In fact, givers often give because it's easier to help another to solve the problems in his/her life rather than dealing with the issues in your own life. It's easy to slip into co-dependency -- not a healthy situation for either party.
When the other person has an illness, an addiction, or has a lot of life stuff going on, it is so tempting to make excuses for them and to bend over backwards to accommodate their behavior -- usually at your expense in time, money, and anguish.
We all do that. "He's been going through a rough time at work." "She is taking care of her mom plus her kids, and it's been hard for her lately." "He's trying to quit drinking (smoking, drugs, etc.)"
I'd heard such excuses made about an acquaintance with whom I've had limited but necessary contact because of work or volunteer responsibilities. The few exchanges we've had have been unpleasant, never face-t0-face, but rather through e-mail where the individual impugned my motives, my knowledge, my work ethic, my journalistic ability, and my character, and also insulted through a separate-but-related e-mail a person with whom I work and for whom I have great respect.
I had done nothing to 'deserve' the attack. I had simply asked for information, politely and professionally.
I didn't answer the e-mail, much as I wanted to defend and explain myself. I learned some years ago that if you get down in the mud with the pigs, you get dirty and the pig loves it.
But I decided then and there that I would have nothing more to do with the person. Ever. No matter what.
Others have talked to me over the last few years about similar exchanges they've experienced, always adding that the person is (take your choice) mentally ill, unstable, like that to everyone... I'm definitely not the only target here. The point is that people always, ALWAYS add an 'explanation' for the attacker's behavior -- as though that somehow excuses the person's abusive words.
And then I learned that a group I care very much about is planning an event that directly involves the individual and is one from which the person might well profit. The planners are good friends -- people for whom I have great respect and admiration and who have done much work to see the activity come to fruition.
I won't be participating or attending. They know why and respect my choice.
Susan J. Elliott, in her blog Getting Past Your Past, writes about taking care of yourself in these kinds of situations:
"I have to say that lately I’ve been hearing A LOT about people taking WAY too much responsibility for not being “understanding” enough because their partner had some sort of “condition” (ADHD, depression, grief, mental illness, alcoholism, etc etc etc).
People who are suffering from any one thing have two responsibilities: 1) to get help for it and 2) to not abuse or use or mistreat anyone while they are suffering.
And there it is -- setting boundaries for yourself: Respecting who you are and what you bring to the table, and not allowing anyone to take that dignity away.
I have never played these kinds of games very well, either in my work or in my personal life. And as I get older, I am determined not to do them at all. So I step back or step out of situations that compromise my own values or dignity. I don't want to get sucked into drama because of another person's inability to cope with and resolve his/her own issues.
The Desiderata -- a philosophical poem that was popular in the 1960s and '70s, and which won a spoken word Grammy for radio announcer Les Crane -- hangs on my wall. Among other things, it instructs:
they are vexatious to the spirit..."
I've taken that to heart.