I have stopped what I feel was 'active' enabling - doing his homework, nagging about responsibilities, making excuses for both outsiders and his own ego for things he chose not to do... I know I have a ways to go, but I like to think I'm doing better as a recovering super-co-dependent.
About 5 years ago I got to where I felt I had to just let him fail at things - I could no longer feel responsible for his grades, whether he finished college, or even took care of his student debt. Things that would affect me adversely, like paying rent and utilities and groceries, I took care of. Anything else was his responsibility. So I let him fail out of school, let him deal with the annoying calls and letters, let him deal with the shame of having me be the breadwinner and our friends see me paying for everything and exhausted from working so many hours to make ends meet. I stopped making excuses. After a while, he decided he needed a job, and got an kept one. And after working four years, he decided he needed to finish school, so he went through the steps to re-enroll, and is passing the class he signed up for this semester. He's still waiting till the last minute to do all things, and freaking out like the big paper he has to write was a surprise, and he still neglects speaking with his adviser, expecting them to call him (
), but I am not feeling this is my fault or duty anymore, and his own self esteem has been bolstered by doing things he knows he should ahve for a long time... some of his shame was addressed and a solution for it was found, by him.
So by letting him fail, I think in a way I let him find a way to succeed, too.
As for housework, I clean because I like things clean. It frazzles me at times to care more about it than him, but I think this is a living arrangement problem that has existed from the dawn of time - one person will care more, and therefore do more work, than the other. In regards to things like housework and repairs, I pretty much live as if I am single in this regard in most cases. I clean as though I am single and just have some extra dishes to wash, I'd still ahve the pets to care for, the trash to take out... It's be great to have help, but it's a battle I've chosen to not fight every week. I mow the lawn, tend to the garden when it's not dead from drought, put up holiday decorations to please me, and take care of small repairs on my own because simply it's not worth my time to go through the crazy dysregulation of him attempting to do anything. Seeing things get repaired, cleaned or tended makes me feel good and it's easy to feel you accomplished something when you ahve a new bed of flowers planted, or a clean kitchen.
I can fix a toilet in 30 minutes, alone, with the right parts and tools. It's take him a few hours of not looking up how to fix it, getting mad and throwing perfectly good parts around, breaking them, making one of us (me, I was the one who could 'behave' in public) go buy new parts. He'd rather spend extra $$$ to call a plumber for something I can learn to do from YouTube. He wanted to call an electrician to install a $5.00 switch to a ceiling fan. So I waited till he'd be gone a few days on business, looked at some videos, read a lot about it, and after I was assured the power was off I got it done in less than half an hour.
Is this a type of enabling? Or is it just me taking myself out of a bad situation (repairing something together) and taking care of it myself? I have always been very independent, and so this 'solution' feels very comfortable to me (meaning it's probably not the best thing to do). I do not resent doing these projects - I feel proud of my ability to replace faucets and change tires - as a woman I like knowing I can do these things on my own if needed, and call a professional if I can't do what needs to be done.
Back in October, he decided to do a woodworking project himself one day while I was very ill. Usually this would mean me getting some clothes on and standing around feverish waiting for the shoe to drop and the rage to start, and then trying to 'fix' it. This time I stayed in bed - he didn't freak out about me staying in bed, and he got the job done... on his own. It took a long time, he got really angry and frustrated, but I wasn't there to be a target, so I didn't absorb the bad feelings into myself. I made sure to let him know I felt he did a good job on his project (lots of cutting and sanding and beveling of a large piece of wood for an art project), and then rubbed some icy hot on his sore shoulders. I felt proud he did it on his own, without coming into the house to pester me, especially when I was sick, as was his usual MO.
So I guess I am happy to find as I make attempts to stop enabling, as I can spot it, I think I am giving him chances to succeed as well as fail - and him succeeding on his own, without feeling I did it all for him, or his mom did, has GOT to be good for him in some way. I was even surprised two weeks in a row - he went and drove to get take out ON HIS OWN. He never drives, and often resents being asked to pick up anything on the way home if he has the car for a change, but I asked him to do it last week and he did it on his own this week
Little things other couples can take for granted are really big things to me