Say I have a friend who is terrible at driving on the freeway. She gets all flustered and upset with the number of cars and how fast they are driving. She needs to go downtown, so I tell her the route I’ve used often that doesn’t use the freeway. Say I give her my GPS with the route programmed in and I even give her a map.
But, she takes the freeway anyway. Then she gets frustrated and upset. Then she freaks out and just stops her car on the side of the road on a freeway overpass. Then she expects me to leave work right then and drive to where she is and take care of her.
She’s created the problem. She had a perfectly acceptable way to get where she needed to go and refused to use it. She doesn’t try to take care of the problem herself. It wasn’t an accident or a surprise. It was the logical result of her choice, because that is what always happens when she drives on the freeway.
Even though I did my best to prevent the problem that she is experiencing, she’s created the problem by going against my advice. And now she wants me to rescue her. And I refuse – and I’m seen as the bad guy.
If she did her own thing and got into trouble, but rescued herself, then it would be fine. But that isn’t the situation. I always try to prevent the problem before it is a problem. If I rescue someone when they ignored me to start off with, I’d be enabling their bad decision making. If someone keeps doing this, then I no longer try to help them. They’ve proven that the only time they really want my help is after they’ve made the situation infinitely and unreasonably worse than it was.
I have no problem with helping people who try their best. However, I have a big problem with helping people who cause their own troubles again and again. I feel that I’m aiding and abetting if I help someone who refuses to take care of herself. This is enabling, and codependency.