Are You in a Financially Abusive Relationship?

 In Relationships & Money

An enabler is one that enables another to achieve an end; especially: one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.

Before you move on to the next post feeling some peculiar air of superiority, please note that while the definition cites substance abuse as a self-destructive behavior, it doesn’t disqualify the many of you that enable friends and family financially, as well.  It’s one thing to assist someone who may find themselves in a bind from time to time, but it’s another to allow people to become another line item on your own struggling budget.  When you do, I believe you might actually be guilty of financial abuse.

Not only is helping them, actually hurting them, but it can be hurting you, as well.

Singer and actor turned author, Tyrese, put it best while on tour a few years ago to promote his book, How To Get Out of Your Own Way.  His words echo in my mind still daily:“Sometimes to help someone, you have to stop helping them.”

So simple, yet so remarkably powerful.  And yet, I know how it goes.  We feel obligated to help family and friends who are in a financial bind.  After all, isn’t it the noble thing to do? It might be if it weren’t for the fact that nobility can often create an inability in a person to figure “it” out on their own.  Financially speaking, “it” can be a number of circumstances from how to earn their own income and manage their own money wisely to how to decipher between their own wants and needs, pay their own bills on time and essentially how to hustle.

So, how can you tell if you are enabling someone in your life? Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following 8 questions:

Do you:

    1. Constantly find yourself having to bail out grown and able-bodied adults? (If you’re a parent and your “baby” is above college-age, yes, they count as an adult.)
    2. Tell the few people who actually offer to pay you back not to worry about it?
    3. Financially support anyone whose neediness is purely derived out of their own laziness?
    4. Find yourself afraid for this person, or convinced that he/she “cannot handle” a basic life situation without “falling apart”?
    5. Excuse this person’s behavior as being a result of “the economy, stress, misunderstanding, or difficulty coping,” even when the behavior hurts or inconveniences you?
    6. Wish others in this person’s life would change their behavior or attitudes to make things easier for this person?
    7. Ever feel manipulated by this person but ignore your feelings?
    8. Make yourself more available to another person, at the expense of your own financial obligations, energy, or time?

If you have said “Yes” in your head, committed a shy nod, bitten your lower lip or rested your chin in the palm of your head and leaned forward, then more than likely, my friend, you are an enabler.

Here are three tips to help you break free of financial abuse with those you claim to love:

1.  Stop Enabling & Start Empowering – There’s an old, yet continuously relevant Chinese proverb  which says if you, “Give a man a   fish you’ll  feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”

Don’t take away a person’s ability to hustle.  The fact of the matter is, you won’t always be around to go fishing for them.  If you keep enabling them, then they’ll starve should anything ever happen to you. Is that what you really want?

Remember, “Real need brings real motivation”. People will not learn to be responsible as long as they KNOW they’ll always  have you as a backup plan.

2.  Stop Helping People Who Won’t Help Themselves – Instead of constantly reaching in your wallet, refer those in need to community resources and services.

What does your constant helping say other than, “I support your self-destructive and negative behavior. So much so, I’m going to give you more money so you can keep it going.”

Remember actions speak louder than words.  You can give the inspirational “get your life together” speeches all day and/or you can get angry and swear before the Almighty that this “is the last time I’ll give you a dime!” until the cows come home, but what you DO is always speaking so much louder than what you SAY.

3. Take YOU Out of THEIR Problems – This is not about you being an awesome person.  This is not about you doing your “good deed” so you can make it to those pearly gates.  This is about them figuring life out for them!

If nothing else, remember that the money you continue to dole out to irresponsible friends and family member could be used to perhaps get YOU out of debt, buy YOUR first home, save for YOUR retirement.  There’s nothing selfish about considering YOU every once in awhile!  After all, the folks you are enabling definitely don’t care about YOU or your future and believe me, when your money runs out and you have nothing else to give, they WILL move on to the next one!

That’s our Q to your A! Tell us what  you think in the comments below.
Have you been a financial abuser or the victim of financial abuse at some point? (Note – We all have on some level.)
When did you realize someone you loved was actually taking advantage of you? How did you stop the cycle?


Patrice C. Washington

Patrice C. Washington

Known online as the Wisdom & Wealth Money Maven, Patrice C. Washington is author of the personal finance series, Real Money Answers, as well as creator of The Mindset + Money Master Class, a step-by-step formula to help you create the money mindset and skill set necessary for lasting personal finance success.
Patrice C. Washington
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