Are you a helper? Do you find yourself drawn to helping people whenever and however you can?
If so, you have probably come across people and situations where your help actually becomes a problem in itself. Regardless of the good intentions, there can come a time when your help becomes unhealthy for both you and the person you are helping.
Here are 7 of the most common ways that your help can become an issue.
1. You Enable Their Undesirable Behaviors
While help is a genuine need for some, for others it is something that they will gladly accept in order to accommodate certain behaviors that they see as desirable. Unfortunately, these very behaviors are often considered undesirable by you and society at large.
Take a night out with a good friend, for example; you both like to have a few drinks, but she often drinks to a point where she is unable to find her way home by herself. With you there, she knows that you’ll make sure she gets back safely because you always have done before.
This belief that you’ll be there to help actually allows her to drink to excess without any of the usual concerns that most people would have.
2. You Now Feel Obliged To Help Rather Than Wanting To
I’m sure most giver-receiver relationships starts off with the best of intentions, but there may come a point where you no longer feel the desire to provide the same level of assistance.
You now help, not because you have the urge to do so, but because you don’t feel able to say no. The previous example of the two friends who go out drinking is also applicable here; because you have helped in times gone by, you might find it difficult to explain why you aren’t going to help this time.
And you almost inevitably end up helping anyway because you feel guilty if you don’t.
3. You Neglect Your Own Needs & Desires
Sometimes you try so hard to help someone else that you forget about your own needs and, while you may be able to maintain this for a short time, eventually things will start to unravel.
This can be the case in all sorts of relationships, but is most common among couples where one party does all the giving and gets nothing back and has no time for themselves.
4. You May Prevent Them From Their Own Growth
When unhealthy patterns of behavior are enabled in the long term and a degree of dependence forms, it can not only be to the detriment of you, the helper, but also of the person you are helping.
With your help, the need for them to grow and evolve as a person becomes far less pressing and so they become stuck in a rut of your combined making. They don’t learn new things, new skills, and, most importantly, new behaviors.
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5. You Simply Don’t Have The Resources To Help Any Longer
Whether it is in the form of your time, your money, or something else entirely, there comes a point where you may not have anything left to give. Things become really unhealthy for you when you start pushing the limits of what is realistic and manageable.
You push yourself into the red zone by giving too much to the other person and this will inevitably end up badly for both of you.
6. Ill Feelings Grow Between You
When help becomes unhealthy, it can lead to a lot of negativity between the two parties. However good your intentions are, there will come a time when you begin to resent all the things you have to do for the other person.
This resentment can show itself in the form of little nags and snipes, or full-blown arguments.
Either way, the relationship can quickly sour and both of you will feel the need for more space.
7. You Do Things That Go Against Your Moral Standards
On occasion, a relationship can become so unhealthy that you will agree to (or consider) doing things that really don’t sit well at an instinctual level. Your admirable desire to help can lead you down roads that you would otherwise seek to avoid and this is when you know that things have gone too far.
Things You Can Do To Keep Help Healthy
There are a number of actions you can take to ensure that a healthy balance between helping and not helping is reached. Here are 3 of the most important things:
Set boundaries – the most effective way to retain a healthy relationship is to set your boundaries early on. You should be vocal about what you will and won’t do so that they know where they stand.
In this way, they will think twice about asking you for help that they know you will not provide, and it will prevent a sense of dependence from creeping in.
Speak to the other person – if you have already been helping someone for a while, it is still important to set boundaries, but before doing so, you ought to have an open and frank discussion about how they make you feel and why.
This will help them understand and accept the limits you wish to impose.
Listen to your feelings – if you are not sure what does and does not constitute an unhealthy situation, the one true measure is the feelings and thoughts you have when you are helping.
Are you quite happy to help in the way you are doing now, or has a seed of resentment and frustration begun to grow within? Do you get annoyed by the other person’s neediness, or are you anxious about the things they are asking of you?
Note the way you feel and whether it is positive or negative and let that be the judge as to whether or not the situation needs to be addressed.
The Conscious Rethink: wanting to help others is an admirable quality to have, but as has been shown here, there is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy help. Be sure to stay vigilant of these signs and use the recommended measures if you think that the situation needs to be changed.