Supporting vs. enabling

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  • 1 Post By WileE-Dead
  • 1 Post By Nej
  • 1 Post By greenjumper
  • 1 Post By scrills

I just read a blog where someone discussed how if she expressed her own opinions she was called a b-, and not being supportive, yet felt she had to say something to friends who were being self-destructive.

It's something I often struggle with. I know we have to figure out our own paths, and if I care about someone I definitely don't want to say something mean. At the same time, if everyone is "supportive" of self-destructive behavior and never says anything, there's no external incentive for someone to try to find a different path. I've also found it's bad for me to be around anyone on a self-destructive path. I don't mean physical self-destruction like drugs and alcohol abuse - but whether it's self-flagellation, or the friend who was fired from two jobs when she spent her work time planning her wedding instead of working, unhealthy paths people make which cause them emotional damage.

Do you tend to just say it like it is, or support and let them figure it out on their own? I had a friend who kept questioning her feelings months prior to her wedding, and I never would have told her to dump the guy, but I gave a more neutral "well, is there a reason you're questioning these things and feeling this way? There may be something you need to answer for yourself there." She did eventually break up with him and I gave a big sigh of relief, but I would have supported her in marrying him if she hadn't figured it out, knowing eventually she'd need someone who cared about her in the divorce...
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I think for me that I've tried to be nonthreatening.
I think that it has been the best solution.
curlypearl likes this.
I agree that it's an important distinction. I generally don't like to tell people what to do, but there are times when if you simply shrug off their decisions, you're not really being supportive, just indifferent.
It depends. I'll probably say something once, and leave it at that. But if it's a won't listen/will get highly agitated type person, or they're doing something obviously dumb, then I won't bother.
Depends on the person and the situation. Some I know want advice, and others have no intention of breaking their patterns nor am I the holder to everything right and wise so who am I to tell someone what they 'should' do. Unless specifically asked I'm usually just supportive. Being told what I 'should' do it's the most annoying thing ever. I tend to avoid people who are always filling our conversation with 'shoulds'

There is a way to do it tactfully and with sensitivity. I usually start off with "I say this because I love you ..." and go from there. Most of the time it's because I get sick of hearing the same ish over and over without any movement towards solving the problem or moving forward.

That's more for just basic drama. If it was dealing with some sort of major addiction I would hardline a lot more. It's one thing to whine, it's another to be seriously in need of help.
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Last edited by Nej; 11-28-2011 at 09:28 AM.
I've been dealing with a similar situation since June. Unfortunately it's still going on. The advice that others gave is basically what I have been doing for the past months. Although my friend's situation is still a mess, I remain someone that she can talk to and confide in. I am fine with this because I feel like when she really needs help, she will have no problem coming to me.

That is why I think the "non-threatening" thing that WileE mentioned is important.

I think you handled the situation well. The only time I would take a more direct approach is when it is a life or death (or another type of serious) situation. However even in those situations there is a very thin line because you run the risk of the person feeling attacked/ alienated and this usually just pushes them further into self-destruction.

In other situations, sometimes you just have to accept other peoples decisions. Sometimes they end up being the right decisions for them (even if it is not the decision you would have made for yourself). Sometimes the decision is a huge mistake but it was theirs to make. In those situations I usually just keep being a friend, keep the "I told you so" comments to myself and help if I can.
curlypearl likes this.
I will only say something directly if I'm willing to risk the relationship or put up with the discomfort of being the bad guy for a while, until they figure it out. (I should say, IF they ever figure it out -- there are no guarantees, of course.) For that to be the case, the relationship better be pretty damn important to me, or the problem better be pretty severe. Or both.

Because IME you tell someone something helpful and truthful about their situation -- maybe it's not even advice, but just reflecting their situation back to them clearly -- and then there is a delay of weeks/months/years/eternity before they "get it" and then another stretch while they come to terms with it. Potentially during that whole time, the relationship can be strained if you were the one who told it to them straight.

I reckon I make that leap maybe 10% of the time in situations that seem to require I do something. The more common response is I will just distance myself. That's what I notice a lot of people doing in these situations. Some would call it call it passive aggressive or whatever, but social distancing can be somewhat effective as well, under the right circumstances.

Last edited by wild~hair; 11-28-2011 at 10:40 AM.
My aim is always to frame my comments in such a way that the idea (to change) comes from them, not me. I try to ask questions to get them to think. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but I try not to be too pushy. In some instances, i just have to walk away and let people learn the hard way
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