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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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