How My Greatest Strength Became My Greatest Weakness In My Marriage

What can be a personality pro can quickly turn into a con.

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"I feel like I can’t forgive myself," I said.

"Colleen," said my marriage counselor. "Your greatest strength can become your greatest weakness."

At this point in my marriage, I was blaming myself. I hated how my mistakes had hurt my children.

I stayed with my husband for too long. I tolerated his drinking and gave him too many chances. It changed my entire temperament. I became incredibly stressed by my husband’s unpredictable behavior. I began to yell and say terrible things.


I was losing all of the better parts of myself.

RELATED: My Marriage Counselor Told Me I Was Being Overly Responsible For My Husband

Oddly, my marriage counselor’s words provided some comfort. 

My mistakes had been born out of a better part of me. I know it sounds silly but it made me stop beating myself up. I could finally forgive myself for the mistakes that had resulted in my children being stuck in an unhealthy home for too long.

What was my greatest strength?

"Colleen," said my marriage counselor. "You aren’t an enabler. You are a major major enabler. Enablers are overly caring people who tolerate repeatedly bad behavior and make excuses for the one they love.


My greatest strength was that I wasn’t just caring — I was overly caring.

It was a strength in many aspects of my life.

It made me a more conscientious worker. It made me check in on and look after anyone in need. It made me raise money for charities and try to save community land. It made me thoughtful. It made me deeply empathetic. It made me generous. It made me kind.

RELATED: 16 Signs You're Way Too Nice For Your Own Good

It made me be there for anyone and everything.

One day my friend said, "Colleen most people care about the people closest to them but not you. You care about everyone. You will help acquaintances and strangers."

She was right. 


I am from a long line of first responders and this is the example they have always set. But it took me down in my relationship.

I cared too much to give up on my husband.

That overly caring tendency made me lack self-protective instincts and boundaries. It made me an enabler. Enablers won’t give up because they care and worry too much about the person they love and tend to see the best in them.

"I know my husband’s behaving badly," I said. "But he’s a good person in a bad place."

"He hasn’t always been this way," I said.

"I think maybe he’s having a midlife crisis," I said.

The longer I stayed, the more my behavior was digressed. I began acting badly. When my husband drank and frightened us, I got mad and yelled. I said terrible things the longer he did it. I asked him to move out multiple times and took him back when he promised to stop.


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I’m an overly caring enabler. The caring part is my strength … The enabler part is my weakness.

One day my marriage counselor asked me a simple question: "Colleen," he said. "What were you thinking?"

"I was thinking I was being kind," I said.

"Kindness is forgiving bad behavior once or twice," said my counselor. "Enabling is forgiving bad behavior over and over again."


The more I forgave my husband and gave him chance after chance, the more my greatest strength became my even greater weakness and took me down. I should have self-protected. I

shouldn’t have convinced myself it was better to keep my family together. I shouldn't have made excuses for a grown man's behavior. I shouldn't have cared so much that I begged a man who didn't seem to care ... to care.

All of these things were misguided.

I had gone from one extreme to another.

The thing I liked most about myself had been replaced by someone I didn’t like when I allowed my greatest strength to become my greatest weakness.

RELATED: If You Don't Put Yourself First, You Can't Expect Anyone Else To


Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.