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10 Examples of Enabling Behavior in Relationships

Are you guilty of enabling behavior in relationships that is unhealthy in relationship to a loved one’s addiction? You may feel your actions are supportive, but there is a fine line between being helpful and enabling. It’s important to know the difference to avoid aiding the addict in behavior that is destroying his or her life.

4 Minute Read | Published Sep 06 2023 | Updated Mar 04 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Dr. Ash Bhatt
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Dr. Ash Bhatt
Reviewed by

What is Considered Enabling Behavior in Relationships

10 Examples Of Enabling Behavior In Relationships

There are numerous actions that indicate you are developing an enabling relationship. It’s normal to want to help someone you love that is in trouble. When the trouble is an addiction, assistance may cause more harm than good. You may find yourself participating in some of these examples of enabling behavior in relationships.

  1. You are afraid you will hurt your addicted loved one’s feelings if you deny their request for money or other things that will support their substance abuse.
  2. You fear your loved one will become angry and spiteful towards you.
  3. You have paid overdue power bills, bought groceries, and fill the gas tank of your loved one’s car because he or she has spent the paycheck on alcohol or drugs.
  4. You are concerned other family members might feel you are cold or indifferent to the one with the addiction problem.
  5. You fear your loved one will become angry and aggressive toward you if you deny his or her demands.
  6. You repeatedly lie and make excuses to employers, friends and other family members in the hope they will not recognize the addiction of your loved one.
  7. You clean up messes the behavior of your addicted loved one has caused, such as paying a gambling debt, replacing damaged property, fulfilling his or her commitments, or paying bail money to get out of jail.
  8. You clean up the physical messes left behind after a night or weekend of substance abuse. These messes can include a bed that is soiled with vomit, feces, and other unpleasant items.
  9. You are afraid he or she won’t love you if you don’t give in to all requests and demands.
  10. You screen phone calls for your loved one to shelter him or her from conflicts resulting from addiction behavior.

How To Stop Enabling Someone

When you discover someone you love has a substance abuse problem, you react emotionally before you think the problem out rationally. Sometimes it’s hard to abandon the emotional reaction and take positive steps to deal with the addiction your loved one is dealing with. Turning off your emotions is critical to actually doing things that help the addicted person. Tough love is what is needed to know how to stop enabling someone.

  • You need to ignore harsh words that accuse you of not caring about the addicted loved one.
  • Don’t be intimidated by threats of your loved one withdrawing affection from you.
  • Remember, all of your loved one’s actions are due to substance abuse. His or her demands are made under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Make decisions that you know are right even though they upset your loved one.
  • Never give him or her money, pay their bills, make “excuse” phone calls, or lie to cover up addiction behavior.
  • Join a support group for family member of addicts to learn “tough love” techniques that actually can help your loved one.

How To Stop Being An Enabler In A Relationship

If you are unsure of how to stop being an enabler in a relationship, a statement in the Al-Anon recovery program tells family members, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, and you can’t control it.” This is an important statement that applies to the family members of all substance abusers. Focusing on this statement will help you in making wise decisions when it comes to your loved one.

Don’t fall into the trap of becoming addicted to enabling. Be strong, and follow the tips in this article. For help in dealing with a loved one’s addiction, a phone call will put you in touch compassionate and professional help.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and/or maintaining sobriety, contact Better Addiction Care today. We’ll help you find the right treatment program for your needs. Call us at (800) 429-7690.


bullet PsychCentral
"How to Spot and Stop Enabling Behavior"
Retrieved on October 12, 2017
bullet Psychology Today
"Are We Addicted to Being an Enabler?"
Retrieved on October 12, 2017

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