Ask Amy: Family's enabling runs rampant
BY AMY DICKINSON
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 5:23 AM
Dear Amy: My sister's husband is an alcoholic. He makes half-hearted attempts to get treatment, and then goes on another binge. When he's drinking and gets verbally abusive, my sister shows up at my place to crash for a few days, until he's sober again.
This has been going on for years. I love my sister, and I will always be there for her - but I am fed up.
Whenever she shows up at my door, she says she will leave him. Then she goes back and tells me he has apologized, he's getting treatment - and then the whole cycle replays itself again and again.
I know she is "enabling" him by not giving him an ultimatum and not moving out (her finances are tight, but since she is paying their rent now, I know she could afford a place of her own).
Am I enabling her by letting her crash on my couch time after time? Do any of your readers who have been through this have any advice? - Fed Up
Dear Fed Up: You are "enabling" your sister. Your availability as a crash pad provides an escape hatch - not only from her domestic emergencies, but also from her anxiety. It also helps her delay making a tougher decision. You are part of this marriage's system.
If you want out, tell her. Ask her, "What would you do if I wasn't here? What would you do if you didn't have any other place to go until your husband sobered up?"
Tell her you don't want to be involved in her marriage anymore and that it's time for her to find another place to live so she can move out for good. Take her apartment hunting. I don't think you should turn her away, but you should make it more uncomfortable for her to fall onto your couch.
I'm sure readers will share their ideas.
Dear Amy: I was moved by the letter from "Tonya." She witnessed a man abusing his dog in public.
Your reply brought back a memory from around 1963. One day I was walking on a city street, and I saw a man smack his young child (about 2 years old) across the face twice. I failed to do anything.
Today, even though I am 71, I would flip on my cellphone, hit the 911 button and call the police and then smack the guy and hold him until the police came to charge him with child endangerment. I have long remembered my failure to act. - Kenneth in Minn.
Dear Kenneth: Thank you so much for sharing this story. Over the years I have heard from people saying their parents physically abused them and others either witnessed it or knew about it. Their bewilderment about why no one intervened is heartbreaking.
Original Print Headline: In this family, the enabling runs rampant
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