Women Who Give Too Much

25 Mar 2011

Women who give too much

How do you know if you are a women who gives too much?

Usually, women who give too much spend a lot of time beating themselves up about not giving enough, not loving enough, and not being good enough…  to name but three of their deep-seated negative beliefs about themselves.

Oh, and they truly believe that they don’t give enough, love enough, or do enough to be lovable because that is what an abusive partner tells them.

And an abusive partner is never wrong – in his own mind, at least.

But here’s the thing: his unshakeable – almost psychotic – belief in the rightness of his own opinion, doesn’t mean you have to subscribe to it.

An abusive man will always see you in the worst possible light, interpret what you do in the most damning way, and judge you mercilessly.

That is a key part of his ‘job description’.

You don’t want to believe it because that’s not how you conduct your side of the relationship.

But you might as well face up to  the truth.

Sooner or later, your belief that his heart is in the right place will be smashed to pieces on the rocks of his abusive behaviour, once too many.  When that happens, you will be forced to admit to yourself that his goal, in the relationship is to cause misery and mayhem, whereas yours is to create peace and harmony.

Sooner or later, that is going to happen.

So, the sooner you stop convincing yourself that he’s a nice guy really and you are a failure and a social pariah, the sooner you can start to heal.

But enough of him, let’s turn our focus back to you.

You struggle – or you struggled – in an agonizingly unloving, unfulfilling relationship.

Through it all, you’ve tried to give your children, if you have children, a happy childhood.

Why wouldn’t you?

That’s normal.

But part of creating that ‘happy childhood’ for your children, singlehanded, has been assuming the mantle of responsibility for their happiness.

Your abusive husband has not worried himself unduly about visiting fury, fear and misery on his offspring.  You can bet he has not lost sleep thinking about their happiness and their best interests.

He has not tried to provide them with a healthy role model – because in his pathological belief in his own rightness, he believes he is ‘the good parent’.

You, on the other hand, tend to judge yourself as an unworthy human being,and an inadequate mother.

And yet you have still struggled, against all odds, to provide your offspring with the secure, idyllic childhood you never had.

You have committed to your children 120%, at all times.

You have chosen to sacrifice yourself, and your happiness, to protect them.

Every day, thousands upon thousands of women make that trade-off anew, all over the world.

I did it, too.

I tried to ‘explain away’ my abusive husband’s bad behaviour to our daughter, and I told myself that it was okay to sacrifice my happiness to secure my daughter’s happiness.

Because, of course, she would be happier with two parents who stayed together – I truly believed that.

Needless to say, she wasn’t.

She saw what I tried to hide from her, she experienced the fear I knew, and she struggled with the difficult feelings stirred up by abusive relationships.

How could she not?

Eventually, I left.

And, given the enormous weight of guilt I felt for visiting my failures and inadequacies on her, I worked even harder to give her an idyllic upbringing.

How did it work out?

My guess is that it could have gone worse.  My daughter had enough support from me (her father stayed away for a number of years) not to indulge in seriously self-destructive behaviours.

But it could have gone better.  My daughter struggled with her own feelings, and she struggled especially her belief that she had to shore me up – she’d learnt from me to take responsibility for another person’s happiness.  And then, my self-sacrifice left her feeling beholden.

Can you tell me about any young person who is happy feeling beholden?

Our relationship became messy and – much as it pains me to say it – co-dependent.

As she grew to womanhood, I started to assess the cost of my self-sacrifice.

If I wanted her to be emotionally healthy – and I did – that meant losing the closeness we had, that special bond, that shared identity of two against a common abuser.

I made some bad choices.

I tell you about this because I see so many other women do the same thing, all the time, and it pains me for them.

Every time I was up against it, and I should have said to my daughter: “I’m sorry.  I matter, too.  I need to take care of my own needs, wants, and desires”, I wimped out.

I didn’t dare to.

Not because I was frightened of losing her love –  I wasn’t.  I truly believed that was a given.

The story I told myself went like this: “She’s suffered so much rejection from her father.  If I don’t put her first in this, she’ll experience this, too, as a rejection. and she won’t be able to cope.”

So, guess what happened?

The day finally came when this worm turned, and I felt driven to say; “This way of doing things is unacceptable”.  My daughter experienced it as an almighty rejection, and a threat to her hold over me.  She went to some lengths to ‘punish’ me – and moved in with the dad she hadn’t seen for 7 years.

Now, you can interpret this one of two ways:  You could say: “Well, that just proves I have to keep on sacrificing day and night” – or you could say: “How can I do this better than Annie did?”

Good question!

The sacrifice route is NOT a viable long term strategy.  In the long term it is bound to backfire.

The time will come when you will finally want something enough to hold out for it, as I did, and your child will experience it as a massive rejection, as being dispossessed of their rightful monopoly of our heart.

It will happen because you have trained that child for so long to see you in a certain way, almost as their property, and then, lo and behold, you act out of character.

Don’t let that happen to you.

The opposite of self-sacrifice is not selfishness, it is having your own life, factoring yourself into your own priorities and your own map of the world.

I don’t know what kind of Mother’s Day you will have this year.  I hope you it will be filled with love and appreciation.  But whether or not it is, the fact is: your feelings, needs, wants, and desires are as precious as anyone else’s.

You are as precious as your children are.

If you don’t believe that, let this be your wake up call.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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