Fawning vs. Sacrifice

As I was writing my post on not liking emotions, I had a sense that I’m unhealthily adhering to my husband’s every wish. It’s like some form of co-dependency because I want to please him to keep myself out of his bad books and so he will stay with me, although some of it is also because I’m being a nice person and I want to give in a relationship. I don’t want to disempower but more be an ally and friend to my partner. That part seems normal enough!

This is both healthy and unhealthy. I can see how it might be nice to want to come alongside someone and share their burdens because you care about them, but it also seems unhealthy for two reasons. One because it smacks of fawning, and the other because some of it is done out of fear of falling foul of someone’s bad mood and losing the chance of my nice peaceful life. Oh wait. I think that’s what fawning is.

I want to discuss with Guy next week: how does a person juggle walking that fine line between losing yourself in someone else’s demands and actively choosing to put someone else first as an intentional act of self-sacrifice? (I almost sent him a text on Friday night to ask if we can discuss it next week, because forcing myself into a corner like that worked wonders last time I tried it. And the best thing is, Guy didn’t mind me texting one single bit. But by the time the house had got quiet enough for me to write my text I realised with dismay that it was gone 6pm and no longer in office hours [9-5] and I had no way of knowing if Guy was working late Friday evening, which he used to do sometimes. So I wrote a text and then ditched the idea. I don’t want to go back on my word to him, that I would try to stick within normal working hours to protect his time off. I just hope I don’t get cold feet in session. Or simply go blank – is that the same thing?).

The text (that didn’t get sent) asked:

Quick question for next session; how does someone know the difference between… ‘fawning’ to please someone (either for fear of repercussions if they don’t, or simply just to ‘people-please’), and… actively choosing to put someone else first, as an act of self sacrifice – maybe out of love? It can be a subtle difference and I have a sneaky feeling I’m in a camp I don’t particularly want to be in, so could be healthy to look at it. No need for a reply now as its the weekend. I wanted to mention this, as I think it makes it more likely I’ll talk about it when we next meet if I’ve mentioned it to you ahead of time!

I wonder if it has to do with the way the other person is behaving, perhaps a bit like the difference between coercing someone to have sex vs persuading them to go for a trip out: they are not one in the same, because not only do they use different neural pathways, but also coercion is unhealthy. I remember Guy explaining it like me asking for sugar in my tea, and him saying he can’t because he has hip pain and can’t get up, and me responding by saying ‘Oh go on, I really want you to, you have to!’ Rather than something like: ‘Hey, don’t worry, if you show me where it is, I’ll grab it. You don’t move a muscle, I’ll go!’ That way I still get my sugared tea, but I’m not putting him out to get my needs met, yet I’m not minimising my needs either (which I know I do sooooo much).

Maybe if husband says nicely: ‘I find it so important the frozen stuff is put away but I don’t have time to do it, so would you mind?’ It’s not me being an underdog to accommodate his wishes. However if he spits out ‘I can’t believe you haven’t done it – you’re so lazy’ and I do it as soon as I can the next day, then maybe I’m accepting the low value I’ve been treated with, and I’m placing myself in an underdog camp? I dunno, I’m just testing out my own theory here.

The other day husband was hostile for having to cook for me (despite me asking him not to, as I could see this coming a mile off) and angry because I failed to put some food in the freezer which earned me the label “lazy” and which, like I said, is probably why I prioritised it the next day.

Then I cut a hedge, that my husband previously got upset about, because he feels it’s my fault it’s growing there (which is true, I planted it as I like a lot of greenery and don’t like bare fences) and he doesn’t have the time to cut it himself. When I cut the hedge I didn’t do it for me, I did it for him, to help take the pressure off him, but also, I did it because he got angry at me. That part makes me feel I shouldn’t have done it. Ironically I really enjoyed cutting that hedge, even though it hurt my arms. I loved being outdoors and feeling the hedge get into my hair (one with nature – haha). Yet it also reminds me of what Guy said recently in his email about my question regarding sex and coercion;

“…then to keep the peace B will go along with either sex or going out and enjoying either option will be, most probably, B making the best of it.

I felt pushed into cutting the hedge and enjoyed it because I was making the best of it. I have to say I paid for it, as I came indoors and had to sleep solidly for 2 hours after to recover. My own silly fault, and actually, while I was out there, it’s true I loved being under the sky – I miss being outdoors, gardening, and hiking for hours with the dog, but I recognise maybe that’s exactly the same as what person B is described as doing, when Guy said they’re most probably ‘making the best of it‘.

Writing this is so therapeutic because as I write I realise things I haven’t seen before. For example, (I would hate my friends to find out I do this as I would feel so weak!) I realise I even stay out of the best chair in the house because I know husband thinks it’s his, even though technically it’s not – I bought it with my own money! But on the rare occasion I’m sitting there, he normally asks me to move so he can have it, and I most often do for a peaceful life, but while I am doing it I feel like I shouldn’t. And I don’t like myself for it.

It feels like a person who is the underdog and putting up with stuff they shouldn’t have to. I would rather stick up for myself a bit better than that. The trouble is, if I do, I’ll feel selfish and unreasonable and I won’t be viewed favourably by him which I find really hard. He’s my husband and I want him to like me.

I am seeing that I do so much to please husband without even realising it, it’s like a habit we both expect of me, also there is that underlying worry on my part of falling out of favour. That’s the part I want to examine more closely.

How can I stop people-pleasing for a peaceful life, and cope with how the emotions are going to try and knock me down to some sort of depth of despair, when another person’s wrath is felt?

I would like to have some healthy boundaries and self respect. Other people seem to have learned how, so I want to as well. But only if it doesn’t make me a selfish, narcissistic person – it wouldn’t be worth that.

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