me or made contact since.

    I think you are right friendship is all about being honest. Its hard at the start to realise what type of relationship your friendship has become however if its not a positive relationship then neither of you will benefit.

    Thank you so much for your post, i feel its poped up at the right moment for me :-)

    1. Hi! Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm so excited you found the site! Friendship is really tough and you can quickly see where you stand with an individual by your reactions to them. It sounds like she's only around for what you can give her (advice) and since you didn't have the time at the moment, she probably sought counsel somewhere else. I'm happy this post really helped you. : ) You may want to check out a previous post we wrote "Are they really your friend?"

      Hope to hear from you soon!

  3. Yey I'm supportive! This was such a great post! Great blog as well :)

    1. That's great Daisy! You're the type of friend we all need. : ) Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Wow! What a GREAT POST! I never thought of friendship in these terms glad I read this tonight! :) Thanks for sharing Vonae!

    1. Hi Erin! Thanks so much! It's taken a lot of long, late phone calls and aggravation for me to realize these simple things but thank God I did. : )

  5. Great article, thanks for sharing! Glad I stumbled on your blog by way of LC ;)

    1. Thank you! I love your blog too. Found you the same way. ; )

  6. Found you from your comment on the friendship article on the SITS site. I love your article and I love your site!! I'm signing up!

    1. Hi Lori and welcome! I'm so happy you found my little playground. Thank you for the compliments. This site has been a labor of love since last Spring and now I'm finally getting it up and running. : )Thanks for joining!