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Ask the Rebbetzin: How Can I Stop Being an Enabler?

Dear Rebbetzin,

I have been an enabler in my past intimate relationships. I know this about myself and it makes me scared to enter a new relationship, though I am clear that I want and am ready for love.

How to make a change?

Dear How to,

Knowing might be half the battle, but that doesn’t make Doing a cakewalk. Thank you for reminding us of this during the month of Elul, when we turn inward and ready ourselves for transformation.

You deserve love. But this is going to be challenging if you pick partners whom you enable. The enabled, of course, might not want to alter this dynamic. The real work is going to be in selecting a partner who will encourage healthy and reciprocal giving and taking. So, how do you make necessary changes in the face of old habits which are so natural to slip into?

Next to an assortment of teas and lozenges in my kitchen cabinet are a series of tinctures: flower essences and folk medicines from the the open fields in Oregon and the wild hills of Appalachia. I am a sensory being who sometimes needs to actually swallow a bitter tonic to remind myself to pause and follow an intention (compassion, boundary setting, letting go). Chicory, Queen Anne’s Lace, Mugwort, Violet, Hawthorne, Geranium and Rose line that shelf. Do they work? Well, they make me stop; I pause and digest or inhale or anoint, and I make an intention — a prayer really. It helps turn my mind in a different direction. Then, my heart can follow, and yes, it makes a difference in my life.

I have found value in such physical acts: A spoonful of peanut butter, for example, during a panic attack is another trick. Instead of being caught in a mind-spiral, the attention shifts to taste, swallowing, thirst. I prefer the ritualistic aspect of flower petal tinctures to a jar of Skippy, but it’s the same idea…What each day can stop you in your tracks? What actions will it take for you to reroute your mind and heart?

There is talk therapy, couples talk therapy, meditation and movement, family and friends who can also act as support. But mostly there is you quietly reflecting, praying, and entering this year manifesting a different intention. Direct that love and care inwards and then out towards someone who is truly worthy and capable of giving back.

It is vulnerable and scary to enter a new relationship, no matter how past patterns played out. Enter this new year with courage. And, yes, if you want to borrow it, I have an aromatic balm for that.


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