The Co-Dependent Rescuer & Enabler - aifc

It can start with a well intentioned desire to help, but co-dependent relationships become dysfunctional helping relationships that occur when a person rescues, enables or supports another’s bad behaviour, immaturity, procrastination, underachievement, addiction or poor mental or physical health.

The co-dependent often feels compelled to solve other people’s problems and more often than not end up becoming caught in an intense cycle of helping and rescuing becoming an enabler worsening issues they’re intent on helping with.

The relationship between the dependent and co-dependent

In this type of relationship the enabler shows love in the relationship by providing for and rescuing the other person in distress. The rescuer’s emotional needs are to be satisfied basing their self worth on their ability to help. It’s difficult for these rescuers to say no to cries for help, especially in cases when the desperate pressure from a suffering addict can be intense.
In the same way the dependent person self sabotages by using the helper as an emotional and sometimes financial crutch leading to a destructive relationship between the two. Addicts will manipulate to get what they want from a co-dependent.

How the co-dependent person becomes a rescuer

These helping relationships don’t always involve co-dependence however they comprise of one person’s trouble and the other safeguarding or empowering. The rescuer becomes an enabler perpetuating a self destructive cycle for the person they’re trying to rescue.

1. Allowing and accommodating their irresponsible or unhealthy behaviours.
2. Rescuing the other individual from self problems they’ve caused for themselves.
3. Taking care of the other person to the extent that they don’t become competent in doing things for themselves others normally would.
4. Giving money to addicts or gamblers
5. Cleaning up behind them.
6. Paying debts for those who can do it themselves if allowed to
7. Covering up mistakes & Lying to others for them
8. Bailing them out of gaol
9. Making things right when the other person can’t meet their own responsibilities.

As a result the person bound to the helper’s assistance fails to develop certain attributes to help them function in everyday life.

1. Life skills
2. Confidence
3. Poor mental health
4. Poor physical health
5. Dependence on the helpers assistance
6. Immaturity

As a result, they become very needy of the helpers love, attention and support lessening the likelihood of ever becoming independent. They end up looking out at a world they feel alienated in due to their inability to function or relate.

How to Avoid Becoming a Co-dependent

Consider the consequences of your actions prior to making that choice. Weigh up short term pain vs. long term suffering and a lifetime of mental health issues and dysfunction for the person you’re trying to help. Ask yourself, “ Is it really helping them or am I just making myself feel better?”

How to stop enabling & rescuing

Stopping could be a very difficult thing to do especially when expecting confrontation and retaliation from the other person. It takes a lot of bravery and courage to change. Some may find the help of a counsellor is necessary.

Fear for doing nothing may become intense however we have to keep in mind that we aren’t responsible for everyone’s choices. They must wear the consequences of their own actions to learn from them. In the case of addiction, enabling the addict will keep them bound to their addiction. Letting addicts confront the consequences of their own actions can save their life. The desire to become ‘clean’ has to come from within them.

Love is a Choice – Recovery from Co-Dependent Relationships – Authors – Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth and Dr. Paul Meier.


Psychology Today – Are you in a co-dependent relationship?

Psych Central – Are You An Enabler?

Where to get help

Search for a counsellor near you The Australian Counselling Association website
Lifeline – A free 24 hour Crisis Counselling service – 13 11 14
Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800
Men’s Line Australia – 1300 789 978 – 24/7 Men’s counselling and online support service.


Visit our ENQUIRE NOW page. Fill out your details and we will send you some information about our accredited Christian counselling courses with Christ centred bible based teaching.

Contact aifc during business hours on 1300 721 397 or 02 6242 5111 from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.

Studying at aifc

Have you thought about becoming a qualified counsellor? It’s a great opportunity to learn how you can extend God's love and grace to the hurting out in the community.

For those who would like to enrol in aifc’s accredited Christian counselling courses we have two intakes per year for courses commencing around the following months:

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A Master of Counselling course was introduced in 2018.

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At aifc, our sole focus is to train and equip Christian Counsellors. More than just a counsellor, a Christian counsellor trusts in God and listens to His still small voice above all else.

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Nicholas Marks, CEO aifc

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