The Great Fire of 1910 scorched three million acres of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Along its deadly path, it claimed the lives of 87 people. Entire towns turned to cinder. And smoke darkened the sunsets from Washington State to New York City.
The forest fire raged out of control because of a deadly combination—drought, lightning, strong winds, and not having enough firefighters.
It was the perfect storm.
Are You an Enabler?
If you’re not careful, you could find yourself in the midst of the perfect storm that could destroy your marriage. You think you’re helping your spouse who is struggling with addiction, but you might be adding more fuel to the fire by enabling them.
Enabling a spouse means you are removing consequences and making it easier for him or her to continue their addiction.
Are you enabling your spouse? Here are 6 signs.
Sign #1: You deny
You may say: “She doesn’t hurt anyone when she gets drunk.” Or, “All men are addicted to porn.” Sure, it’s easy for you to deny the truth. Because when you’re in denial, it’s a helpful tool to learn to cope. But denial doesn’t lead to healing.
The Living Bible puts it best: “You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there…” (Jeremiah 6:14) Denial might prevent your spouse from getting help, such as seeing a Christian counselor or going to a treatment center. Instead of being in denial, face the truth—the first step to getting help for your spouse.
Sign #2: You rescue
Your marriage is on life support; yet, you pretend everything is perfect. To continue this façade, you do things to rescue your spouse like:
- Cleaning up their vomit
- Bailing them out of jail
- Paying their bills
- Giving them money
- Avoiding confrontation
- Giving them “one more chance“
- Dropping charges of domestic violence
Don’t keep rescuing your husband or wife. We’re warned in Proverbs, “A short-tempered man must bear his own penalty; you can’t do much to help him. If you try once, you must try a dozen times!” (Proverbs 19:19, NLT) If you keep rescuing your spouse, you’ll have to keep doing it.
Again. And again.
Sign #3: You excuse
It’s easy to make excuses for your spouse when they become abusive or destructive. In fact, making excuses is another way you have learned to cope. You say it’s your fault, or blame it on his or her boss.
You’re not a doormat, right? So don’t allow your spouse to treat you like one. Proverbs 27:12 encourages us to watch out for danger: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”
Protect yourself by requiring your spouse to get help. If they don’t, see a Christian counselor and go to a support group on your own. The next step may be for you to get advice from an attorney and consider separating from your spouse for you or your children’s emotional and physical well-being.
Sign #4: You please
Let’s face it. You’re a people-pleaser and want to please your spouse. No matter how hard you try, though, you’ll never make them happy. Stop trying to win your spouse’s approval; it will only continue the vicious cycle of addiction. The apostle Paul exhorts us against being a people-pleaser in Galatians 1:10: “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”
Instead of trying to please your spouse, focus on things you can control such as:
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Protecting yourself and your children from harm
- Drawing close to the Lord
- Doing your own recovery work
Sign #5: You lie
Lying to cover up for your spouse missing work or another responsibility reveals a deeper problem—codependency. You become codependent when you keep trying to solve someone else’s problems.
Your spouse is responsible to God for their actions. Not you. Romans 14:12 says, “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.” The best way to help your spouse is to let them experience pain from the consequences of their bad choices. God can use consequences in your spouse’s life to bring them back to Him.
Sign #6: You isolate
You isolate yourself and have stopped taking care of yourself. Going solo and neglecting yourself is not the solution—building close relationships with safe people and practicing self-care is. Solomon knew there is strength in community when he wrote: “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Here are some ways to connect:
- Join a Life Recovery Group
- Meet with a Christian counselor
- Volunteer somewhere
- Start a new hobby
- Join a gym
- Find a prayer partner
The Great Fire of 1910 was the largest single fire in US history. It destroyed three million acres of land—roughly the size of Connecticut.
You bring death and destruction to your marriage by enabling your spouse. Don’t blame yourself for your spouse’s addiction. But do take responsibility for your part in adding more fuel to the fire by enabling them.
Let go of trying to control your spouse. And let God work. After all, God never designed you to rescue your spouse—that’s His job.