Updated: Aug 24, 2019
By Glyndora Condon MS MFT LPC; an article of overly protective parenting.
Have you ever believed that you were protecting or helping someone you loved and believed that this was your role as a wife, friend, or mother; or even as an employee or partner in the work place? Did your silence, your looking the other way, your forgiveness of debts that continued to occur, or other attempt to keep secrets; or to lower the stress of a loved one, create a situation where it was expected to continue despite the damage being done? The immediate bandage to bring temporary relief of an intended temporary problem then mushroomed into a major gaping issue, getting deeper with every effort we applied or provided-then makes it evident that despite our attempts to help; things are growing worse, out of control, and terribly burdensome; thus, deemed ineffective.
Often, we bring this to our loved ones as a state of emergency and provide boundaries and warnings that are not heeded. We then are trapped and filled with guilt due to the need to pull out; yet ongoing issues keep us trapped. We fear that our loved ones would hate us, and fear that now we have covered for this person so much that we are now accomplices to the crime or the dysfunctional behaviors. We continue to fuel the bad choices which made it possible to the dysfunction at the demise of our loved one and us. How do we confront the issue that we enabled, and stand by as our loved one struggles with the responsibilities that they now have to face, but needed to face long ago? How do we accept the consequences that might occur to us for our parts in enabling them? What will they do as we refuse to keep secrets or bail them out any longer? Is doing the right thing worth the cost?
A woman who suspected her husband of cheating while she was pregnant, in a high risk pregnancy, requested her mother to check into the situation; so as to either set her mind to rest with the news that he was not cheating; or to provide the woman confirmation so that she could then proceed in deciding what she wanted to do with her husband and marriage; which was her right and responsibility to determine. The woman’s mother then investigated and literally called the husband out of a woman’s apartment, after waiting hours of time without seeing lights on in her apartment. When he came out, then the woman’s mother made a deal with the man (fearing that her daughter was not able to handle truth while in her high risk condition) to stop cheating and to return to his wife for her silence. (This was not her right to strike a deal. She was to inform the woman who then would choose if she wanted to continue the marriage or not). She had good intentions but was in the wrong.
He did as the mother of the woman said for a brief time, but soon was cheating again, and this time a stranger apprised the woman that her husband was cheating with some man's son’s wife. A year had gone by before the woman learned the truth, which kept her emotionally abused and denied conjugal rights as her husband lied and had been giving what belonged to the woman to his mistress. In addition he was absent to the children even when one experienced a major injury-requiring months of burn therapy. When the woman learned that her own mother was disloyal to her, then this strained that relationship as well.
A child and woman/mother were being abused by the father but their life was deemed to be private by the father, who threatened to hurt them, or make them pay-if they shared why that they had bruises. Each abuse was more painful and more damaging to the victims, yet each kept the secret. It was later reported that they were brutally killed when the wife was pregnant with their second child and forgot to pick up a dish for the husband.
A man who is married knows that his wife drinks to excess and sells her medication to be able to buy meth. He knows that while intoxicated that she has endangered herself and their children. He also knows that when he is out of town on business, that it is likely when their children may be neglected severely, or exposed to drug users or pushers. He had kept her secret and covered for her many times. He felt ashamed for his children but thought she would leave him and them if he said anything; and this would mean that he might lose his job which paid very good money; which depended upon his being married to the employer's daughter. She needed help but was not given help as he kept his promise to her. In time the children left the home and were angry at the father and the mother. The wife continued to drink and squandered much of the wealth. The husband suffered loss of self-respect and health, along with the children's love.
An adult child mismanages money as she believes that it is her job to give everything the children want to them, and to have nice furnishings, go on nice vacations, and like-to which she felt entitled. She may make 12.00 hourly but gets loans that have 14% or higher interest in order to keep buying what she desires but cannot afford. She believes that she should not say no to her children or she else she does not love them. Her mother had to pinch pennies to make ends meet and could not afford the nicer things or a vacation; but did provide them their needs-and she did not want to be like her mother. She is pressed with debt, now working double shifts to support her habit, and is feeling unhealthy, and unable, to spend time with the family she loves.
Now her parents bail her out as they watch her waste away and want her to spend time with the children; but she goes back to her old lifestyle and returns to the same condition. Parents are afraid that they will be cut off from seeing their grandchildren and their child, and therefore only complain and pray that their child grows up and stops abusing them financially.
There are many cases like the above and other scenarios; as we become trapped in defining love and protection wrongly leading to more dysfunction that encapsulates many people; pulling all down. Counselors can help parents, spouses, and children to become entrapped and to find the courage to do the right thing as they help their loved ones to grow by not enabling them. Do you need to know how?