Liberate yourself from the enabler role

  1. I've heard it said that nurses tend to be enablers in general. After all, it's that "caretaking personality" that tends to gravitate towards the nursing profession in the first place. Well, that's fine at work but not outside of work. I've seen more nurses (and other healthcare providers including doctors) get involved in dead-end relationships with very needy people that "need to be fixed"..... Only to find that they can't be.
    I spent 12 years married to a man that was needy, possesive and dependent. I found the "attention" flattering at first. It was nice to be needed and I thought with some TLC that he would grow and change.


    I made the mistake of marrying him...thinking then he would become more independent and less obsessive. He only got worse over the years. Soon enough his problems grew to include alcoholism. He basically sucked the life right out of me and anyone else around him. Getting divorced took a whole lot longer and more work than getting married.
    Lesson is: It's ok to be needed at work....but check your motives in a relationship with a needy man (or woman). I promise you, they will not change for the better...and you cannot fix them. They can only fix themselves. And as long as we're there to pick up after them, why should they?
    So, if you are in a relationship that sounds suspiciously like the afore mentioned, run for the hills and don't look back. You'll do both of you a favor.
    By the way...I am doing wonderful these days. I date only "quality" independent men that have a life of their own. Right now, I am seeing a doctor...that (you guessed right) was married to a needy, dependent woman. Imagine that? We are enjoying our easy, non-eventful friendship.
    Any experiences out there?? Sound familiar to anyone? Your thoughts are welcomed.
  2. Visit LiznTexas profile page

    About LiznTexas

    Joined: Mar '02; Posts: 16
    Pediatric Hematology/Oncology RN


  3. by   nicubabe
    I feel like I just read my own bio. Am still in the process of a divorce from a needy man who thought I should be his mother. 10 years and 2 kids later I decided that I only had 2 children come from my womb not three! I am enjoying my independence and don't think I could get married again for fear that I'd end up with someone needing me to take care of them.
  4. by   SICU Queen
    There isn't enough time or space...
  5. by   P_RN
    All nurses are not enablers and all enablers are not nurses.
  6. by   live4today
    Originally posted by SICU Queen
    There isn't enough time or space...

    My sentiments exactly, SICU Queen! I married an enabler the first time around. Stayed married 18 years before he did a serious number on me and the kids. I've been married a second time 12 years, and I "take NO CRAP" more of those enabler moments exist in this woman! I had to learn the hard way how to NOT be an enabler in relationships, and today, I have NO trouble whatsover in saying NO! NO! NO! Because I said NO! PERIOD!!!
  7. by   LiznTexas
    Originally posted by P_RN
    All nurses are not enablers and all enablers are not nurses.

    You're right..not all nurses are enablers....but I'd be willing to bet there is a higher incidence among us. It's all about the nurturer role....and what drives us to become healthcare providers. I don't think anyone sets out to become an enabler....heck, I hadn't even heard of the term way back then. I do know all about enabling now.
    Hopefully we become smarter as we get older, right?
  8. by   LiznTexas
    Originally posted by nicubabe
    I feel like I just read my own bio. Am still in the process of a divorce from a needy man who thought I should be his mother. 10 years and 2 kids later I decided that I only had 2 children come from my womb not three! I am enjoying my independence and don't think I could get married again for fear that I'd end up with someone needing me to take care of them.
    You go girl.....thankfully you have the means to support your family. And you've learned something very valuable about yourself. Knowing that you can make your own way in the world is very empowering. Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a hug while you're at it.
  9. by   ktwlpn
    Many of us do the same with our families-I have lost count of the number of my co-workers whom are supporting adult children due to the poor choices they have made in their lives-and some are supporting their grandchildren....It is fortunate that the parents have a good steady income with unlimited oppurtunity for over-time.....
  10. by   MollyJ
    Great topic. I have observed that helping professions attract us enablers, so many teachers I know are also enablers.

    There's nothing wrong with being caring but every one needs to know their boundaries and that they deserve to be the helped, supported and cared-for person at times.

    P_RN, I think I could have written your message 20 years ago, but there is an enabling tendency in me although I have been married only once (to a great guy formerly married to a bottomless pit).

    Retrospectively, I realize my first manifestation of my enabling self was a friendship with a chronically mentally ill nurse who didn't want a friendship, she wanted ownership. It was like waking up in the middle of a strange dream.

    And, yes, KTLPN, you've nailed it. Second generation enabling!

    Anyhow, wanting to care and to help people is in short supply but the watchword is BOUNDARIES.
  11. by   LiznTexas
    Wow, great post MollyJ. Amazing what we learn about ourselves in retrospect, huh? I can look back now and see unhealthy patterns in my relationships....but back then I couldn't tell the forest from the trees 'cuz I had my face smashed up against the bark.
    The great thing about being in your 40's (yes I'm there and proud of it) is that you finally have some retrospect and yet have an opportunity to change things. (Actually you can change at any age.) I also find it liberating to not have to be right all the time. Funny enough, at 20 something, I always needed to be right. Now I don't. And someday, I'll wear purple if I feel like it.

    The most important change however is in your priority setting. I still love to have fun and own things but now am painfully aware that kids grow up too fast (my first two are 21 and 22). I am treasuring the time I have with my younger three (15, 12 and 11). Soon they will be gone too. Helps too, when they're especially annoying (ha ha). "This too soon will pass."
    Back to the point (and I do have one). My biggest challenge is setting boundaries with people in my life...."they might not like me".....but I always feel better about myself when I do it. And those people will respect you for setting those limits. And your kids are watching too. If they see other people walking on you, they'll follow suit and do it to you too. I know this....that was my wake up call....about 5 years ago. A lot has changed now (see previous postings) and change was hard. My oldest really fought it. But funny enough, she has told me since that although she found it unnerving at first (change is always hard), she now respects me as a person. She says she used to be embarrassed of how her step-father treated me and how I allowed it.
    There is a famous saying. "a mother bird removes the down and feathers from the nest a bit at a time so soon, it becomes so uncomfortable, that the youngsters will leave the nest and fly". So if you're sitting on sticks, maybe it's time for change.
  12. by   mattsmom81
    I believe one of the largest enabler groups ever seen is within our entire profession.....LOL!

    In essence our profession and it's leaders have allowed hospitals, doctors, and the public to dis nurses...and through the generations, our profession has become one big dysfunctional family as a result....only recently have we begun the 'revolt' that is termed the nursing shortage.

    A LOT of nurses, I have learned, are also adult children of alcoholics and all THAT involves...a whole 'nuther thread there too.....LOL!

    Good thread Liz!
  13. by   NurseDennie
    P_RN nurse, I agree with you, but man-oh-man, did LiznTexas hit ME on the head!!!!! I actually had started to post pretty much this same admission in another post and I edited the post and took it out!

    I'm the oldest of 6 kids, my mum died a couple of days after I turned 12. I was always the deputy mum all my life (twin brothers a little over a year younger than I) and I guess I thought that being "needed" was being loved!! I met my hubby when I was 17 and he was 23 I guess, maybe 24. I SWEAR nobody told me that 19 was too young to get married. I am not sure if I would have listened if they had done, but I know nobody ever suggested that we wait a while more.

    Everybody on his side of the family were so supportive and glad that we were marrying. They all said how "good" I'd be for him. It wasn't until WAY later that I started thinking "Hey, where are the people asking if he'll be good for me?????"

    Lizntexas, you said he sucked the life out of you, and that's almost exactly how I'd describe it - only I think of it as soul-deadening. Wow. We'll be married 30 years at Christmas.

    I've stayed with him *mostly* because of the kids. Now that my younger daughter is getting out of high school - who knows?? I guess I do love him, because I don't like to think of hurting his feelings. (Is everybody laughing at me, now?)

    I kind of left it like this until now: If I stay with him, only one person is miserable: me. If I left him, then he AND the kids would have been miserable.

    Years ago he said that he sort of thought of the marriage as like bringing up kids, and he felt like I'd signed on for the duration with him. It sounded to me like he felt I *owed* him the rest of my life!! This last weekend, he told me that, if it hadn't been for me, he'd probably be living under a bridge somewhere. That's sad. It's also true. The bad part is, I think he thought that telling me that would make me feel better.

    Ah well.....


  14. by   prn nurse
    Do you live in a place where peonies grow? If so, which state is that?