Topic: Are you an enabler? How do you know?

Happy late Monday evening sweet blog friends,

This weekend and today was a whirl of writing, writing, writing. I’ve had a couple of deadlines looming and I’m chipping away at them little by little. Most of it has been a more formal writing style (APA format) which I’m not used to so it takes me so much longer to write. I don’t’ like writing that way but the topics were important, two were domestic violence and emotional abuse, plus a few others so I pushed myself to do it. They’re going to be a part of a Christian counselors encyclopedia on hundreds of topics relevant for church leaders, pastors, and counselors. So they had to be short, direct, and hopefully helpful.

Sometimes we just have to just push ourselves out of sheer obedience, even when everything in us would rather not. Sometimes it’s in doing a chore, other times it’s in loving someone who has hurt us, or it might even be following hard after God.

In my Sunday school class this week (we’re studying Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love) we were asked the question, “What am I doing right now that requires me to trust God?” I thought of my writing and certain other areas in my life where I have absolutely no control. I will either despair or trust God. I push myself to trust. I don’t want to fall into that pit of despair.

I have a few newsy items before we get into this week’s blog question. If you want to subscribe to my blog you can click a little button over on the left hand column where all the information is. That way it will automatically come to your mailbox each week (Someone asked me how to subscribe).

Second, I’m going to be doing a free teleconference on The Emotionally Destructive Relationship on Monday evening, March 14th at 9pm ET. You can register by e-mailing me at and I will send you the phone number and additional details.

Third, I will be the keynote speaker at the Power of Women event at Cedar Crest College on March 8th. It’s a Tuesday, it’s a totally secular event, and there is a cost to attend, but would love to see you there. For more details you can go to www. to check it out.

Last, good news. I was speaking at Ada Bible Church this past week in Grand Rapids on Depression Proofing Your Life and they videotaped it and it is on their website and you can watch it free for the next 30 days. If you’re struggling with the winter blues, or have battled depressed moods or clinical depression, you will want to watch. Go to

Today’s Question: I would like to have you explain what “enabling” the emotionally abusive person means? The balance of walking the Christian walk, submitting to my husband but not enabling is a very difficult line to draw. I don’t feel I enable, and my husband is not physically or verbally abusive, but he is emotionally abusive, without knowing it, even though I have tried to raise his awareness of it. The Christians I confide in say that I am an enabler, but I do not like that term…and I don’t feel I am. Can you clarify?

Answer: It’s difficult to hear people tell us something about ourselves we don’t believe is true. And, you’re right sometimes it is a fine line. It might be helpful for you to ask them what they see in you that makes them think you enable your husband’s emotional abuse. But let me ask you to look for a few red flags that might indicate enabling behavior.

1. Do you ever lie, cover up, or make excuses for your husband’s emotionally abusive behaviors? You might have a very good reason like you don’t want to embarrass him or disrespect him by calling it what it is, but right now, just be honest with yourself.

Sometimes we think that this is our duty or responsibility as a submissive wife or godly person to cover up sin, but I don’t believe God wants us to exchange the truth for a lie or call evil good. We can speak the truth with a gentle spirit and in love (with their best interests in mind). The apostle Paul says that we are to having nothing to do with the unfruitful deeds of darkness but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11. When abuse remains hidden and secret, it flourishes.

2. Do you do regularly change your behaviors, stuff your feelings, or guard what you say just to keep peace, prevent an argument or make him happy?

Again in any marriage there is a fair amount of give and take and at certain times for good reasons we might do any of the above. But when we are the one who is doing most of the accommodating or significantly changing who we are or stuffing how we feel then the relationship is unhealthy.

For example, perhaps your husband is insecure and jealous. For those reasons he does not want you to work, or go to bible study, or even go to the mall without him. To accommodate such controlling demands actually enables his insecurity and jealousy to flourish, not to change and heal. That’s where the fine line between submission and enabling starts to blur. Do you submit to your husband’s demands to stay home all the time or it actually better and healthier for you, for him, and for your marriage to challenge them?

3. Are you doing things for your husband that he should be doing for himself?

Again in marriage there are times spouses do extra and do favors for one another. But when you are the one doing the most of the work and your spouse is not sharing those responsibilities, you are enabling him to be selfish, lazy, and indifferent.

4. Are you taking the responsibility or blame for things that you are not responsible for. For example, when your husband loses his temper and says “if only you were more organized, or more submissive, or cooked better, or didn’t upset him” do you enable him to blame shift and make you responsible for his bad behaviors?

Now in each of these areas you cannot change your husband. You may be doing all you can to be healthy and he still may be abusive. You can’t make him help you, or take responsibility for his own emotional outbursts, or be more secure and less threatened. I don’t know your particular story or what your spouse is doing that you feel is emotionally abusive, but see if you play a part in enabling his behaviors to flourish and grow without protest or consequence. Then you'll have a good idea on what you can work on.

Readers: How have you learned to walk the fine line between enabling and being a godly and submissive wife?


  1. Free Teleconferencing on February 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm


    Read your blog and found it very helpful and informative .It will really help me in writing my article.

  2. Anonymous on March 2, 2011 at 5:35 am


    Thank you so much for continuing to help us women love our husbands without losing ourselves. I really appreciate your balanced counsel. It is a breath of fresh air to us wives who have been taught that "submission" is the "magic bullet" for marital problems. Really, God's truth is the solution, isn't it?… For both wives and husbands, too.

  3. Anonymous on May 28, 2011 at 3:08 am

    In answer to the question of how have I learned to walk the fine line between enabling and being a godly and submissive wife-I decided years ago that I would not "clean up" my husbands emotional messes anymore. If he exploded in rage in public, I would not make excuses for him. People can see him as he is and I stay out of it. I don't know that it has done any good, except that I am not tied up in knots whenever it happens.

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