Question: I am in relationship with a substance abuser, have recently joined a support group and have found that I am "enabling" my partner. The definition of enabling is putting someone's needs ahead of your own, and doing for others what they are capable of doing for themselves. But reading through Alana's words, I hear that this can also describe a pure love, putting aside one's own needs in service to another. Why this dichotomy? When is it healthy to love someone this way, and when is it unhealthy? I have been a selfish person in the past, and thought this relationship was a breakthrough! I thought I finally understood the nature of love without demands. I see now that I am actually performing a disservice to him by loving him this way. If love needs for nothing, but just IS, how do you explain this? I hope you can shed some light and provide me with some relationship guidance, as you can see how confused I am. Thank you!
Answer: Thank you, dear one, for bringing forth this beautiful question.
Yes, the quality of love we engage with and share with another can be a very confusing subject at times. Especially when we have an incredible amount of love-energy within our nature, wish to spread it out into the world, and have that wonderful feeling of giving mirrored back to us.
One of the most wonderful ways to learn about what love is, is through understanding what co-creative energy is. You can also learn much about love through the interactions between individuals as well as the many types of relationships we experience in our lives.
Let's discuss some of the basic things that have to do with wellness and wholeness, as well as what a need really is. I wish to help you better identify how enabling takes place, as it usually has something to do with your interpretation of need. We all have needs that are important to our wholeness and wellness, which are also essential and connected to nature. Next we have needs that are related to more superficial things. Superficial needs are not necessarily there to support our wholeness, but have more to do with our attachments.
First, take a look at the elemental needs that are sustaining to wellness and wholeness. Then take a look at the kinds of needs that individuals have that are more related to attachments. When we discount the needs that are essential for our wholeness and wellness--as we extend ourselves to take care of another person's needs--we then create a conditional relationship with our self. Therefore, we are not coming from unconditional love since we are not in self-harmony and are out of touch with unconditional love for ourselves. As a result, the kind of love we extend to another is apt to be a co-dependant kind of love.
Let's carefully consider the dynamics that are happening here. If we're coming from the energy of what appears to be "self-sacrificial love," we are actually serving our self, even though we may think we are serving another. Let me explain what I mean by serving our self. We are meeting our needs so that we can feel better about our self. On some level we did not begin by giving our self unconditional love. Therefore, we are trying to recreate that kind of energy through living our life through someone else. These choices, which are often outside conscious awareness, setup the dynamics of co-dependency. When people don't understand how to distinguish between their authentic needs versus superficial needs, their misinterpretations set up confusion about what love really is.
When a person knows how to practice unconditional love with themselves--is in touch with self love and wholeness--and they extend love into the outer world and help and facilitate others, then their love is not self-serving. Their outer love that is directed to another is an extension of their inner love first directed to themselves. This is unconditional love. The love that they are extending out into the world is very rich and is of a co-creative nature, versus being of a co-dependant nature.
When a person masters unconditional love by first filling their inner self, co-creative energy comes from a pure source. They are full and can engage in relationships and interactions with the outer world, whether it is with Mother Earth, the animals, or another individual. Love that is extended in a co-creative way is rich and masterful, it expands the love within the universe.
When people are not able to love themselves, when they discount their own deep authentic needs and place others before them, then the inner conditions (versus unconditional) they place on themselves will automatically translate into conditions that they place in their relationships in their outer world. This is how the interaction becomes co-dependant. The relationship becomes dependant on a person not meeting their own needs so that those needs can then be met by another. The vibration of these types of interaction are not apt to support the co-creative expansion of energy. The relationship then becomes reactive, since aspects of each person's inner self are not enriched. This is how a person enables the other individual by trying to do for them what is most purposeful for them to discover and learn for their own soul's growth and enrichment. If we learn how to love ourselves unconditionally, it will be quite natural to allow another to do the same for themselves. Then our relating will be co-creative and love will flow in beautiful ways.
Hopefully, my dear, this answer helped to clarify the confusion between what is truly selflessness and what is sacrifice. When we come from a place of sacrificing an authentic need to fulfill someone else, then what we give to another is not going to be without conditions. When we steal another person's opportunity by doing for them something that could have taught them how to learn to give unconditional love to themselves, our actions are a conditional energy and not love.
Thank you, dear one, for your question. Alana appreciates that you asked this question to help clarify the differences between self-love, selflessness, and sacrifice.