“Women, in general, are conditioned to hinge our value and self worth on how well we can please others, what we can provide for them, how well we take care of them — because our safety, our social status, our success in the world depends on it.”
This article is such a great read! It illustrates some of the common experiences of women in relationships. I related to most of what the author sets forth here – not just in my romantic history but across the board in many different types of partnerships!
Here are some excerpts from the full article:
“My husband used to sigh a lot. He’d do it even when nothing was wrong. Sighs punctuated his sentences. He’d plop down with them, rise from his seat with them. He never noticed himself doing it, but I did. It became a point of contention in our house. Each time he sighed was like nails on the chalkboard of my soul — I felt a visceral need to get to the source of it.
“What’s wrong?” I’d always ask, immediately stressed.
I would try to get him to assign the sigh a cause and he would assert that it was meaningless and to ignore it. I could never let it go, though. Because his sighs felt like soft accusations, made worse by the fact that I could not resolve an unspecified slight. His sighs signaled discontent, and I have been groomed by society to believe that his discontent is unwaveringly my responsibility. And so somewhere buried beyond my ability to transcend, every sigh felt like a declaration that I was disappointing him. And for many women, an accusation of being disappointing, no matter how soft, always feels like a threat of disposability….
And so when men express displeasure, many of us compensate. We remain on high alert for potential problems. We become so good at deterring disappointment, we anticipate needs before they have to be vocalized. We tidy messes before the messes are even made. Even this fixation is a disappointment to many men. Women are deemed neurotic, anxious, and uptight by men who only get to consider themselves easygoing because they’ve never reconciled their nature with the ways women shield them from discomfort. There are men kept so warm within the worlds women create that they forget that it’s winter, forget that generating warmth requires energy.
The other day after a very long day with my kids I mustered the energy to clean. On my hands and knees I picked up tiny pieces of hot pink play-dough, dozens of scattered toys. My son came behind me and undid it all within minutes. Something shifted in me.
“You saw that mommy went through all that effort to keep the house clean, right?”
“Yes, Mommy, Mickey Mouse,” he said, his eyes on the tv. He wasn’t listening.
I got up and turned it off, and told him to pick up his toys. He threw himself to the ground in a tantrum, and I let him lay there until he was done. I decided his disappointment was his own problem to resolve.
The way to prevent raising sons who would dispose of me for disappointing them is not to never disappoint them. It’s to teach them to be comfortable with their own disappointment. To allow myself some humanity and make them responsible for navigating their feelings. I am doing myself, them, and other women a disservice in not doing so. In a world where men feel entitled to women’s bodies, time, and labor — it’s imperative to teach them otherwise. That requires a little disappointment on their end.
…If I want to make myself comfortable in my own life, I have to decide to not be deterred by the disappointment of others. Not doing so means being chronically disappointed in myself. I am teaching myself to let people down for my own sake, no matter their power. Because power over myself is the only power not contingent on others. Power over myself can’t be taken away, only relinquished.”