The Delicate Dance of Fixing and Enabling: Striking the Right Balance in Relationships

Show Notes:


Valerie Hatcher discusses the roles of fixers and enablers in our lives, focusing on the importance of recognizing these patterns and finding a balance between supporting and enabling others. She explores various roles, such as parenting, partnerships, grandparenting, and caregiving, and provides practical strategies for breaking the cycle of dependency and promoting independence. Valerie also offers empowering tips for those who have been enabled, encouraging them to embrace their own capabilities and navigate life’s challenges with confidence. The key takeaway is to foster personal responsibility and growth in ourselves and those we care about.


00:00 Introduction to the podcast and topic of fixing and enabling

01:52 Explaining the difference between fixers and enablers

03:22 The importance of segmenting specific roles in relationships

05:08 Balancing support and enabling with adult children

06:16 Finding a balance of responsibilities in partnerships

07:31 Avoiding interference while grandparenting

08:13 Empowering aging parents through caregiving

09:19 Strategies to stop being an enabler

13:39 Tips for those who have been enabled to embrace independence

15:21 Creating accountability and celebrating progress in others

16:26 Valerie talks about the balance between fixing and enabling.

17:03 Valerie reflects on her tendency to step in and control.

17:48 Valerie discusses the fine line between fixing and enabling.

18:36 Valerie encourages listeners to put the tips into practice.

19:09 Valerie invites listeners to share their stories and reflections.

19:39 Valerie concludes by emphasizing the importance of balance and self-discovery.

Key Takeaways:

  • Being a fixer can rob others of their chance to step up and learn.
  • Enablers unintentionally prevent loved ones from growing and taking responsibility.
  • Segmenting specific roles fosters independence and responsibility.
  • Set boundaries to avoid enabling behavior.
  • Encourage problem-solving instead of offering solutions.
  • Offer guidance instead of doing tasks for others.
  • Practice tough love to promote shared responsibilities.
  • Lead by example to inspire self-reliance.
  • Empower others by starting small, encouraging new challenges, providing resources, celebrating independence, and creating accountability.

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Valerie: You. Hello, beautiful ladies. Welcome back to another episode of Five to Thrive. I'm your host, Valerie Hatcher. Our mission is to provide empowering tips for women over 50 to help us navigate this vibrant stage of life with grace, style, and a whole lot of fun. Each week, I bring you five practical and engaging tips on specific topic. I hope you find them relevant and relatable. And we'll come back for more. Ready for today's episode? Then let's go. Hello, gorgeous ladies. Welcome back to another episode of Aging with Grayson style. Today, we're chatting about a topic that hit me like a ton of bricks this Saturday, right in my own garage. But before I spill the beans, I want you to ask yourself, are you the go to fixer in your life, or have you found yourself enabling others without even realizing it? So, picture this. I'm all dressed up for meeting at church. I step into my car, and lo and behold, it refuses to start. There's this grinding noise, and let's just say the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. Now, stay with me here, because this little car drama led me to an epiphany about fixing and enabling. But first, let's dive into what it means to be a fixer or an enabler. All right, let's get into it. A fixer is someone who jumps into action at the first sign of a problem. Sound familiar? At work, I'm the one who patches up issues before they become disasters at home. Like Saturday. I was miss. I got this. It's a rush, right, to be that dependable person who can handle anything. But here's the flip side, my friends. Sometimes, in our quest to fix everything, we might accidentally take on too much or, dare I say, rob others of their chance to step up. And that's where we pivot to enablers. Unintentionally, of course. So enablers are folk who, with the best intentions, end up doing more harm than good. Ever caught yourself doing tasks that others could easily handle? I have. And unfortunately, it's quite often and in the name of efficiency or just wanting to help, we might prevent our loved ones from learning and growing. Here's a little story. A relative was preparing for an interview, and I was providing feedback on things she could do to prepare, one of which was to research and to present a business plan on how she could or plan to facilitate growth in this organization. The next thing I knew, I was researching and typing up ideas here we go. Vowed to the rescue to save the day. But then I stopped, and I asked myself, was I really helping, or was I stopping her from the experience of doing her own research her own way, which would allow her to take ownership of the preparation and the presentation? So I never told her what information I had. I just kept it to myself. And then my counsel to her was pretty much at a high level. Here are some things that you should consider before we go further. Let's talk about specific roles. Understanding the delicate dance between fixing and enabling brings us a critical point of reflection. It's not just about recognizing the patterns in ourselves, but also identifying the dynamics at play in our relationships. This leads us directly into the importance of segmenting specific roles. By delineating clear roles, we can foster independence and responsibility both in ourselves and in those that we care about. So let's dive into how segmenting roles can shift our interactions from unintentional enabling to constructive empowerment. First up, the ever evolving role of parenting. When our kids grow up, they may leave the nest, but our instinct to protect and provide it doesn't clock out. So here's the million dollar question where do we draw the line between supporting and enabling our adult children? So let's take Rachel's story, for instance. Her daughter Emily faced repeated job challenges. Rachel found herself in the crosshairs of wanting to step in. So she'd ask, do I offer a safety nest or do I let her face the consequences? It's a tough call, but ultimately, Rachel decided to be a sounding board, not a rescue squad, guiding Emily to find her own solutions. And you know what? Emily did just fine. So ask yourself, are you holding the ladder steady or are you climbing it for them? Now, let's move on to our partnerships. Being someone's other half doesn't mean that you have to complete their every task, right? It's a partnership. It's not a project management role. So Jim and Marie's story is a classic one. Marie found herself finishing Jim's task around the house. From half done honeydews to forgotten bill payments. It became a pattern. Then they had a heart to heart, and Maria expressed her need to step back by doing less. She allowed Jim to step know, I've even experienced this in my own relationship for years. I've stepped in and I've taken charge of a lot of things. But what happens is I become frustrated when he's not doing something, or when I perceive I'm up doing everything and he's just chilling. Well, I've enabled this behavior. So think about your relationships. Are you building a duo of doers or solo act with an audience? Ah, grandparenting. The sweet spot of spoiling and snuggles. So I've heard. But here's the twist indulgence doesn't have to mean interference. So my friend Clara, who's a grandmother, adored her grandkids. But then she realized that sometimes she was undermining her daughter's parenting by always saying yes. So Clara decided to switch gears. She became the grandmother of fun and not the financier of it. She offered experiences and wisdom, not just gifts. So consider this. Are you a grandparent by heart or by hmm? That's a good thought. Now, lastly, let's touch on the delicate dance of caregiving. It's a role reversal that's as challenging as it is rewarding. So mark became a caregiver for his aging father, it was natural to take charge. But then he soon realized that he was really taking over. So, Mark, he decided to step back, and he encouraged his dad to make decisions about his day to day life. So this choice actually empowered his father to maintain dignity and a sense of control. So let's reflect on this. Are you caring for them or are you taking over their life? Each of these roles we play in life comes with its own script. But it's important to remember we don't always have to be the lead character in every scene. Sometimes we're there to support the growth of others. So I want you to think about the roles that you hold and how do you balance between being supportive and stepping back. Now that we've explored the various roles that we play in the lives of those around us. From the inadvertent enabler to the supportive guide, it's clear that awareness is the first step towards change. But awareness alone, it's not enough. We need practical strategies that we can apply in our daily lives to truly break the cycle of dependency and to promote independence. So let's arm ourselves with some tools to break the cycle. So here are five tips to stop being an enabler. Number one is to set boundaries. So suppose your adult child always asks for money to cover unexpected expenses. Instead of giving them cash every time, set clear boundaries. You might say, I can help you this time, but let's sit down together and create a budget so you can manage your future surprises on your own. This recently happened to someone I know. She finally had to tell that person that the bank, meaning her, is closed, and they needed to budget to enable them to deal with these situations on their own. Number two, encourage problem solving. So if a friend is constantly asking for advice on the same issue, which can definitely be irritating, I know. I think when this happens to me didn't we already talk about this? Anyway, instead of offering solutions, encourage them to come up with options. You could say, what do you feel is the best course of action? This encourages them to use their judgment and build decision making skills. If we don't do this, the cycle will continue for years. Trust me, I've experienced it. So I remember years ago, when I first started working in HR, there were two very experienced peers that we actually joked and called the King and Queen of HR. They were who I would go to for questions, but they quickly made sure that I understood that while they were there to help me learn, before I came to them, I needed to try to find the answer and come up with my own thoughts and solutions. So I would research policy and then I would go to them armed with an opinion. But I truly appreciated it as it was really the best way to learn. So today I'm that person for others, and sometimes I find myself doing the research for them. And then I think about how I was trained and how it benefited me. So then I point them in the right direction and tell them to let me know what they find. Number three offer guidance, not solutions. So when someone comes to you with a problem, resist the urge to solve it for them. I know this is sometimes hard, but it's necessary. For our own sanity, offer guidance instead. For instance, say your sister complains about a broken appliance. Instead of offering to call the repair service, maybe you suggest how she can vet and choose a service for herself. Number four practice tough love. If your partner isn't contributing to household chores, then don't pick up the slack every time. I know it's going to kill you to look around, but don't do it. Sit down and discuss the importance of shared responsibilities. It's important for them to understand that your role isn't to clean up after them, but to work together as a team. This may also save you some internal stress. And number five, lead by example. So show the benefits of being independent by tackling your challenges head on. Share your experiences on how you addressed a problem at work. Maybe without external help, this can inspire others to emulate your self reliance. Okay, we've dived into strategies for those of us who tend to jump into the role of fixtures, often with the best intentions at heart. But then there's another side to this coin that's equally important to address. If we've been stepping back to foster independence, then what does that mean for the ones who have grown accustomed to our assistance? It's time to pass the baton to encourage and guide those who have been enabled to find their own strength and their own autonomy. So let's pivot now to share some empowering tips for those on the receiving end to help them embrace their own capabilities and navigate life's challenges with confidence. So, number one, for those who we've enabled to start doing more, start small. So if we've been managing the finances, for instance, because our partner feels overwhelmed by it, then start by asking them to handle maybe a small bill, say, like the Internet or something like that. And then gradually increase their responsibilities as they gain confidence. Number two encourage new challenges. Motivate your friend who relies on you for social connections to maybe host their own small event or a gathering. So this is going to push them out of their comfort zone and help them to develop their social skills. Number three provide resources, not rescues. So when your adult child is job hunting, instead of finding job listings for them, provide resources on how they can search effectively, like recommending job sites, giving tips on networking, or reviewing their resume with them. Number four celebrate independence. So if someone that you've enabled takes initiative. Celebrate it when your partner fixes, I don't know, a leaky faucet by themselves for the first time, or cooks dinner or cleans without being asked. Then make it a point to acknowledge the accomplishment and the fact that it took effort. Number five create accountability. So set up a system where maybe the person that you've been enabling has to report back on their progress. So if they're trying, say, to get fit, ask them to share their workout, log or meal plan with you weekly. This builds a habit of accountability, and it keeps them motivated. And those are the tips for ourselves as well as those that we've enabled. By encouraging autonomy and others, we foster a sense of personal responsibility and growth. But let's pivot back to where we started with my own story of Saturday Morning's unexpected challenge. It's one thing to share advice, but it's another to live it. And Saturday Morning was a stark reminder of the balance between fixing and enabling that I navigate every day. So picture this as I said, I'm all set up for a meeting. I step into my car and nothing but grind, grind, grind. And lights, lights, lights. A perfect setup for the fixer in me to leap into action. And I did handling the situation with the kind of efficiency that I've honed over for years. But here's the interesting part. My husband was there, ready to help if needed, and I well, I went full autopilot into I've got this mode. Now, here's where the lesson for me unfolded. He offered to help, but I, almost out of reflex, said, no, I got this. It was a moment that made me wonder, do I step in because it's necessary or just because I'm used to it? And then what does this say about my relationship with control, with allowing space for others to contribute? So this wasn't just a lesson in car malfunctions. It was a wake up call about my own tendencies as a fixer. And a moment to ponder on the fine line where fixing can become enabling. And there you have it. We've navigated from understanding our roles to uncovering actionable steps to cultivate independence both in ourselves and in those that we love. As always, thank you for joining me today. I hope this little slice of my life encourages you to think about how you approach the fixer and enabler roles in your own world. Remember that striking a balance is key. I hope the insights and tips shared will light the path to a more empowered and self sufficient way of life for all of us. As you go about your week, I challenge you to put these tips into practice. Observe the shifts in your relationships and the growth in those around you. And as always, I'd love to hear your stories and reflections on how stepping back has led to leaps forward for you and your loved ones. As a matter of fact, as you can see, this is an area in which I struggle, so I'll also share my progress with you. Remember, as we continue aging with grace and style, it's about balance, understanding, and sometimes about letting go. Until next time, keep embracing the beauty of aging, the wisdom that comes with experience, and the grace that comes with self discovery.

Valerie: Thank you so much for joining me for Five to Thrive Tuesday. If you haven't already done so, please subscribe so that you don't miss an episode. If you enjoyed the segment, please rate, review and share it with a friend.

Valerie: Let's stay connected on Instagram, Facebook and or Threads at I am Valerie Hatcher. Or email me at Until next time, let's continue to age with grace, style and a touch of sass.

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